It is just me or does the word “commencement” seem like it should mean “ending” instead of “beginning?” I suppose it’s because Commencement Exercises at a graduation are more about ending a state of schooling than they are beginning a new stage in life—for both graduates and their parents.

So why am I talking about “commencement” in August, of all months? Because August encapsulates both the beginning and the ending feeling of commencement. It’s the end of summer, but it’s also the start of fall and a new cycle of activities. We simultaneously wind down and gear up. That dichotomy is enough to make anyone feel a little crazy—which is why this time of year is sometimes called the Dog Days. Brady’s Clavis Calendarium from 1813 says this is the time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

Instead of falling into hysteria and frenzy, use these days to build up some spiritual reserves for the hard work and busy times that will be here all too soon.

Here are a few ideas.

  • Get outside. Nothing helps put in you touch with God and your deeper spiritual side than being outside. Enjoy the last days of summer even if you do nothing more than deadhead a few flower bushes.
  • Read one spiritual classic. It doesn’t have to be a long and laborious tome. Choose the Canticle of the Sun by Saint Francis of Assisi or one of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux’s poems. But read one of the spiritual works you’ve always meant to before the summer is over.
  • Clean a closet. Chaos does more than make it difficult to find something to wear. It clutters the mind and disarranges the spirit. Clear out a closet, get rid of those things you never wore this summer and make room for something new—be it an idea or a fall jacket.
  • Go to daily Mass for a week. Getting up early during the summer isn’t nearly the chore it is during the fall and winter, so take advantage of the time of year and go to daily Mass every morning for a week. There’s something about the quiet stillness of the morning, combined with the Eucharist that will renew the soul in ways nothing else can begin to approach.
  • Pass it forward. If someone does something nice for you, pass it forward. For instance, a driver lets you in a congested lane. Next time you see someone trying to wiggle in, just give them room, even if they don’t deserve it!
  • Meditate. The saints often talk about the value of mental prayer and meditation. Now, before things get hectic again, take a few minutes to sit still and “know that I am God.” All too often we think God wants our actions, but our presence in his presence can be more than enough.

Before we know it, the fall “phrensy” will be upon us, so take some time to lay up a harvest of spiritual reserves now, while the days are still long and languid. September will be here before we know it.