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:
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!
More on Ordinary Time:
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)
More on Pentecost and the Holy Spirit:
On Monday, May 20, 2013, Boston College will hold its commencement exercises, but it will do so without the participation of the archbishop of Boston, Sean Cardinal O'Malley. O'Malley, who normally imparts a final benediction at the commencement ceremonies at the Jesuit school, decided that he could not do so this year after Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenney, who had been invited to speak at the graduation a year ago, endorsed Ireland's "Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013," which was introduced in the Irish parliament in May.
The name of the bill hides its true intent. The National Catholic Reporter, which is all too often latitudinarian in its discussions of abortion legislation, has in this case published a sober and balanced piece on the bill by Phyllis Zagano, who makes it clear that rather than clarifying current Irish law, it opens the door to something closer to abortion on demand.
While the Irish constitution continues to prohibit abortion, current Irish law allows an exception to save the life of the mother. Kenney, a Catholic, insists that his government, in advancing the new legislation, is only complying with a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that ordered Ireland to broaden the circumstances under which that exception would apply. Zagano's excellent summary of the proposed legislation makes it clear that the exception would be broadened to the point where the constitutional prohibition would be all but meaningless, and abortion could be performed throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
Even allowing, however, for differences in interpretation, and assuming that Prime Minister Kenney, who is also scheduled to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the commencement ceremony, is sincere in his contention that he is trying to comply with the ruling in the narrowest possible way, Cardinal O'Malley's action has struck some critics as odd or even hypocritical. O'Malley has been willing to appear with Barack Obama, the most rabidly pro-abortion president in the history of the United States, as recently as April 18, and he presided at the funeral of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who did more, perhaps, than any other American Catholic politician to advance the cause of abortion on demand in the United States. Why the seemingly sudden change of heart?
The answer being offered by Cardinal O'Malley's critics is that he is essentially a cynical and ambitious man, who enjoyed all of the attention he received before the recent papal conclave, and who is using the Boston College situation to bolster his chances of succeeding Pope Francis. Setting aside the fact that such cynicism and ambition have never been obvious traits of Cardinal O'Malley, this narrative ignores some rather important points:
Still, the critics do have a point: It feels like something is different in this case. And I think it might indeed have something to do with Pope Francis, though not with any desire that O'Malley might have to succeed him on the Throne of Peter.
Throughout these first two months of his pontificate, especially in his homilies at daily Mass, Pope Francis has struck a rather Pauline note regarding the standards to which Christians are to be held. Saint Paul told the young church at Corinth that her members did not strictly have to avoid those outside of the church who violated Christian morality; the brethren, however, needed to be held to a higher standard, and those who acted like their pagan neighbors were to be removed from the Christian community, and shunned.
Pope Francis, while not speaking of shunning, has stressed the need for Catholics to adhere to a higher standard, and, by implication, for their fellow Catholics to expect them to do so.
That is what is at stake in Boston College's decision to proceed in honoring Prime Mister Kenney, despite his support of pro-abortion legislation. If it was wrong for Notre Dame to honor President Obama, a non-Catholic, because of his pro-abortion views, it is even more wrong for Boston College to honor a Catholic who (even if we grant Kenney the best of intentions) is promoting legislation that will lead to the destruction of more unborn babies.
Far from being hypocritical, Cardinal O'Malley is following the teaching of both Pope Francis and Saint Paul, and holding Catholic institutions and Catholics generally to a higher standard. His action in this case is consistent with his action in the case of Notre Dame, and his decision to insist on a low-key funeral (with a private guest list) for Senator Kennedy.
It might be best if Cardinal O'Malley were to explain his decision in this way, though, were he to do so, I wouldn't expect those who are calling him cynical and hypocritical to understand. But if the Church is to be a beacon to the wider world, it is necessary to hold her members to a higher standard—and that is clearly what Cardinal O'Malley is trying to do.