One of my great disappointments is that we give the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost so little enthusiasm these days. I honestly believe it's because we have allowed the school year and secular calendar to take over the liturgical year.
First Communions, Confirmations, graduations, and this year, Memorial Day all draw attention from these important moments in the church year, which means in most parishes, the Easter Season ends not with the forward momentum of being sent out, commissioned as a body of disciples sent for mission and evangelization, but with a sigh of relief and the turning of attention to the summer vacation season. Even our sacramental celebrations have the flavor of graduations.
For many of our people, this weekend, whether they come to Mass or not, signals the time to take a vacation from Mass until school starts in the fall, or, if their children's sacraments are completed, perhaps even a permanent vacation, with the perceived blessing of an added day to sleep in and enjoy family time.
How do we let this keep happening year after year? I believe it happens because people in ministry are simply too tired and busy to maintain the joyous movement the Easter Season requires. The joy of the Gloria and the Alleluia at the Easter Vigil no longer energizes us. We implore the Spirit on Pentecost to send us fire, but too often, we are already burnt-out wicks.
The school-year model of church, which requires obedience to the rhythm of American culture, has us seeing not new life in spring, but a prelude to the "end." In the fall, when the calendar year and liturgical year are "dying", we gear up, start new programs, coast on that momentum into the frenetic Christmas holidays, take a deep breath in January and dive in again for another few months, by which time, most of us are simply looking forward to the end of our programs and the blessed relief of the summer slow-down.
What would the American church look like if we were not dominated by the tyranny of the school year model? If we obeyed the natural movement of the liturgical year?
This model would support the intent of the RCIA process and keep the community together all through the year. Yeah, I have a dream.