As I consider the passage of days in our calendar, I am primarily aware of the Sundays of the liturgical calendar and of the various saints who are honored on weekdays. But, peripherally, I am also aware of “National Days” of various things.
So, I went looking for a “National Pizza Day” and I discovered that pizza claims, not a day, but instead the entire month of October. So, if you have not properly observed National Pizza Month, it’s time to get started.
Obviously, there is no central authority for determining these “national days.” Very often, the authority is a trade organization which has an interest in selling more of their product.
In the Catholic Church, we have various “World Days” of prayer for various things. These “World Days” are not officially on our liturgical calendar, and they may remain somewhat obscure to most of us. I am happy to discover that the Vatican website has begun to place these days, and the papal messages connected with them, on one page, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages.index.html#messages.
Let’s look at two recent “World Days” and one which is imminent.
The World Day of Migrants and Refugees was last celebrated on the last Sunday of September, the 29th of the month. This was the 105th such day, and if my information is correct, this day will continue to be held on the last Sunday of September instead of “migrating” to various dates in August and September. You may recall that prayer for migrants and refugees was once designated in the month of January. Presumably, the inspiration for a January observance comes from Epiphany and the fact that, according to Matthew’s Gospel, the Holy Family itself sought asylum in Egypt from the designs of King Herod “the Great” over infant boys whom he feared as possible threats to his throne. I am not sure of the reason for moving this day from January.
Our awareness of upheavals in various parts of the world reminds us of our responsibility to treat migrants and refugees with proper human respect as we recognize their dignity as created in the image and likeness of God.
World Mission Sunday was observed just last Sunday, Oct. 20. Since 1926 and the papacy of Pius XI, Mission Sunday has been set for the second-to-the-last Sunday of October — second-to-the-last, or “penultimate” Sunday, to guard against interfering with All Saints’ Day, I guess. Pope Francis has emphasized that “mission” is the activity which defines the entire church, which has a common mission to the world to bring the good news of Jesus. At the same time, the church has a mission within itself: to communicate our various experiences of the Incarnate God in our varied human experiences.
The Third World Day of the Poor, first established by Pope Francis, comes up on Sunday, Nov. 17, and it appears that it is permanently set for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. We may think that “the poor” is a strange thing to celebrate. We remember, however, that Jesus has taught us that “the poor in spirit” (Matthew) and “the poor” (Luke) are “blessed” — for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such people. Have we identified our poverty, and embraced the kingdom? At the very least, we can share some pizza, and also point ourselves toward the holy Eucharist as the proper food of all us poor.