Sunday, January 19, 2014


One of the constants in Catholic life remains funeral-home sponsored parish calendars, which year-in, year-out faithfully bring the Church's annual cycle of liturgical feasts and seasons into the domestic church of the family home. When I was a child in the 1950s and Mass attendance was so much higher, such calendars were eagerly sought after, so much so that parishes sometimes sought to restrict them to one per family.
At that time, I already had the fascination with calendars that has stuck with me all my life. One of my earliest "causes" that I embraced was the adoption of the proposed "World Calendar" (an idea that since seems to have deservedly disappeared and which no longer commands any enthusiasm on my part). Reading our parish calendar as a child, I remember being struck by the periodic appearance of something mysteriously entitled "Saturday Office of the BVM." Perplexed by this strange nomenclature, I concocted my own personal explanation, which was that Our Lady had an office in heaven to which she went to on Saturdays. I further imagined that that was where and when she would process our petitions. So Saturday seemed an extremely propitious day to pray for Mary's intercession.(We learned in 5th grade about the existence of the Divine Office. So this was obviously somewhat earlier.) I've often recalled this not just as an example of childish fantasy but also as an illustration of what I take to be the universal human inclination to try to make sense out of things that don't seem at first to make sense!
With the conclusion of the Christmas season, the Church’s calendar has re-entered a yearly cycle of 33 or 34 weeks which we unimaginatively have come to call “Ordinary Time” . “Ordinary Time” is the English term for Tempus per annum (“Season throughout the year”) and is divided into two parts, each of varying length (depending on whether Easter is earlier or later that year). In the traditional Missal, the shorter, first part was called “Time after Epiphany,” and the longer, second part “Time after Pentecost,” and the Sundays were numbered accordingly as Sundays after Epiphany or after Pentecost. In the new Missal, however, the weeks are simply numbered in order from the 1st week in Ordinary Time to the 34th.
One of the very few attractions of "ordinary time" is that on Saturdays, unless a higher-ranking festival occurs, what is now called the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday may be celebrated. A special collection of thematic Votive Masses now exists from which one may choose an appropriate Mass, each with its own proper prayers and its own proper Preface for the Eucharistic Prayer. And so, whenever possible, I usually choose one of these special Masses to celebrate on Saturday mornings. I no longer imagine March's cluttered desk in heaven, but I still keep the custom of Saturday as a special day to invoke Our Lady's intercession
This year, with only a few exceptions, the intention for the Saturday morning Mass each week at my parish will be for the canonization cause of the founder of the Paulilst Fathers, Servant of God Isaac Hecker. In the northeast corner of the church is a special little shrine dedicated to prayer for Hecker’s cause. In a place of honor there is a copy of an ancient image enshrined in the Borghese Chapel in Rome’s Basilica of Saint Mary Major, known as Salus Populi Romani – Our Lady “Protector of the Roman People.” After his expulsion from the Redemptorists in August 1857, Father Hecker went to look for housing in the Roman neighborhood of the Spanish Steps, the center at that time of Rome’s English-speaking community. On his way, he stopped at Saint Mary Major and prayed for Mary’s guidance and protection at the Salus Populi Romani shrine. Hecker credited the support he received from Cardinal Barnabo and the eventually positive outcome of his time in Rome to the Our Lady’s intercession on his behalf. Salus Populi Romani is the same image which Pope Francis went to venerate at Saint Mary Major on the day after his election as Pope and on some subsequent occasions since then. Not just on Saturdays, but especially then, I too try to imitate Father Hecker and Pope Francis and also pray before the image of Salus Populi Romani.

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