Pastor’s Desk ~ June 30, 2024

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

Near the end of June, we celebrate two important solemnities, which is the highest rank of liturgical observance. That means they are celebrated even on Suanday, if they happen to fall on that day of the week. (The only thing they lack is status as Holy Days of Obligations.) These are the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) and the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29).

There are only three people whose births and departures from this earth are both celebrated in the liturgy of the Church: Jesus, Our Blessed Mother, and John the Baptist. I use the awkward phrasing, “departures from this earth” because each of these three people left the earthly dimension by different means. John the Baptist was martyred and buried according to Matthew 14:12. (Various places claim to have his body, others his head.)

As we know from the Creed, Jesus died and was buried, but rose from the dead and later ascended into heaven – all attested to by multiple scripture citations.

The final days and end of Mary’s earthly life are somewhat more mysterious. After the death of Jesus, she all but disappears. However, Mary could not have a conventional death, because by virtue of the Immaculate Conception, she was preserved from Original Sin, which was the entry of sin and death into an infinitely good creation. In the first millennium of the Church, Mary’s passing from this life was celebrated as her “Dormition” – her “sleeping.” The first centuries of the Church (and beyond) are full of art depicting Mary asleep, often deep in the earth, waiting for the redemption of creation.

The Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul go back to the earliest days of the Church, and is unlike any other feast of the Church, as it celebrates the two greatest evangelists to the two great communities of the world-wide Church – Jews and Gentiles. Unlike the original apostles, St. Paul never knew the living Jesus, which was a sore spot with him. After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he became a “super-disciple” for faith in Jesus.

Independence Day, July 4th. One interesting feature of the liturgical life of our parish is the power and gusto with which our parishioners belt out patriotic hymns on national memorials. This year, we concluded our high school graduation ceremony with “America the Beautiful,” accompanied by a rank of visiting trumpeters, our great pipe organ, and a church full of full-throated singers, and it was an unforgettable moment. Afterwards, one (non-Catholic but amazingly supportive) parent told me that this resounding sendoff alone was worth four years of tuition. I took that as an endorsement of SVHS’s overall cultural formation of our students.

With the approach of Independence Day, I would like to say that, regardless of personal political outlook, patriotism is a virtue that dovetails with Christian faith and religious devotion. There are those who would insist, in the name of separation of Church and State, that religion has no place in the public square. I disagree. The two great moral reforms of our country – the termination of slavery, and support of civil rights – were supported, in ways big and small, by the Church and several courageous bishops who integrated parishes and schools long before public institutions had the political will to do so. Our country has been a religious and economic haven for millions, and the Church has played a major role in making this process more humane. One more thing to be thankful for this Independence Day.

Blessings, Fr. Bill Donahue

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