Holidays or Holy Days?
When I was a child in Catholic elementary school growing up in a staunch Roman Catholic family I paid careful attention to the various seasons of the church year. For example, I loved Christmas and singing at midnight mass as a choir boy at Saint Mary’s Church in Beaver Falls, Pa. I even had a solo one time. After mas it was always party time for the adults and bedtime for me as I awaited the arrival of Santa Claus (I was devastated when I found out he lived in the Neighborhood of Make Believe).
Then at Easter, in particular on Good Friday my brother and I would erect three adult size crosses on our tiny back yard lawn and fight with each other and our neighborhood friend as to who would play the roles of Jesus, the good thief and the bad thief. Of course, no one wanted to be the bad thief. So, rock, paper scissors determined the fate of one of us. We then attended mass from noon until 3 PM (that’s right…three hours) when the priest read the entire passion account. Kids had to stand it seemed like forever so that the adults could sit. I recall that every Good Friday it seemed to rain. The truly Catholic kids, myself included, made the Stations of the Cross, tracing the supposed Via Dolorosa or way of the cross. Some of it was scripturally valid while some was not. But through it all the season of Jesus’ suffering made a terrific impact on my spiritual journey.
Church seasons don’t seem to matter any more. Our Holy days have been secularized. And, before you jump to the conclusion that this has happened due to the Politically Correct police, stop for a moment and ask yourself whether or not you have been boiled in that kettle like a frog slowly dying a death that you did not see coming. Do our kids any longer look forward to Easter because of its true meaning or is the Easter bunny and the arrival of spring what truly matter to them? Do they look forward to Christmas Eve services and the reading of the birth narratives in the Gospels or the presents they will receive the next morning?
Now do not get me wrong. There is a place for family traditions on these holy days, a break from school and work, good food, favorite special dishes, and yes, even gift giving. But have we lost our sense of spiritual identity and connection to our roots? Have we so bought into the secular trap of holidays at the expense of the Holy Days? Why not make this next Holy Day season a truly sacred one?
In His Grip,
Dr. Chuck F. Betters
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