Saturday, 14 May 2011

Good Catholic News, for once

I do so hope this happens!:
Catholics in this country, who have bemoaned the feasts and Holy Days which have been transferred to the Sunday, will be pleased to learn that this was a topic of discussion during the bishops’ plenary meeting. According to Archbishop Nichols, the bishops discussed the merits of celebrating on the Sunday — allowing more people to take part in the celebration — or on the actual feast which allowed for the rhythm of the life of the Church. No body was pleased when the feasts were moved. Now it seems that bishops are going back to their dioceses to “reflect” on the merits of returning the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany and Ascension back to their proper days in the liturgical calendar. There is hope.

I don't much care about the other stuff, which is the big news in Catholic circles - but returning Epiphany and Ascension to their proper days, that really would be something to rejoice for! I have mourned every year for those feasts since they were moved a few years ago; I have to flee to Anglican Evensong on those days to find the church year in its real and true shape. The whole point of having a church year of feasts and seasons is that they fall in their proper places, as they have done for centuries and centuries. If it's arbitrary, if all you care about is whether people will actually turn up at Mass on those days, well, why not celebrate Christmas and Easter on the same day, and then people only have to come to church once in a year? That's all you can expect of them, after all! It's difficult enough making people believe these other feasts are important - that Christmas isn't the only feast in the year, and it doesn't end on Boxing Day - and you don't convince anyone that they are by switching the dates at a whim, and making nonsense of Church tradition. Treat these things as if they matter, and have faith that people will learn why they do.

This kind of thing deliberately and callously cuts off modern Catholics from their ancient inheritance (especially important to me, of course, their medieval forebears); as if the ugliness of Catholic worship and the general feebleness of modern Catholic culture weren't enough to make it seem like Langland and Julian of Norwich and all medieval Catholics lived in another world altogether! They were our ancestors in the faith - they lived in this world, this country, and lived through the same turning year. It matters that we can do as they did. I want to know that when I celebrate the Ephiphany, it's at the same season as my ancestors did at, say, the momentous Epiphany of 1066 - and not just a vague approximation. That connects us to our Catholic past in a vital way: it helps us to understand that Catholicism is the heritage of the majority of this country's history, not an underground cult or a shabby, mediocre embarrassment, as it so often feels. The ignorance and arrogance of saying 'oh, we don't think we'll do that anymore' astounds me.

There are twelve days of Christmas and forty days of Eastertide. You don't get to pretend otherwise.

OK, rant over.