Thursday, May 17, 2007

Blessed Happy Ascension Thursday Sunday Day!

"He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them for forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God ... When he had said this as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight."
(Acts 1:3,9)

The AscensionFirst there was "Presidents Day." Now, for (most) American Catholics, there is "Ascension Day," rolled to this nearest Sunday instead of celebrating it on its traditional day forty days after the Resurrection. The good news is that if we keep messing around with Christ's holy days of obligation, it might hasten His return. The bad news is I don't think He will be happy.

The U.S. bishops, following the lead of their often trendy Canadian counterparts, began the migration (and in many ways, elimination) of holy days such as the Ascension and Assumption back in 1998, leaving their move to Sunday up to the local bishop's discretion. "With work schedules so varied and many weekday activities competing for our attention," they reasoned, "celebrating [the Ascension] on Sunday will give more Roman Catholics a chance to participate ... and give presiders more time to prepare." But to Fighting Irish Thomas such logic is a bunch of bull nonsense.

While some dioceses might have trouble finding enough priests to provide flex-time weekday Masses for mid-week holy days, in our area, there is, within a four-mile radius, Masses at 6:15, 6:30, 7:15, 8:00, 8:15 and 8:30 a.m., plus 12 noon and 7:00 p.m. EVERY Monday through Friday. Thus, the "competing activities" excuse is a lame one indeed for any non-disabled suburban Chicagoan who desired to receive his Daily Bread. And quite frankly, preparing to read a half-page selection doesn't take much preparation, although judging from the many mispronunciations, many Sunday lectors don't practice their readings anyway. As for music, an organist performing faithful versions of traditional hymns is certainly acceptable (if not preferable) in God's eyes for mid-week feasts. In my opinion, "performance" qualifications for Masses smacks of Protestantism and trivializes the Eucharist, which is "the source and summit of our Christian life," "the sum and summary of our faith" (CCC 1324, 1327) whether there is music or not.

Another new (if not new-age) argument for the feast's transfer is that Luke's forty-day Easter to Ascension timetable is merely another symbolic use of the number forty, such as the forty-day flood in the time of Noah, the forty years of the Hebrews in the desert, or Jesus' forty-day desert fast. While I am not as quick to dismiss the literal, especially when it comes to the liturgy as many liberals are, I still have to ask, even if Luke's forty days were merely symbolic, should it be done away with for mere convenience?

Many priests and bishops preach Sunday after Sunday that Catholics have to live their faith more than one day a week, and yet by such decisions they are playing into the "Sunday Mass" Catholic's hands. The bishops don't seem to realize that Sunday Mass Catholics are often Cafeteria Catholics, or at very least are in danger of joining the faith fast-food line. When Jesus ascended into heaven he said, "I am with you always," NOT "I am with you on Sundays," "til the end of time," NOT "when you have time." If bishops do not stand up for holy days now, soon secularists will even move (remove) Christmas from the 25th, as "Happy Holidays Day" will be celebrated on the last Monday of December to always give consumers that extra weekend to shop.


JimAroo said...

If I have learned anything in the last 40 years, it is that you don't mess with either the big things or the "little things". Changes in "little things" often have unintended consequences. For instance, maybe receiving in the hand is a "little thing" but 40 years later 75% of American Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence. There was a consequence.

My other objection is that the change obscures the novena of Mary and the apostles praying and fasting in the upper room. The powerful image of nine days of the church gathered with Mary is lost.

Unintended effect? Ask your self is your church praying the novena to the Holy Spirit at every Mass for nine days? Probably not.

Crimson Wife said...

Wow, this one hit a bit uncomfortably close to home as I did not attend Daily Mass on Ascension Thursday :-(

I'm a Gen X Catholic who is struggling to embrace traditionalism/orthodoxy (part of the so-called "New Catholic" movement). It's not easy when my dad's generation has not exactly been the best role models for living the Faith. I want to do better for my own children!

I think jimaroo really makes a good point about how changing the "little things" can have unintended consequences.

Tom O'Toole said...

JimAroo-You obviously are a student of Church history. Of course, this has happened before (the Reformation for example) ... but if you don't develop a love for frequent reception of the Eucharist in the faithful, the belief in the True Presence starts to waiver, and the Bread of Life a tasteless wafer ... -Tom

Tom O'Toole said...

Crimson Wife-Yes, it is natural to focus on the sins of our fathers rather than the faith of the Fathers. That is why I like to write about those who have fought the good fight, and finished the race; the saints. But it is also why C.S. Lewis writes in "The Screwtape Letters" that when the host is elevated at the consecration, the demons must try to get the person not to concentrate on the consecration, but on his neighbor in the pew who is a gossip or adulterer. Because if one ever develops a true love of the Real Presence, he will never doubt the teachings of the Catholic Church again. -Tom