Learning takes place day by day. It never stops. That’s true about faith as well. We’re learning each day, which is why our church calendar is so important.
John Chrysostom, one of this month’s saints, complained that people of his time didn’t know much about the church’s calendar; they were hardly aware of it: “Many people today just about know the names of the feasts we celebrate in church. They know hardly anything about their history and meaning…What a shame.”
Chrysostom knew the feasts of our Lord and his saints, seasons like Lent and Advent, teach us how to live and what to hope for as Christians. They’re an on-going school; they “teach us to number our days aright and gain wisdom of heart.”
This month of September is a good example, with a parade of interesting saints, like Gregory the Great, John Chrysostom himself, Peter Claver, Matthew, the tax collector, Cornelius and Cyprian, Vincent De Paul, Jerome. All important teachers of faith.
We have two big feasts of Mary, the mother of Jesus, this month, her birth on September 8th and her sorrows on September 15, right after the great feast of the Triumph of the Cross on September 14.
I like the way the Feast of our Mother of Sorrows, September 15th, follows the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Mary’s greatest sorrow was when she stood beneath the cross of her Son, but sorrow was there over the whole span of her life. She teaches that bearing the cross of Jesus is not the same as sharing his physical sufferings. Her patient waiting, her struggle to understand God’s plan, her experience of faith’s darkness reveal the mystery of the cross takes many forms.
This month we begin many programs in religious education. Don’t forget the Church calendar; it’s a great teacher. Like a good teacher, it knows we are forgetful listeners. It will be back again next year.