Bulletins and Fr. Bob’s Weekly Column
This Month’s Bulletins
April 30, 2017
April 23, 2017
April 16, 2017
April 9, 2017
April 2, 2017
March 26, 2017
March 19, 2017
March 12, 2017
February 26, 2017
February 19, 2017
February 12, 2017
February 5, 2017
January 29, 2017
January 22, 2017
January 15, 2017
January 8, 2017
January 1, 2017
This coming Thursday is the Solemnity of the “Ascension of the Lord” (its official title). It is “a holy day of obligation,” which means that all Catholics are obliged by Church law to join in celebrating the Eucharist on that day. Sadly, I do not expect to see you all on Thursday, nor do I expect to see even a Sunday-size congregation. What are “holy days of obligation” and what has happened to them in recent decades?
Holy Days are particular feast days of the Church calendar, designated for particular observance by the territory of bishops (in our case, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). They are selected either because of their relationship to the central mysteries of faith or because of the particular devotion of the people of the territory. There are six such holy days in the United States. They are (in the order they occur in the liturgical year):
Immaculate Conception of Mary (December 8): Mary is designated the protectress of the United States under this title. The fact that she was conceived without original sin so that she might be the worthy mother of the Son of God is a dogma of our faith.
Christmas (December 25): do I need to say why this day is important? I sure hope not!
Mary, Mother of God (January 1): appropriately we celebrate the motherhood of Mary on the octave (eighth) day of Christmas and within the Christmas season.
Ascension of the Lord: the glorification of the risen Lord is celebrated this day and is integral to the whole paschal mystery, namely the passion, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The US is divided on when this feast is celebrated. Most dioceses celebrate it now on the Seventh Sunday of Easter, so that this great mystery of faith might have a wider celebration. However, the bishops of New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have left the feast on the fortieth day of Easter, that is, this coming Thursday.
Assumption of Mary (August 15): This day celebrates the dogma of our faith that Mary already shares the fullness of the risen life with her Son; she has been taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.
All Saints (November 1): we celebrate the witness of all the holy men and women, boys and girls, known and unknown to us, of every land and culture, who have lived the Christian faith in such a way that we stand on their shoulders as today’s believers.
Notice there are only six holy days of obligation out of 365 days, not counting every Sunday, of course! What happened? Why do so few people gather for the Eucharist on these days (maybe 250 total at our worship sites, except for Christmas, of course)? Here’s my assessment:
First, the blame falls on the way the Church has taught and preached in recent decades. People have lost – or never had – any meaningful connection with these elements of our faith. As a result other “calendars” have pushed the liturgical calendar aside: the school calendar, the sports calendar, even the Google calendar.
Second, as a consequence, we have lost our sense of sacred time. No day or time is “holy,” or a time apart, because we can work or shop 24/7. Even God rested on the seventh day after creating the world, but we keep right on going.
Third, other, secular times have become “holy” and replaced our holy days. Take for example Halloween. It is not All Saints’ Day which is holy, and which is the origin of All Hallows’ Eve (= Halloween). It has become a secular holiday to rival secular Christmas with its decorations, displays, and outlay of money. We no longer live in a closed Catholic culture where our faith takes primary place in our lifestyle. I don’t lament that so much, as ask, “What does it mean to live today in God’s time?” Every minute of every day is still a gift from God. How do we keep front and center, in our present realities, the beauty and richness of our faith and its traditions? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I’ll see you in church!
Easter peace to you
Father Bob Kennedy