Monday, May 4, 2015

5 Important May Days for Catholics to Know and Celebrate!

As we enter a new month, I thought it might be nice to take a second to get spiritually prepared together to get the most out of the next thirty-one days. So here are 5 important liturgical days (well, 4 days and 1 month) to keep this month holy!

1) May 14 - Ascension Thursday
The day Our Lord, after appearing to His disciples and others since Easter Sunday, returned to the bosom of the Father until His Second Coming, this time not in secret but in glory for judgment. Read Acts of the Apostles 1:6-11 and the Gospel of St. Luke 24:50-53.

Traditionally a mid-week Holy Day of Obligation, Ascension Thursday is, in most dioceses in the USA, transferred to the nearest Sunday. Make sure you check with your parish if you are unsure whether Ascension Thursday will be celebrated on Thursday or Sunday where you are. If you think it odd to not celebrate Ascension Thursday on a Thursday, you might enjoy Father Z's annual rant on the topic. I'm sure we'll be treated to a 2015 version, in case we are not, here's his rant from 2014.

2) May 24 - Pentecost Sunday
The traditional "birthday" of the Holy Church and the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the, until then, fearful and cowardly disciples, turning them into fearless proclaimers of the Gospel, even unto horrific deaths. Read Acts of the Apostles 2:1-14 and reflect on the courage that the Holy Spirit was willing to pour on these men (and you!). From cowering in the Upper Room, even after seeing Jesus rise from the dead, they faced various painful deaths:

3) May 25 - Feast of St. Bede the Venerable, Doctor of the Church
One of only a handful of Catholics to be known as a "Doctor of the Church" (doctor from the Latin docere - "to teach"), St. Bede ought to be more widely known. He was born in England in the 670s and died in 735 and, ever since the eighth century, has been known as "the venerable." His best known work, still required reading for anyone interested in Medieval English history (I read it myself as a graduate history student at the very secular University of Pittsburgh) is his monumental Ecclesiastical History of the English People. So important is this work that Bede is known as "the Father of English History." He also universalized the use of the dating system, now under attack, of A.D. (anno Domini - year of the Lord) / B.C. (before Christ) which was developed by Dennis the Short (Dionysius Exiguus) two centuries earlier. Bede was, fittingly for this month, a great devotee of Our Lady,
It is an excellent and fruitful custom of holy Church that we should sing Mary's hymn at the time of evening prayer. By meditating upon the Incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the example of God's Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue. Such virtues are best achieved in the evening. We are weary after the day's work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near, and our minds are ready for contemplation. (from a Homily given in AD 720).

4) May 31 - Trinity Sunday
The Trinity is the ultimate mystery of Our Holy Faith. Unlike the existence of God, His simplicity, His pure actuality, His goodness, His power, His omniscience, etc, which can all be known through reason alone, the Trinity could never have been known (or even guessed at) if God didn't freely choose to reveal the nature of His inner life with us. This knowledge isn't necessary for our salvation, it is given us purely out of the love God has for us and His desire to draw us closer to Him, so that we might share in the eternal love that binds the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together in perfect happiness forever. Read St. Augustine's On The Trinity or use the day to reflect on the greatness of the mystery. It might also be helpful to reflect on How to (and Not to) Explain the Trinity with Matt Fradd.  Or, if not in a reading mood, it might be best to simply reflect on the greatest painting on the topic, Masaccio's Trinitá from Santa Maria Novella in Florence,

5) The Entire Month of May - The Month of Mary
We Catholics love setting apart different times, seasons, days, and months of the year to stop! slow down and take some time to reflect upon and deeper our love, understanding, and appreciation of some aspect of our Holy Faith. May has been dedicated to the Mother of God dating back into the 1500s. There are many ways you can dedicate your thoughts, prayers, works, and struggles to Mary this month. Here are a few I recommend:
a) Read some great Marian books, like Scott Hahn's Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God or Tim Staples' Behold Your Mother - A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines. 
b) Meditate on the life of Mary by praying the Holy Rosary daily for the entire month. 
c) Contemplate the words of Mary in the Gospel, especially "do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5) and  the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55):
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly farmer's foot.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
d) Do St. Louis de Montfort's 33 Day Consecration to Jesus through Mary (you won't finish this in May, but you'll do most of it in May and finish in early June). I did this during Advent with Dr. Taylor Marshall's (I'm not sure, but I think if you sign up there you'll still receive the emails) but another popular resource is 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration
e) Study approved apparitions of Our Lady at places like Guadalupe, Fatima, or Lourdes. Or, if already familiar with these "major" apparitions learn more about less famous ones at Paris; Knock, Ireland; or Banneux, Belgium. Avoid unapproved apparitions at places like Bayside, NY or Medjugorje,
And remember to pray for your blogger as I pray for you. God bless.

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