Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Fifty Days of Easter Time

The Meaning of the Season
Alleluia! He is Risen! The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost 
are celebrated in joyful exultation as one feast day, or better, as one 
“great Sunday.” With Easter Sunday, we began Fifty Days of rejoicing. 
During these Fifty Days, the Church continues to instruct the neophytes 
(the newly baptized) about the new life they have embraced. In the 
process, all of us are called to reflect on the meaning of our baptism 
and on what living the baptized life looks like. What does it mean to 
live the resurrected life of Christ? What does it mean to be Church? 
How do we live our lives now that we have died and been raised up? 
The neophytes spend their time in post-baptismal formation (which is also
referred to as mystagogical catechesis). It is an opportunity to unpack 
their experience of Easter and to reflect on what it all means for their 
life now as members of the Church. Like the early Church, we are a 
people shaped by the resurrection, a people called to share our joy 
and the good news with others, a people freed from sin and filled with
the life of the Holy Spirit, a people who constantly give thanks for all
God’s gifts, a people who have risen from the font to a whole new way of
life.
Fifty Days of Celebration 
Part of the challenge of Easter is learning how to celebrate the 
fifty-day feast! Perhaps, as Catholics, we find it easier to do
penance than to celebrate; we find it easier to observe the 
forty days of Lent than the fifty days of Easter. Part of the
problem lies with our stress on Lent as the religious period for Catholics. 
Easter Sunday is not just the endpoint of Lent. It is
the beginning of a sustained conversion of heart and mind to Jesus Christ. 
The truth is, however, that we are called to maintain the festivity and 
celebration throughout the entire fifty-day period as one joyful feast. 
Easter, Ascension and Pentecost are not three separate, independent 
feast days, each with its own themes. Rather, they are all part of one
continuous Easter celebration. 
The Structure of the Season
The Easter season is composed of three phases, but these internal 
variations in rhythm never should eclipse its central unity as the great Fifty Days.
1.The Octave:
The first eight days are celebrated almost as one exuberant festival, with 
each day celebrated as a Solemnity. The tradition of mystagogical catechesis
during this time influenced the selection of the scriptural passages.
2.The 31 Middle Days:
The Gospels of the Sundays of the Easter season give focus to the season 
of Easter time. The first three Sundays of Easter relate post-resurrection 
appearances. The Fourth Sunday always focuses on the powerful image 
of the Good Shepherd. The next three Sundays of the season (and many 
of the weekdays nearby) draw from what has come to be known as the 
“farewell discourse” or “high-priestly prayer” in the Gospel of John. While this
paschal season can include references and hymns to Mary, the paschal 
references and overall unity of the Fifty Days should not be compromised 
by excess attention to May as “Mary’s month.”
3.The Final Days:
The season does not end on Ascension Thursday! Over the following nine 
days (the original novena!) and then on Pentecost day itself, we are invited in
to intense prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Easter time ends at the
conclusion of Pentecost Sunday.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pope Francis Canonizes Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II

The canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014  celebrated the personal holiness of two men who profoundly impacted the universal Church.  It is also be the first time in the history of the Church that two popes will be canonized in a single ceremony.  Cardinal Angel Amato, prefect of the congregation for Saints' Causes, spoke of their "service to peace" and the tremendous impact both popes had "inside and outside the Christian community" at times of great cultural, political and religious transformation.

Blessed John XXIII

Although John XXIII's pontificate was relatively brief (1958-1963). he will forever be known as the pope who  convened the Second Vatican Council which continues to shape the Church's mission of evangelization. A humble man of peasant origins, John XXIII had a warm personality and affectionately became known as "Il Papa Buono" ("The Good Pope"). With his background in Vatican diplomacy, John XXIII understood that the Second Vatican Council should address the need for the Church to speak to the modern world. Because he was elected at a time of immense social upheaval, he understood that he needed to move quickly to deal with the challenges.  Pope John Paul II specifically commented on John XXIII's visionary approach in his homily for his beatification on September 3, 2000: "The breath of newness he brought certainly did not concern doctrine, but rather the way to explain it; his style of speaking and acting was new, as was his friendly approach to ordinary people and the the powerful of the world. Christians heard themselves called to proclaim the Gospel with renewed courage and greater attentiveness to the 'signs' of the times." John XXIII died June 3, 1963, and did not see the council to completion.  As a joyful witness the the Gospel, John XXIII will be raised on April 27 to the glories of the altar and named among the Church's saints.  Saint John XXIII, pray for us!

Blessed John Paul II

The third longest reigning pope in history (1978-2005), John Paul II is also one of the most beloved. The unofficial cause for his canonization began almost immediately, with crowds spontaneously acclaiming, "Santo subito!"   ("Sainthood now!") at his funeral April 8, 2005. The official cause began only a month later when Pope Benedict XVI wiaved the customary five year waiting period.  
Any attempt to list John Paul II's central achievements will necessarily be incomplete. In a broad sense, John Paul II called for a radical renewal of faith that would bear witness to the truth of Jesus Christ in our age.  He called for witnesses - of all ages - whose worship, words and very existence would radiate the Gospel to a world profoundly thirsting for God.  Some of the essential insights of John Paul II which defined his papacy and transformed the world include, the theology of human love, his fearless defense of the dignity of the human person, his articulation of the "saving mission of the family," and in his suffering, he pointed us to the mercy of God. Among his earliest pastoral innovations was World Youth Day which touched the minds and hearts of young people and nurtured them in the ways of faith. On the feast of Divine Mercy - the feast that John Paul II himself gave to the Church - the world will formally recognize the sanctity of this inspiring witness of the Gospel and celebrate his spiritual legacy as a saint of the Church. St. John Paul II, pray for us.