WARNING: Major plot spoilers below (past the jump) for the movie Arrival. But it also contains my reflection on how the movie makers created a work of imbued with Christian meaning, probably without even knowing it.
At first, I was going to comment on this article, “Why Churches Shouldn’t Cancel Services on Christmas Day,” by pointing his out as an essential difference between Protestants, on one side, and Catholics and Orthodox, on the other.
It seems many Protestant churches, especially of the Evangelical and mega-church variety, won’t have any services on Christmas Day, even though it’s a Sunday. That’s because they don’t usually do Christmas services so people can spend it as a “family day.” Instead, many of them are planning candlelight services on Christmas Eve, but many don’t even do that.
But it’s Sunday! The Lord’s Day, the feast of the Resurrection in which we commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord. Remember the first commandment? Keep holy the Sabbath. As a Catholic, I can’t even conceive of not going to Mass on a Sunday. Or can I?
The fact is that we Catholics have started to fall prey to this as well, except in a slightly different way. How many Christmas Eve Masses will there be at your parish this year? Our parish has four. Most parishes around here have similar numbers. I know one parish where the parish tried to reduce from five to four and got an earful from parishioners. Everybody wants to go Christmas Eve so they don’t have to get up and leave the house in the morning, so they can stay in their pajamas amidst the gifts until it’s time to make Christmas dinner.
That’s sounds nice, but it kind of misses the point, doesn’t it? If we’re braving the scrum on Christmas, packing in like sardines, barely able to hear or participate in the Mass, checking off our obligation in order to say it’s been fulfilled so we can have Christmas Day for ourselves, are we really putting Christ in Christmas? Oh, of course, I applaud those who actually make the effort to go to Mass at all. That sets you apart from most, to be sure. But is that really what we should be offering?
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If you want to see some of what was lost in the earthquake in Norcia (and more importantly what was not lost, namely the monks), this story from CBS Sunday Morning last year gives you an idea. More details of the quake are available here.
Update: They did make it there!
Thousands of people in the Boston area, some even flying in from other parts of the country, are venerating the heart of Padre Pio this week. It is the first time a major relic of St. Pio has traveled outside of Rome and it is here in Boston at the request of Cardinal Seán, a fellow Capuchin, for the saint’s feast day in the Year of Mercy.
The Boston Globe covers the initial veneration in Lowell and it’s funny to read the outsider’s perspective. We, Catholics, are a peculiar bunch and I can see why others think it’s weird. But human beings are weird and quirky, especially when it comes to those we love who are no longer with us.
You have to see George Martell’s photos of the visit on the Archdiocese’s Flickr page. You can see the full range of experiences and emotions that were present.
Melanie and the kids are going to the Pastoral Center in Braintree this morning for veneration. They’re bringing a picture of Padre Pio that came to us mysteriously. Several years ago, Melanie took the kids to daily Mass on Sophia’s feast day and as they come out after, a young man approached them with the picture and said that it was for them. Melanie had never seen him before and didn’t recognize him from the parish at all. The picture has been in the girls’ bedroom since then. They hope to touch the picture to the heart of Padre Pio today and make it a third-class relic.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. I hope to swing by the Pastoral Center on my way home this afternoon, but my guess is that after the noon Mass until the end at 5pm the place will be crazy with people.
“Those who don’t understand why Christ came in the form of food, have never been poor.”
Belief and understanding in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is an all-time low in our country. At the same time, Americans are the most well-fed people in history. Is it a coincidence?
For most of history, the majority of people have struggled to survive from meal to meal. Even those who were moderately well off were usually only a bad harvest from starvation. Perhaps it takes a real hunger to realize your absolute need and dependence.
“Imagine what it means, that Christ became food for us to share and consume. Imagine the audacity of God, the impossibly lavish gift. We gather at this table, all of us accursed who walk in exile through the valley of the shadow of death. All languages, all cultures are one here. The rich and the poor, the clean and the lepers, those who bear a curse more visibly than others– together we receive the Bread of Heaven which cannot be thrown to the dogs but is freely given to the accursed. God is our celebration, giving of Himself so that we might live. This is pure love poured out, kindness and self-giving like we have never known. This is the Miracle before which all others pale. This is the Bread of Heaven, and blessed is His name.”
A nice story of how generous giving was remembered more than 60 years later and a connection of faith was extended through the veil of time.
When Father Timothy Naples sent the tabernacle from St. Theresa Church in Orleans to be refurbished, he was surprised to learn a list of names had been tucked inside its lining. He thought they were the names of people who had given the tabernacle to the church in 1952.
They weren’t; he had come upon a mystery.
Even parishioners did not recognize the names.
I’m going to guess that this happens more often in Europe and covering a longer span of time.
Several Catholic NASA astronauts discuss how they practiced their faith in relation to going into space. From the basic of going to confession before the flight to preparing for six months without Mass to how seeing the universe from that perch affected their perspective, it’s an interesting look into what it takes.
Under a special arrangement with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and with the help of Father James H. Kuczynski, pastor of Mary Queen Catholic Church in Friendswood, Texas, Hopkins’ parish, the rookie astronaut carried a pyx with six consecrated hosts broken into four pieces. It was enough so that he could take Communion once a week for the 24 weeks he was aboard the ISS.
Melanie writes today over at Aleteia on chocolate crosses and the criticism that they are irreverent or even blasphemous. Except, we have a long tradition in the Church of consuming food shipped like crosses, lambs, the Eucharist, even hammer and nails and crown of thorns.
Our faith is incarnational. Our God makes himself manifest. He comes to us under the appearance of bread and wine and demands that we gnaw on his flesh, drink his blood. These little ones are too young to partake in the Eucharistic feast, but they can begin to understand the symbolism remotely with these lesser feasts of spiced bread and chocolate crosses. And a careful mother can sneak in a little catechism lesson while they munch on their goodies.
The latest Pew Research poll shows Massachusetts ties for last among the states for religiosity. Only 23% say they attend worship services weekly, which is better than the Archdiocese of Boston in which 13% of Catholics attend Mass on any given Sunday. We’re also dead last in the percentage of people who believe in God with absolute certainty.
Last year, Vermont was the least religious, but this year two other New England states, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, beat it out, while Maine rounded out the top four. Connecticut was next, but Rhode Island, the fifth New England state, came in near the middle of the pack. I wonder what’s different there.
I joked with Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, that the only thing that changed on the religious landscape in Vermont since the last poll was his tenure. Could that be why they’re creeping back from the edge?
We’re halfway through Lent. How’s it going? Need a booster shot? These 10 tips may be just what you needed.