Chaplain’s Corner – August 2017 – “The Month of Celebrations… But How?”
Part of being a Catholic Christian means the beauty and the variety of liturgical celebrations that span the year-long liturgical calendar: the blessing of the throats on the Feast of Saint Blaise, the Eucharistic Processions on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the physical and visible symbol of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, the beautiful contrast of dark and light during the Easter Vigil Mass, and on-and-on the list of tangible expressions of our faith goes. As members of the faithful, it is beautifully necessary to have these liturgical celebrations which bring about all the joy, wonder, and assurance of graces that we need to continually do battle on this side of eternity, but what happens when Holy Mother Church has no specific prescriptions, outside the texts of the proper prayers themselves and the change in vestment color, for the wide variety of liturgical celebrations themselves? Does the joy that comes from honoring great saints and different aspects of our faith belong solely inside the context of those differing liturgical celebrations? Both simply and emphatically, the answer must be a resounding, “No”!
There seems to be a great temptation in the culture and society to leave all matters of living out the faith to the hierarchy and magisterial portion of our Church. While we acknowledge that the role of the Church is teaching and passing along the teachings of the faith while being the guardians of that which is the most important, the sacraments, it is also important to clarify that the magisterium of the Church cannot live out your faith for you. This month’s potpourri of feast days and celebrations must warrant a reaction from the people of God; during the month of August, the Church celebrates the feasts of Saints John Vianney, Dominic, Claire, Lawrence, Pius X, Rose of Lima, Bartholomew, Augustine, and Maximillian Kolbe in addition to feasts such as the Beheading of John the Baptist, the Queenship of Mary, the Transfiguration of our Lord, the Dedication of Mary Major, and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Solemnity and a Holy Day of obligation…go to Mass!). While none of these liturgical feast days have as part of the rite anything as different as rubbing ashes on our foreheads, carrying around palm branches, or every person in the pew receiving their own candle to systematically burn their knuckles, does that indicate for the individual person that we are to be “bored” with these celebrations and to treat them with the same apathy that the world seems to have towards the faith itself?
We are sustained and nourished by Jesus Christ Himself most perfectly in the sacrament of the Eucharist, in the context of the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass and without which our joy could never be complete. With the context of understanding where true joy comes from (God) and understanding the hierarchy of how we are to live that joy out in our lives (beginning by being faithful and obedient to all the Magisterial teachings of our Church), we must never fall into the trap of believing that virtuous living is equated to joyless living. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati once said, “To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live but to merely exist; we must never merely exist.” Our virtuous living begins at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the Source of virtuous living and must extend to the reaches of our ordinary and everyday lives. One of the reasons behind the Church’s decision to have these great festal celebrations is for the very purpose of ensuring that the faith is lived both in the Church and “in the field”.
A priest friend of mine started his own tradition of going out for sushi on the fifth of February each year as a celebration of the feast of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, the Japanese martyrs who gave their lives for the evangelization of their country. While you may believe this is simply an excuse to eat good food and get together with old friends… you would be correct! What better excuse to partake in the beauty and joys of this world which are infinitely small glimpses of the eternal joys of heaven than to partake in honor of those we know to be gathering eternally in festal celebration of the Goodness of the Lord. This month is an opportunity for each member of the Body of Christ to partake in the celebration of the lives of fallen men and women who heroically turned their gaze toward Christ over-and-over again during their earthly lives. This month is an opportunity for each member of the Body of Christ to take consolation in knowing that when St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”, that we have been given examples from a time not as dissimilar to our own as the first century. If the temptation to separate faith and daily life is apparent in your life then here are opportunities for each of us to do battle by way of Holy celebration and real joy.
GK Chesterton wrote that, “All the exaggerations are right, if they exaggerate the right thing”; we must not forget of the battle that lies in front of us during our lives but we equally must never be afraid to exaggerate the joys that await us by making them real for ourselves and those around us. This month raise a glass in honor of St. John Vianney, go out to dinner for the Beheading of John the Baptist, enjoy a fine cigar on the Solemnity of the Assumption (after Mass!), or simply set aside time with family and friends to glory in the beauty that God has both placed in front of us and in the glory that awaits us in eternity. God Bless and be a saint, nothing less.
In Christ & Mary,
– Father Eric Silva
Chaplain – Candlewood Lake Council No. 11913