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)
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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.
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Monday May 20, 2013
The Easter season ends with Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Easter, but it sends out ripples even further. Trinity Sunday and the Feast of Corpus Christi, which both fall after Pentecost, are moveable feasts, which means that their date in any given year depends on the date of Easter.
But the day after Pentecost--today--also marks the Church's return to something known as "Ordinary Time," which runs until the first Sunday of Advent. Ordinary Time does not mean that this period is not special; far from it! During these months, our readings at Mass feature Christ walking among His disciples and teaching them.
This is the time--after the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit--in which we live in the fullness of Christ's revelation and saving grace. As Pope Benedict XVI noted in his Angelus address for Trinity Sunday 2010, Ordinary Time "does not mean that the commitment of Christians must diminish; quite the contrary, having entered divine life through the Sacraments, we are now called to remain open to the action of Grace in order to grow in love towards God and neighbour."
Let's make the most of it!
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Sunday May 19, 2013
Pentecost Sunday marks the end of the Easter season. On this day, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Christ had promised before He ascended into Heaven ten days before, on Ascension Thursday. The sending of His Spirit was the final element of Christ's salvific work on earth, and Pentecost Sunday, therefore, is truly the birthday of the Church.
Between Christ's Ascension and the day that He will come again in glory, the Holy Spirit guides the Church and each of us as Christians. Yet, too often, we seem to forget about the Spirit in our prayer life and our efforts at spiritual growth. The Church, however, strongly encourages prayer to the Holy Spirit, and its no mere coincidence that sanctifying grace--the life of God within us--infuses us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And those things that we do that mark us as Christians--those acts that can only be the result of grace--are known as the fruits of the Holy Spirit for a reason.
So Pentecost is a good feast day to become familiar with the Holy Spirit once again, and to ask Him to come into our lives. Come Holy Spirit!
(A dove perched in a hole in the wall outside the Basilica di Sant'Agnese Fuori le Mura (Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls), Rome, Italy. The dove is the traditional Christian symbol for the Holy Spirit. Photo © Scott P. Richert)
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