Thursday, May 17, 2012
Dearest Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
In the musical (and movie) “Fiddler on the Roof”, the main character – Tevya, sings a song about tradition. He is pondering the problem of a daughter who wants to marry some idealistic dreamer, and has become caught up in his idealism herself, and who didn’t care about his permission to marry, they just wanted his blessing. He ponders how things have changed so and how these changes all go against the traditions of his people. He is caught between TRADITION! and his love for his daughter. His love for his daughter wins out in the end and he gives his blessing and his permission.
I had been thinking about this a fair bit this past week. It was only about 11 years ago that the bishops of the Province of Milwaukee (the State of Wisconsin) voted to move the observance of the Ascension of our Lord to the following Sunday. Their reasoning was that, having celebrated the Resurrection, it was important that people be present for the celebration of the Ascension (a Holy Day of Obligation) as an integral part of our overall celebration of the Paschal Mystery. The bishops recognized that holy days of obligation had less of a hold on people’s sense of obligation and, as a result, many, many were not present for this important celebration.
Along with (then) Bishop Burke, the only one of the six bishops to vote against this proposal, I questioned the wisdom of this move. However, in obedience I happily celebrated the Ascension on the Sunday following the 40th day after the Resurrection. Like Tevya, I have struggled in the years since with the tension between TRADITION! and the love for my people. And, like Tevya, I have come down in favor of the desire for my people to celebrate this very important mystery of our faith – even if not on the “proper” day.
One of the graces in the years since has been the rehabilitation of the “Extraordinary Form” of the Roman Rite (AKA: the Latin Mass). In allowing for the unfettered celebration of this form of the Roman Rite the Holy Father has, thus far, retained also the traditional calendar. Thus, Catholics with a desire not to give in to modernity are easily able to do so.
Another wonderful tradition, kept alive by the Extraordinary Form calendar has been the “Rogation Days”. I discovered this when I all of a sudden heard chanting and discovered a procession going past my house! The Rogation Days are days of penance and supplication to almighty God for a fruitful growing season and preservation from the forces of nature. In the spring they fall on the three days beginning on April 25th (the major rogation days) and the three days prior to Ascension Thursday (the minor rogation days). I have for many years tried to revive this tradition, especially since I have typically been assigned to parishes with a strong farming culture. However, once gone, especially after 40 years, it is very hard to revive a communal tradition. Thankfully, in our little corner of the world, the Latin Mass community has kept this tradition alive. Unfortunately, this year, it was not publicized in our Tri-Parish bulletin. I have asked Fr. Gardner to be sure and do this in the future so that we all may have the opportunity to participate in these wonderful prayers and traditions.
It is my great hope that, as we rediscover the wonderful and grace-filled traditions of our faith, our desire to celebrate them with vigor will be restored. Who knows? Maybe, with time, we will even all be celebrating the Feast of the Ascension on the 40th day after the Resurrection once again. However, whether we do, or we don’t, let us remember that “Love of God above all things” and “Love of our Neighbor as ourselves” is the reason for our existence and our motive in all things. In love let us celebrate the great mysteries of our faith on whatever day they fall, and God’s great and gracious generosity to us in all things.Pray Well!