Dear Brothers and Sisters of St. Andrew the Apostle,

This Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter. The Church helps us to know our faith and worship well by the length of her liturgical season. Forty days of Lent prepare us for the Holy Triduum, when Christ offers us his Body and Blood in the Eucharist and on the Cross, and then rises from the tomb to defeat death. This celebration of Christ's victory continues until Pentecost (Pentecost signifying 50, as in 50 days after Easter), with Alleluia on our lips and the Easter candle in our sanctuary as a reminder of the reason for our hope: our Lord has defeated sin and death and opened for us the way to eternal life. For ninety days, we prepare for and celebrate these great mysteries. May their glory settle in our hearts during this time.

Next Sunday, May 29, we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. Many of us remember when the Ascension was celebrated on Ascension Thursday, a Holy Day of Obligation forty days after Easter. Scripturally this makes sense, for in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke tells us thatbefore His ascension into heaven, the risen Lord "presented himself alive to [the disciples] by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).

Many people did not attend Mass on that day for reasons known to them alone, endangering their souls and missing out on the opportunity to celebrate this beautiful mystery of Christ's life. Also, in parts of the country where there are fewer clergy, adding additional Masses during the week is difficult on weekdays when some priests are assigned to other duties during the week, such as teaching in colleges and seminaries. For these reasons and more, beginning in the late 1990s many dioceses in the United States began moving Ascension Thursday to the following Sunday. Twenty years ago, in 2002, the Bishops of the dioceses within the Province of Baltimore, which includes the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Dioceses of Arlington (our diocese), Richmond, Wheeling-Charleston, and Wilmington, voted to follow suit.

The law of the Church (canon law) grants conferences of bishops to transfer or abrogate Holy Days of Obligation (Canon 1246, §2). This is not something unique to the Ascension. Other Holy Days of Obligation that have been moved are Epiphany, which was traditionally twelve days after Christmas and is now the second Sunday after Christmas, and Corpus Christi, which was originally the Thursday after Holy Trinity Sunday and is now the Sunday that follows Holy Trinity Sunday.

It is interesting to note that Canon 1246 lists ten Holy Days of Obligation: the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ (Dec. 25), the Epiphany (January 6), the Ascension (40 days after Easter), the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi, the Thursday after Holy Trinity Sunday), Holy Mary the Mother of God (January 1), her Immaculate Conception (December 8), her Assumption (August 15), Saint Joseph (March 19), Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostles (June 29), and All Saints (November 1). In our diocese, only Christmas, Mary the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of Mary (August 15), and All Saint remain as Holy Days of Obligation. The others are transferred to Sundays or changed to Solemnities without the obligation to attend Mass.

It is easy to look at these changes and long for the days when our faith required more of all Catholics during the year, stressing how we are called to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We may feel like the Church in the United States and in other parts of the world have given in to the secular and relaxed her requirements. Yet in our nostalgia for these past times and our frustration with the changes, let's also remember that these feasts have not disappeared from our Church's calendar. They remain, some moved, some abrogated from days of obligation. There is nothing keeping us from attending Masses on the days that were abrogated (St. Joseph, St. Peter and St. Paul) or celebrating fully the days that were transferred to Sundays. I encourage us to do so, and to make an effort to celebrate the other solemnities that are not Holy Days of Obligation.

Our liturgical calendar is filled with feasts commemorating so many glorious events and people in our faith, including canonized saints of whom we may know nothing. For example, today is the memorial of Saint Cristóbal Magallanes and Companions, martyrs during the persecution of Catholics in Mexico in the Cristero War of the 20th Century. These feasts add depth and texture to our understanding and celebration of our Catholic faith. If you can, attend Mass on weekdays, and if not, follow the feast of the Church in periodicals like the Magnificat or the Word Among Us, or take up the Church's daily prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours (also called the Divine Office) yo stay in tune with the celebrations of our Catholic liturgical year. It helps to bring our faith alive within us as we celebrate with the universal Church throughout the world.

There are two St. Andrew School PTO events to make you aware of in the coming week. Tonight, May 20, will be the Forks, Corks, and Kegs festival on our parish field beginning at 6:00 PM. There you can partake of the food and drink of local wineries, breweries, and food trucks. This event is for adults only. The second is the Race of Education on Wednesday, May 25, when our students will take laps around our parking lot to raise money from those who have sponsored them. Please be aware that the upper parking lot will be blocked off before the 9:00 AM Mass, so please enter through the Compton Road entrance to attend the 9:00 AM Mass or visit the church or parish office during the day. I thank the PTO for organizing these fundraisers which will help them to continue their valuable and much-needed support of our school!

Finally, a note about baseball, and in particular the death of Roger Angell, a gifted writer who penned many a word about America's pastime. He passed away on Friday at the age of 101. I read many collections of his writing when I was a younger man. His remarkable gift for prose offered insight into the game of baseball and its players and inspired generations of sportswriters and other writers. His love of the game helped to make me into a fan of more than just the Baltimore Orioles but of the whole sport itself. A list of his baseball books (primarily collections of his New Yorker articles) can be found here.

What made Roger Angell so popular and successful was more than his skill. It was the pure love he had for the game of baseball, which was apparent not only in his writing, but also in how he acted and spoke. As Christians, we love something far greater - the Holy Trinity - and we, too, should always have God's name at the center of our thoughts, words, and deeds, showing our great love and filling us with joy. As St. Teresa of Avila says, "Deliver us, O Lord, from sour-faced saints." May we radiate our love for Jesus, especially if we (like me) occasionally tend more towards the sour-faced side because we're too anxious about the things of the world. May our love for God allow everyone to know the source of our joy!

God bless you all and be assured of my daily prayers for you and your intentions.

In Christ,
Fr. Wagner

PS - Speaking of the joy of baseball, enjoy this wholesome action from an Orioles game versus the Yankees (boo!) this week.