The Catholic Moment: What keeps me Catholic – the liturgical year
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
By Mike Daley
As a teacher, much of my focus and attention is framed by two dates – the first and last day of the school year. In addition to that, rather than months or seasons, I divide my year into quarters and semesters.
I wouldn’t call it burdensome, but it sure can be pressure-filled by deadlines, conferences, emails, grades, class preps and extracurriculars. There never seems to be enough time. If I’m not careful, things can easily begin to center around me and my daily activities at school.
Thankfully, there’s another calendar I’m invited to follow – the liturgical year. Catholics believe that in and through the Incarnation – the Son of God becoming human in the person of Jesus – that time was transformed. It is how and where God reveals God’s very self to us. Whatever the day, feast, or season, the liturgical year enables us to find Jesus in the past, present and future.
Yet, this time of year – supposedly one of the holiest seasons – everything seems to be a blur. I’m reminded of a cartoon hanging on my classroom wall. In it, the Easter Bunny is telling a Thanksgiving turkey,dressed like Santa with a bag of presents slung over his shoulder, to “Hurry up, dude.”
The pumpkins and stuffing, the recognition of gratitude in our lives, give way to colored eggs and wicker baskets. What, of course, gets left out in the process are the sacred seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. That’s ok, though, as long as I get that sale price at the department store.
Sadly, the commercial hype surrounding these times of the year is such that we often ask, “Is it over yet?” The birth of Jesus and, later, His resurrection become anticlimactic to say the least.
The liturgical year attempts to focus our attention on the saving events and amazing characters of our faith tradition. As Americans we are all too ready to celebrate July 4 and President’s Day. As disciples, shouldn’t this be even more the case with the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus?
In a culture of instant gratification and constant distraction, this awareness of and attention to spiritual matters is difficult to sustain. Still, the church offers us the antidotes of Advent, Lent and Ordinary Time. Through them, we learn that patience is not only a virtue, but life. There is no banquet without first planting the seeds of the harvest.
Over the course of time – the liturgical year – we admit that though we may be further along than in the beginning, we’re still notwhere we need to be. The pilgrimage of faith continues. One of the prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayer captures well the rhythm and mystery of the liturgical year when it proclaims: “By His birth we are reborn. In His suffering we arefreed from sin. By His rising from the dead we rise to everlasting life. In His return to you in glory we enter into your heavenly kingdom.”
It cannot be overstated enough that to experience the strength and fullness of the liturgical year, one needs to be a participating member of a practicing and witnessing faith community. It is what allows us to distinguish between Black Friday, that high holiday of consumerism, and Good Friday, the day, which begins death’s transformation into eternal life.
It’s what keeps me Catholic.
Daley is religion teacher at St. Xavier High School and freelance writer.