Friday May 24, 2013
During peacetime, it is perhaps not surprising that Americans lose sight of the meaning of Memorial Day. We treat it as if it is simply the start of summer or, at best, as a day to honor the veterans of foreign wars. But the true purpose of Memorial Day is to celebrate not those who survived, but those who fell. Veterans march in parades not in their own honor but in honor of their fellow soldiers, sailors, aviators, and Marines who never returned.
In the wake of the war in Iraq and as the war in Afghanistan (we pray) draws to a close, our thoughts turn properly this Memorial Day weekend to all those who have given their lives in the service of their country. The Church teaches us that we should pray for the dead, so that their souls may find rest. Over this weekend, we can resolve to pray the Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday Prayers for the Dead, and consider making the Weekly Prayers for the Faithful Departed a part of our daily prayer.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
(Memorial Day 2008 Parade in Rockford, Illinois. Photo by Scott P. Richert)
Weekly Prayers for the Dead:
Friday May 24, 2013
In May 2007, Pope Benedict XVI released a Letter to Chinese Catholics, in which he asked that May 24 each year be celebrated as a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. He chose May 24 because it is the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.
In honor of the first celebration of the World Day of Prayer for China, in 2008, Pope Benedict composed a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan and asked that Christians throughout the world recite it on May 24.
Let us follow the example of Pope Benedict and join our Catholic brothers and sisters in China, many of whom still suffer persecution, in approaching Our Lady Help of Christians in prayer. "Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever!"
Wednesday May 22, 2013
The weeks after Pentecost Sunday are traditionally the period in which the Catholic Church ordains men to the priesthood. While the end of the academic year plays a role in this schedule, a more important consideration is the connection between the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost. (In fact, the Pentecost Ember Days--the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Pentecost--were reserved for ordinations in the Traditional Latin Mass.) After Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, the Apostles--the original bishops--began to select other men to work with them in preaching the Gospel and celebrating the Lord's Supper (what we now know as the Mass).
Those men, both priests and deacons, were ordained by the Apostles through the laying on of hands--the same way that priests and deacons will be ordained by their bishops over the next few weeks. It's a very visible reminder of apostolic succession--the unbroken line of authority that extends from the Apostles to your local parish priest.
During this season of ordinations, we should turn our thoughts toward the future of the Church and pray for vocations to the priesthood. Now more than ever, the Church needs men who are willing to renounce the attractions of this world for the sake of Christ.
(Pope Benedict XVI ordains a deacon as a priest of the Diocese of Rome in St. Peter's Basilica, April 29, 2007, Vatican City. Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
More on Ordinations:
Tuesday May 21, 2013
We tend to think of the period after Pentecost Sunday as a quiet time in the life of the Church. The use of the term "Ordinary Time" in the new liturgical calendar promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 reinforces that sense. Yet over the next few weeks, the calendar features some very important feasts.
This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday, which celebrates the most fundamental of Christian beliefs. The Thursday after Trinity Sunday is the Feast of Corpus Christi, of the Body and Blood of Christ, which, even though it isn't a Holy Day of Obligation, is such an important feast that the bishops of the United States have transferred the celebration to the following Sunday, to ensure that all American Catholics celebrate it. Then, eight days later, we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to which the Church dedicates the entire month of June.
As we enter this period of celebration, I have chosen a
Short Novena for Corpus Christi as our novena of the week. If you begin praying it today, you will finish next Wednesday, on the eve of Corpus Christi. What better way to prepare ourselves for this great feast, which celebrates the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion and our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist?
(Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass and elevates the Host at Nationals Park April 17, 2008 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
If you have a favorite novena that you'd like me to choose as Novena of the Week, or if you'd like me to suggest a novena for a particular intention, send me an e-mail, and I'll work it into the rotation.
More on Corpus Christi: