Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Ahead to 2016

It is traditional to pray the Te Deum, the Church’s great hymn of thanksgiving on thIS last day of the year. In fact, the Church offers a plenary indulgence to those who participate in its public recitation on New Year’s Eve. (The great 18th-century German hymn Großer Gott, Wir Loben Dich is a free translation of the Te Deum, which was in turn translated into English by Father Clarence Walworth, in the 19th-century as Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.)

Complementing the New Year’s Eve Te Deum, there is also a tradition of praying the hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus on New Year’s Day. Composed in the 9th century, this hymn is traditionally used at the opening Church councils and papal conclaves. It is often heard at the start of important undertakings, such as the beginning of a school year. The Church likewise offers a plenary indulgence to all who participate in its public recitation on New Year’s Day. Devotion to the Holy Spirit was a strong element of Servant of God Isaac Hecker’s spiritual life. May we all pray earnestly for the gifts and guidance of the Holy Spirit on our world as we look ahead to 2016!

Looking ahead to 2016, I am looking forward to turning 68 in March! Truly "time and tide wait for no man"!

And, like so many others, I am eagerly looking forward to the sixth (and, sadly, final) season of Downton Abbey, which having finished in the UK on Christmas is now ready to start in the US this Sunday. TV series sometimes have trouble sustaining sufficient momentum season after season. Some series have a fantastic first season and then slowly go down in subsequent seasons. Downton Abbey has not followed that trajectory and has instead turned in a top-quality performance over and over again for five years running now. I hope this season will be of similar quality. I hope also that we will see these characters, to whom we have gotten so attached, each come to a suitable resolution of his or her journey. And, please, stop the sadistic persecution of Bates and Anna, and allow them some well deserved modicum of happiness in their lives!

The 2016 Presidential campaign will finally reach the point at which such campaigns used to start, and will begin the actual voting stage with the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary. What effect will actual votes have? My political scientist hat tells me that all bets are off this year and that everything political analysis has assumed based on previous election cycles is up for grabs this time around. Still the likely outcome of it all may be the expected election of the first female president and the oldest president - an important identity-group box to check for two rather large constituencies!

Pope Francis will visit Mexico in February. That visit will presumably include a Mass at the border - something many had hoped would have been part of his US trip last fall. A papal visit to the border would be  a nice counter-message to the vicious campaign currently being waged within one of our political parties and also perhaps a much needed wake-up call to certain segments of the American Church about with whom the future of the Catholic Church in America actually lies. This summer, the Pope will travel to Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day. To some, looking at them from the outside those mass gatherings may seem excessive. But, having had the experience of attending WYD in Cologne 10 years ago, I would say that from the inside they are a great opportunity for young people to experience the Church's vitality and universality and to return home energized in their commitment. Hopefuly, WYD 2016 will also produce many, much needed vocations to the priesthood and religious life!

Meanwhile the Year of Mercy will taKe up most of the coming year, overlapping with our merciless presidential campaign. May the former have greater influence over the latter!

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