Saturday, December 31, 2016

On Giving Thanks for a Problematic Year

The year 2016 was not one which many will look back on with great gladness. Some may even shudder at the mere memory of it! Yet it is a venerable tradition to recite the great hymn of thanksgiving, the Te Deum, to give thanks on this last day of the civil year - and then to invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit by reciting the hymn Veni Creator on the first day of the new year imploring divine assistance for the whole of the coming year. 

Especially after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it would be hard not to be gloomy about the present or anxious about the future. And, as if that weren't sufficient, in Naples on December 16 San Gennaro's blood failed to liquefy! The miracle of the liquefaction of San Gennaro's blood is believed to occur three times each year - on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May, on September 19 (the saint's feast day), and on December 10 (the anniversary of a 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius). It did liquefy on the appointed days earlier in the year, but not on the third. In traditional lore, its failure to do so portends possible disasters in Naples. (20th-century failures of the blood to liquefy were associated with World War II, a cholera epidemic, and an earthquake.) 

In response to the miracle's non-occurrence, Monsignor Vincenzo De Gregorio, the abbot of the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, said: "We must not think about disasters and calamities. We are men of faith, and we must continue to pray."

In a similar vein, decades ago, the esteemed Pius Parsch, reflecting on the close of the year, wrote: "the world of today advocates a living just for the moment. Such living is altogether too individualistic, too selfish, too much a petty clinging to bubbles, too hectic a higgling and haggling for money and praise - things that are of time and pass away. Let time march on as you lose yourself in the timelessness of the Church, as you close yourself more perfectly with ageless liturgy."

And so we must, as this terribly tragic year ends and another of unforeseen prospects awaits us!

(Photo: Pope Francis gives the Eucharistic blessing at Benediction after the New Year's Eve Te Deum in Saint Peter's Basilica, one year ago.)

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