As I have noted in at least one previous column, the calendar itself gives us opportunities to reflect on the strivings of humanity. We find simultaneously that “the march of time” leaves us missing some of those opportunities.
The first International Day of Human Fraternity occurred this month, on the fourth day of February. Declared by the United Nations, this Day has been inspired by such efforts as those of Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Cairo, when they issued their document on human fraternity on Feb. 4, 2019, during Francis’ visit to the United Arab Emirates.
Pope Francis presided at the Christmas Mass during the Night in St. Peter’s Basilica the evening of Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. In recent years, this Mass has been celebrated at 9:30 p.m. Because of pandemic restrictions, the Mass was rescheduled to 7:30 p.m. Rome is seven hours ahead of us, so I was able to watch the Mass as it began at 12:30 p.m., well before my 4 p.m. vigil Mass.
I turned to the Vatican’s English translation of the pope’s homily, and discovered that, toward the end, he quoted an American poet.
And so, we find ourselves in the brief season of Advent, at the point of entering the even briefer season of Christmas. When we examine our liturgical calendar, we find that this time of year is a sort of unkempt “seam” for the entire year, where the irregularities of each year are dealt with, not necessarily in an elegant fashion. Holy Family gets moved from Sunday to Friday in some years; the Baptism of the Lord moves from Sunday to Monday in others.
It took me several hours to read the new encyclical letter of Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, after it was published on Oct. 4. In case you’re wondering about the word “encyclical,” it refers to a letter which is circulated to many people. In case you’re wondering about the title of the letter, it is Italian for “brothers all.”
It happens every 12 years.
Our three-year cycle of Sunday readings and our four-year election cycle line up so that, on a Sunday just a few weeks before a presidential election — that is, this weekend — we have before us the Gospel of Caesar’s Coin (Matthew 22: 15-21).
In my senior English class at Decatur St. Teresa High School (1974-1975), we read A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor. It did not go over well. For one thing, there is some really shocking violence. For another, there did not seem to be any sympathetic characters.
Traveling on Interstate 55 between Springfield and St. Louis, the motorist sees the sign indicating the “Mother Jones Monument” at exit 44 in Mount Olive.
Mother Jones? Isn’t that a magazine?
Here are some follow-ups from the previous column:
Someone in our diocese has contacted me regarding the anti-racism team of the Illinois Conference of Churches. I hope that, in a later column, I can report on our activity.
No sooner did I write, joking about anti-racism activists and our need for superhero suits, than I discovered that DC Comics has published a young-adult graphic novel called Superman Smashes the Klan! We cannot forget that the story of the Man of Steel himself contains the theme of his being “alien” and “other.”
“We really ought to have superhero suits,” I have joked to fellow members of my ecumenical anti-racism team. I was trained in 2005 and 2006 to serve on a team called Illinois Christians Encountering Racism, part of the Illinois Conference of Churches. Our current membership is scattered widely across the state. We would love to have the power to convene a meeting by flying to some central location. We settle for audio and video conferencing.
A pandemic miscellany:
My parents, in assisted living in Decatur, found aggressive measures in their residence being taken relatively early. I am grateful for the management’s foresight. I have not seen Mom and Dad since early March. Needless to say, we keep in touch by phone.