The Case for Easter as the Favorite Holiday (& Silly Season)

04-08-2018From Our PastorFr. Brian Jazdzewski

Often we find ourselves in conversation making remarks about favorite things. You know -- sports, food, relatives, vacations, holidays, etc. Sometimes our Catholic holidays make the list among popular favorites, namely Christmas and Easter. Perhaps a secular holiday like Thanksgiving can be thrown into the mix of favorite holidays, too. Whatever the case may be for you, there is ample support for Easter ranking as the favorite holiday of our Roman Catholic Church.

We all recognize that Solemnities already rank as the highest Church liturgical celebrations. Christmas and Easter belong to the Solemnity list, you can do research on your own to recall the others. If I compare Christmas and Easter, we quickly come to realize a clear distinction in how the Church encourages both our preparation and celebration of these two high marks in the life of Christ.

We preface Christmas with four weeks of Advent. Then we celebrate Christmas on a particular date, namely December 25. We follow the Christmas Season with approximately two weeks of Christmas prayers.

In contrast, we preface Easter with five weeks of Lent. Then we celebrate a seventy-two hour liturgy we call the Holy Triduum (pronounced: trihdoo-um). Easter is always set by the moon phase which is why the date fluctuates each year (you may look that up, too). Then we celebrate Easter day for an octave. Customarily and octave in the Church is an eight day period of prayer. As the directives state, liturgically, each day in the Octave of Easter is celebrated with the same level of pomp. We then continue to celebrate the Easter Season with approximately eight weeks of Easter prayers.

Alright, so that's adequate summary of how our Church views the dates. We add into that some practicalities on our human level. At Christmas we are typically burdened with winter weather. We compound that with Christmas parties with family, friends, co-workers, etc. On top of that we place the expectation of giving and receiving gifts. Easter, on the other hand, still gathers families together. However, the weather is typically more comfortable. We also evade the expectations of long lists of gatherings and gift giving and receiving to the same degree. Personally, I noticed a sincere sense of joyfulness in the people who greeted me on Easter weekend, maybe some of the above matters had something to do with that. By the way, for those of you who were able to attend the Holy Triduum within our cluster and the Easter Masses, the attendance was really quite remarkable. Praise God that His people are responding to His invitations.

So, enough on the favorite holiday, now its time for several paragraphs on silly season. I borrow the phrase from NASCAR, when, each autumn, there is an abundance of changes among teams, drivers, crew, sponsors, vehicle brand, etc. I make the parallel to some of the questions I've been fielding the past couple of weeks regarding changes in priestly assignments in the Diocese of La Crosse. So, "am I moving?" Honest and brief answer, "I don't know."

We are well aware that Bishop Callahan is trying to have a priest serve each parish which is why international priests are among us. His intentions are supported by the Priest Personnel Board who meet regularly to discuss assignments (I'm not on the Board). There is a vague policy of 6-8 year terms for Pastors, possible to be renewed once. There is also the reality that some of our native priests take ill and cannot remain in their assignment, some retire (minimum age 70), some of the international priests are asked to return home, some assignments are not a good fit for the parish nor the priest, some guys ask to move for the sake of change or to be closer to aging parents or health care, some guys ask to move to slow down a bit as they age and the reasons for moves goes on and on.

Most of the priests are asked regularly by the Board members or Bishop Callahan about how their assignment is going and if they are ready to move; the willingness is not always honored in respect to the obedience we promise at ordination. We are finding that willingness to move is met with less and less enthusiasm because each assignment has its blessings and challenges. Some of the good news in that is that, thanks to the people of God, most parishes are moving in a direction which is aligned with Church directives and policies.

Now, to explain my honest and brief answer a bit, change in assignment really does not matter. I work to find the gifts among the people of God whom I've been called by His Church to serve. I also know that change, if its God's will, is a good thing for me to continue discovering how God has and will use me and the gifts which come from Him. I have a pretty good level of trust that God speaks through His bishops and the Board and their decision comes after healthy conversation about the rationale for any priest's change of assignment. My hope, and I believe the hope of most priests, is that the people of God view assignment changes with similar angles. How do you discover the gifts in your priest and exploit those gifts for the sake of you and your parish? How well to you trust God's voice speaking through His Church? Do you believe priests are called to serve which also means they do not feel entitled to the authority given them, but that they use that authority with respect to God and His Church for the salvation of souls? In summary, silly season can be a bit of a distraction now and in upcoming months and we ought to prevent that distraction from keeping us away from rejoicing in how God is working now in each and every one of our lives. We are in Easter: He is Risen Indeed!!!