Monday, January 20, 2014

Clericalism, Part Deux

I wrote a piece a few weeks back on the notion of women cardinals and the clericalism inherent in that desire. The essence of clericalism is the assumption that status and power determine one's worth in the Church, a far cry from Jesus' insistence that the meek will inherit the earth and the childlike will enter the kingdom of God. This attitude seems to be animating the call for female clergy or cardinals, and it is not a healthy one.

A few other examples of clericalism that I've encountered recently came to mind, and focus on matters liturgical.

Once while at our daily Mass, I noticed that one concelebrating priest, a visitor, was wearing a large ring which looked rather like a bishop's ring. The celebrant mentioned during the Mass that we were honored to have a bishop visiting us, and gestured to the man whose ring I had spotted. This confused me. According to the Church's liturgical rubrics (i.e. its rules and instructions for how Mass is to be celebrated), a bishop should not concelebrate at a Mass celebrated by a priest, but rather should sit "in choir" (i.e. dressed in simple liturgical robes, seated in a place of honor, and participating in the Mass much as a regular congregant would, but with certain differences), because the bishop is of a higher order than a priest--he (usually) heads a whole diocese, he ordains priests and bishops, he is a successor to the apostles. It would be like a CEO sitting in on a meeting run by a junior VP and acting like he's just another employee. When I asked an elder member of my community why this bishop didn't sit in choir, he smiled and said, "He's a bishop; he can do whatever he wants."

Another time, I attended a Mass being offered for a special intention (a justice issue of some sort, I think), and it was presided over by a visiting bishop. But rather than use the readings for the day, or some other readings from the lectionary, the bishop chose a few texts he thought fitting and had them read from a Bible. Now, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal does say, "In Masses with special groups, the priest is allowed to choose texts more suited to the particular celebration," but it adds the caveat "provided they are taken from the texts of an approved lectionary." It does not seem permitted to simply choose Scriptural texts you like and use them in the liturgy. When I asked someone about this, I was told, "He's a bishop; he can do whatever he wants."

Two aberrations from the Church's liturgy (granted, they are relatively minor) are given the same response: "He's a bishop; he can do whatever he wants." This, my friends, is clericalism. The liturgy belongs to the whole Church, and thus the competent authority has taken great care to set certain boundaries to liturgical practice (while allowing for a certain amount of freedom to adapt to particular situations) so that the liturgy is recognizable from place to place and thus easy for the faithful to participate in, and so that the words and actions of the liturgy accurately reflect the truths of the Catholic faith--every movement and positioning, every line spoken, communicates something of the faith. Yet a certain mindset, a clericalist mindset, would hold that because a bishop or priest is in a position of authority, they may do what they please, and alter the liturgy as they see fit. Might makes right. But no! The Second Vatican Council says,
Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 22) 
Nor can any individual bishop, as the Code of Canon Law says, "no one on personal authority may add, remove or change anything in them." (CIC 846) 

Bishops just as much as anyone else are beholden to the Church's laws, traditions, and beliefs. Their place in the Church as successors to the apostles is to pass on the Good News of salvation, to teach the teaching of Christ, to care for the flock entrusted to them, to sanctify them by the sacraments; and all of this in continuity with the Church's tradition, its long memory, its ever-ancient and ever-new faith. But some, the clericalists, take it that the bishop decides by his own whim what is true and what is not; that he commands and rules his people according to his caprice rather than tending them for their own good; that the sacraments may be molded and adjusted and overhauled according to their tastes. This is false. Power is not for the exercise of one's will or desires; power is for furthering the flourishing of one's self or those in one's care. Not even the pope is a truly absolute monarch in the Church, for he, too, is answerable to revelation, tradition, and to God. He is the servus servorum Dei, the "servant of the servants of God." As is every cleric. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Don't Let the Lights Go Out

Our society is continuously engaged in pseudo-debates about a range of issues, from abortion to gun control to redefining marriage to the proper response to poverty and immigration concerns. I call them "pseudo-debates" because they quite often seem to be missing a constitutive component of a debate: thought. There's an awful lot of emoting, but not a whole lot of thinking. People deem it sufficient to decide a matter merely by the expression of their feelings about it. Rather than defining our terms, stating our principles, making our arguments, and considering objections (in the serenely reasonable style of the medieval Scholastic philosophers), we instead shout and scream and stamp and snivel and point fingers and tear our hair out and rend our garments and call each other hateful and fear-mongers and heartless and brainless and just about every other pejorative we can conjure up (in the typically passionate style of the modern philosophers, who began by defending reason and usually ended by denying its applicability or trustworthiness).

This is not only immoral in its lack of charity, it's unproductive. We don't get anywhere in our discussions with each other, and when one side does get enough momentum going on its side to win the tug-of-war, we meet a host of unintended consequences that may well have been foreseen had we thought our way through things, and in the end everybody falls down. It reminds me of a parable from G.K. Chesterton's book Heretics (1905):
Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good–” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.
Though the medieval method may be too arid for the tastes of some, there is no denying its precision and efficiency. If the goal of debate is to air the various perspectives and thoughts of all and come to a reasoned conclusion on the subject, then we must stop our public debates from turning into shouting matches and lynch mobs and witch-hunts, and return to the cathedral school and the university of the pre-modern period, with its disputatio and quodlibet debates. Let's hurry, before the lights go out!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Healing the Divide

Something's been sticking in my craw for a while now. It's niggled at me like a pebble in my shoe and irritated me like a mosquito bite. There's a tendency in the Church today to split up a particular pair of things, when in fact they ought to go together like peas and carrots, like Laurel and Hardy, like peanut butter and cheddar cheese. (What? Nobody else does that?)

In virtually every parish, university, and diocese I've encountered, there have been an office or center or group dedicated to pro-life activities, and one dedicated to the Church's social teaching. The social justice department addresses subjects such as poverty, war, immigration, workers' rights, and so forth, while the pro-life committee handles abortion, euthanasia, contraception, capital punishment, and the like. (Though the last item sometimes sneaks its way over to the other camp.) This may not strike some people as odd. But it should.

Why? Because it creates a divide where there ought not to be one. It gives the impression that the life issues are something distinct from the social justice issues. But this is not so. The life issues are social justice issues, indeed, the primary social justice issues. One need look no further than the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' web page on Catholic Social Teaching. What is the first item listed? "Life and Dignity of the Human Person." The opening sentences make clear the primacy of the life issues in the Church's social teaching
"The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. "
None of the teachings that follow, from protecting the poor to caring for the environment, will stand unless the principle of the absolute dignity of every human life stands beneath them as a foundation. And this principle is incomplete without the subsequent teachings following from it.

I think this divide can be blamed on the unfortunate way in which politics and faith tend to get mixed up in the West. (I don't mean to say that it is unfortunate that faith and politics intersect--indeed, they should and they must. I mean to say that the way in which it happens is unfortunate.) Conservatives and liberals have their different visions and positions and priorities, and that gets reflected in their activity in the Church: by and large, you'll find political conservatives in the pro-life groups and political liberals in the social justice groups. And the two aren't particularly interested in working with one another.

Now, you could make the argument that a given person only has so much time and energy, and naturally they'll devote it to those things about which they are most passionate, so that inevitably some will pursue pro-life work, some immigration advocacy, and so on. I don't deny this. But there's no reason all of these issues can't be set under the same umbrella. Dividing them in this way, into essentially "conservative" and "liberal" issues, only exacerbates the problem of people placing their politics above their faith, or making their political opinions the lens through which they view their faith, when really we ought to approach politics from our position as Catholics, faithful to the Church's teaching and heeding the Church's guidance on social matters. The former approach is just the sort of thinking that provides cover for politicians who do not adopt the Church's stance on abortion, war, capital punishment, or what-have-you--they can compartmentalize the Church's teaching, accepting some and rejecting others, because we've already done it for them.

I recently saw an exemplar of just the sort of approach I think we should take. In his address to ambassadors and the Vatican diplomatic corps on January 13, Pope Francis said the following:
Peace is also threatened by every denial of human dignity, firstly the lack of access to adequate nutrition. We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed “the throwaway culture”. Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as “unnecessary”. For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity. 
Look at that! Hunger, abortion, child trafficking, all woven together in one statement on the dignity of the human person! See how naturally they all fit together? See how strong the message is when it challenges so many various threats to humanity? This is well-rounded thinking. It's universal in its considerations. It's, well, Catholic.

Let's not split these up anymore. Let's please keep in mind that the Church's social teaching begins with the protection of human life, and that several key principles follow from that. Let's heal this divide. Only then can the Church address society with a voice strengthened by its unity and integrity, and only then can it hope to influence hearts and minds to conversion, repentance, and action.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Don't Worry, It's Nobody You Know

Today Pope Francis announced the names of the 19 men he will create as cardinals on February 22.

(I'm not sure why "create" is the preferred nomenclature here, but it is: you ordain priests, consecrate bishops, create cardinals. It's like how you can only "cast" aspersions. You never see "aspersions" used apart from the verb "cast." Why can't I hurl them or scatter them or drop them or fling them? Anyway....)

American media have reported this story as "Pope names new cardinals, none American." We do tend to be a bit concerned about ourselves, don't we? Comedian Eddie Izzard pointed this out in his impression of American international news: "No Americans were involved in anything today." Though he says the Brits are the same: "Two British people scraped their knees today in Azerbaijan. Four billion other people died, but we don't know them."

Now, it's one thing if an angle in a story positively relates to your hometown or place of origin or someone you know: you then feel a stronger interest in the story. I was really proud when I found out, as a boy, that a man from our tiny little farming community had pitched in the major leagues, played with Willie Mays, and was second in Rookie of the Year voting only to some guy named Jackie Robinson. Wow! A guy from Verboort! How about that?! And just yesterday I saw that an Iraqi priest I had become acquainted with in seminary had been named a bishop. "I thought I recognized that name! I remember eating dinner with him and talking about theology!" Being especially interested in those sorts of connections seem natural to me.

But headlining a story as "No one from 'round these parts was involved" seems to me to be taking the wrong attitude. Yes, it's naturally more interesting if someone you know or are connected to is involved, but that shouldn't be our only reason for taking notice of a story. Isn't it interesting in itself that the pope named some cardinals from places that haven't had cardinals before? That one is the 98-year old former secretary to Blessed Pope John XXIII? That's neat! Tell me more about that. Your article will be far too long if you tell me about all the guys that weren't named cardinals.

This is a relatively minor complaint about the way media tend to report things. But still worth noting, I think.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

This Scares Me

I read a bone-chilling article this morning (nod of acknowledgement to Mike Flynn for posting the link). The terror began right at the headline: "So what if abortion ends life?" If you have the stomach for it, let me walk you through the main points. (Article quotations are in italics.)

In the first paragraph we read:
"I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice."
OK... what? I can't imagine what philosophical underpinnings could support this view. (She never does defend her position: lots of asserting, no supporting.) I suppose she's intentionally trying to be provocative. And if so, she's succeeded, but not surprisingly. Most morally reprehensible statements are provocative.

Next she presents us with her main principle:
"Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always."
The author merely asserts this principle without trying to prove or support it in any way, and makes the typical pro-abortion plea to "life is complicated." But let's address these "complicated" questions. How can any human being have any fewer basic, starting-point, natural rights than any other human being? What makes the mother of the unborn child "the boss" in such an absolute way? My boss doesn't have the right to kill me. Why should the mother's life and desires "automatically trump" the rights of her child? Is the child's status as "non-autonomous," presumably meaning "unable to decide or care for itself," the factor which renders it right-less? How is the child in utero any different from a one-year old (or even some 16-year olds) in that respect? Does the author think the mother's rights "trump" those of her children to the point of infanticide? I would be interested to see her explain herself--I know it's not the point of her article, but perhaps it should have been.

Well, we have to make choices, she says, and they're always difficult:
"But we make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise."
Here the author points out other instances in which society takes life, be it war, capital punishment, or (apparently) euthanasia, and argues that, since the conversation doesn't stop at "You can't take a human life" in these cases, it ought not stop there in the case of abortion. Which, of course, is a straw man argument, because the argument against abortion has other essential pieces to it. The major premise in the argument against abortion is not, "It is always morally wrong to take human life," but rather (as Blessed Pope John Paul II put it in Evangelium Vitae) "The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end." That's the argument, dear author, which applies to all of your above-mentioned cases, and applies differently. Address that. 

But she would rather not. Instead she'd rather continue to arbitrarily assert the rights of one person over another.
"And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing."
How simple it is to sacrifice other people's lives for your own ends! Of course, if someone were, say, to want the author's job, or her car, or her wallet, and see hers as "a life worth sacrificing," the author would naturally object that this is unfair, immoral, unconscionable, etc. Would she find any comfort in her would-be murderer telling her, "Please, understand, I believe you are a human life... but for what I want, for what I feel is right for me and my circumstances, you must be sacrificed"? Would such a statement lead her to call this a morally acceptable act? I doubt it.

It used to be a commonly accepted principle, stated in one of our nation's founding documents, that "all men are created equal." The author of this article denies that. I hesitate to speculate at her motives, but I can't help but wonder what the direction of her thinking is: does her desire to legitimize abortion lead her to conclude that "all life is not equal," or does she first hold this maxim then conclude from there that it's morally acceptable to "sacrifice" children for the sake of their mother's desires?

There seems to be a trend in some sectors of public thought away from reasonable decision-making--there is a revolt against rationality. How else can you describe an argument that says, "Yeah, this is contradictory--so what? Whatcha gonna do about it? This how I feel, so this is what I'm gonna do." Ah, there it is! The appeal to feeling and desire as the governing factor in morality! "Life is just so complicated, who can know these things, so let's do what we feel like." They've fallen to David Hume's assertion that "Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions." We don't let our intellects guide our desires; we let our desires determine how we will rationalize our choices. But why bother rationalizing in the first place if reason doesn't decide the matter? Doesn't that just make it a charade? And if we let desire decide the day, then what actually ends up deciding the day is not desire itself, but the size and strength of the one desiring. Whoever can enforce their feelings gets their way. Might makes right. Nowhere is this more evident than in the statement that a mother, whose child is more dependent on her than any thing that depends on any other thing, can kill that child if she desires. Why? 'Cause she's got him right where she wants him.

This scares me. C.S. Lewis would call such thinking "the poison of subjectivism" which will "end our species and damn our souls." God forbid such thinking should become commonplace. But I fear it has.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bigger on the Inside

If you ask a fan of Doctor Who to describe the Doctor's time machine, the TARDIS, in one sentence, they would very likely use the phrase that most characters in the show use upon first encountering it: "It's bigger on the inside." Externally inspected, it appears to be an ordinary British policeman's box from the 1960s; but, thanks to the technological feats of the people of the planet Gallifrey, inside it is nearly limitless in size, holding guest rooms and wardrobes and libraries and swimming pools and laboratories and, for an engine, an artificial black hole. It's representative of the show's whole charm: things aren't what they appear, they have a deeper secret to be uncovered--a silly little man with a blue box turns out to be a 1,200-year old Time Lord with the most powerful machine in the universe at his disposal. But to discover that, you have to trust him. You have to step through the door to learn that it's bigger on the inside.

I always thought that phrase sounded familiar. Then I remembered I'd heard it before! In two places, actually. One is in C.S. Lewis' book The Last Battle, from the Chronicles of Narnia series. The book's characters come to a walled garden, but once they enter its gates they find it's an endlessly expansive world in itself, "bigger on the inside." From the outside the boundaries of the garden could be clearly seen; but from the inside, the characters discover they can forever go "further up and further in." Lucy notes that once, in our own world, there was a cave that was bigger on the inside, too--meaning the cave in Bethlehem where Christ was born, where a little manger held a tiny babe who was the infinite God. With both the garden and the cave, you have to enter to discover it's bigger on the inside.

The other place I had encountered this phrase was in G.K. Chesterton's book The Catholic Church and Conversion. Chesterton says that the non-believer or non-Catholic will look at the Church and see an admittedly large and old human organization, but nothing more--no different from the nation of China, for example. But if you enter its doors you step into 2,000 years of tradition and belief, and a spiritual history that stretches back to the Garden of Eden; you step into the heavenly liturgy itself through the bridge of the Holy Mass; you come into the very presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament, itself an example of an apparently small thing holding an infinite reality within it. When you approach the Church and its mysteries with the eyes of faith, you are able to perceive it in all its glory and majesty and wonder. Thus, "when the convert has entered the Church, he finds that the Church is much larger inside than it is outside."

A madman with a blue box. A lion with a gated garden. A babe in a cave. A small wafer of bread. Each contains a secret: they're bigger on the inside. But to see it, you have to trust them.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What's in a Name?

A few days ago we celebrated the Memorial of the Holy Name of Jesus. Doesn't it strike you as a little odd that we have a feast devoted to a name? What's a name but a string of syllables attached to a thing or person? What makes a name special or holy? What's in a name?

A name is a personal marker. It's personal in that it is specific and individualized, and a marker in that it is a sign that identifies. A name points out a particular thing: my name is Nick, your name is Bob, his name is Jack, her name is Sally. It's an intimate part of who we are.

Names not only mark out individuals, but they allow for social relationships; indeed, there's not much need to mark out individuals unless they're among other individuals! Sharing your name is one of the first steps in social contact. When you introduce yourself, you create a bond with someone, that little bit of social glue--"Oh hey, it's what's-his-name." Think of how shocking it is when a stranger knows your name, or when you forget the name of someone you know you're meant to know! To know someone's name is to have a certain level of intimacy with them.

God's name was a mystery until Moses asked it of Him at the burning bush. With Moses, God established a covenant, a deep and binding relationship, with Israel: you will be my people, and I will be your God. And one could see the revelation of God's name to Moses as a real first step in the covenant, almost an introduction, if you will. Who is this God that calls Israel and binds Himself to them? It is YHWH: "I am who am" or "I am that I am" (Exodus 3:14).

(The meaning of this name is interesting to consider. Some take it to be a gentle rebuke to Moses, like "My name is my name--don't ask impertinent questions." St. Thomas Aquinas took it to be a profound philosophical statement: God identifies Himself as the one who's essence it is to exist, the one for whom existence is necessary: "I am the one who IS." Or, as Peter Kreeft quipped, beginning my quoting Shakespeare: "'What's in a name?' Moses asked God that at the burning bush, and God answered, 'I am.'")

Then God revealed Himself fully in the person of Jesus, "the name above all other names" (Philippians 2:9), "no other name under heaven by which men are saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus, God in the flesh, makes a new covenant between God and man, sealed in his own blood, and marked by his name. Thus "whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13). Now God has a personal name, a name which marks Him out and identifies who He is, for Yeshua means, "God saves."

When we pray "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," when we make petitions "in Jesus' name," we invoke that covenant relationship which we entered in Baptism. We say to God: "It's me, God. It's your friend. I know your name! You are "the one who saves"! I know who you are, and you know me. Please, for the sake of our relationship, grant X." The name of Jesus is powerful. Put it to good use.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Why Are the Sacraments Only for the Living?

Recently I heard a tragic story of a couple whose baby was stillborn. The couple requested that their stillborn baby be baptized, and the priest had to gently deny their request. Some people hear this and are shocked, dismayed, and even angered: "Why won't he baptize their baby? They're in pain and anguish, and he won't even grant this simple request. Isn't the Church supposed to help people in times like this?" What is the answer?

The Church would not baptize a stillborn baby or any other deceased person because it cannot. That is, you could go through the motions of baptism, but no baptism would happen.  Why not? Because the sacraments are for the living. What does that mean? And why is that the case?

A human person is a composite of body and soul, not as two separate "things" connected by some metaphysical glue, but rather as two principles that together make a whole--it is an embodied soul and an animated body. The human person is alive when the body and soul are united, and dead when they are separated. In the dead person, the link between the body and soul has been severed for a time. Your consciousness, seated in your seal, does not feel the pain of your pinched arm when you're dead.

Now let's consider the sacraments. Much like a person, sacraments are a composite of two principles: a physical sign and a spiritual reality conveyed by the sign. In baptism, we have the physical sign of the washing of water and the spiritual reality of the cleansing from sin, the dying to self (as by drowning) and being born again in Christ (through "water and the Spirit," like coming forth from a spiritual womb). The physical sign is applied to the body, and the spiritual effect affects the soul (as well as the body). BUT if the soul is no longer joined to the body, i.e. if the person is dead, then, just as a disembodied soul can't feel the pain of a pinched arm, so a disembodied soul can't receive the spiritual effect of a baptized head. The link between body and soul has been broken, and thus the sacraments cannot be applied. This is why the sacraments are for the living, for those in the "wayfaring state": only to them can they be applied.

Some will ask, "How do we know when the soul has left the body? Maybe when a person appears to be physically dead, the soul is still there for a time." The soul is what gives life to the body--if there is no life in the body, there is no soul in the body.  If you have no good reason to think someone is alive, you shouldn't assume they are. We don't leave cadavers unburied "just in case they wake up." And we don't give the sacraments to corpses, just in case they might still be somehow alive without us noticing.

Now, the parents of that stillborn baby are in what may well be the most terrible moment of their lives, and I can understand them seeking some comfort for themselves and their deceased child. And the Church should give them all the comfort it can. But it shouldn't give them the comfort it can't. The priest should, at the proper time, explain to the parents that there's no need for baptism at this point, that their child is already in God's loving hands, and that we can trust in His mercy. In the end, that is all any of us can do.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year! Plus, A Correction

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all on this Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God!

Pardon my lack of blogging in the last week, but I was on vacation back home and didn't want to take away from my limited time with my family.

I do have a short correction to make to my last post. In demonstrating that the Christmas season lasts beyond Christmas Day by naming the various points to which it can be extended, I left out the most important and most "official" one: liturgically, the Christmas season ends on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on the first Sunday after January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. Thanks to Michele Johnson for pointing out my omission!