Today we celebrate the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. This weekend’s readings attest to the fact that God’s “call list” is littered with seemingly unworthy people. And God’s call has come — and still comes — in countless ways, including in lofty visions, among crowds of people, and in the midst of unabashedly simple work. The presence of the so-called “Hound of Heaven” is everywhere. Thinking “I am not worthy” didn’t work for others, and it won’t work for us. We may as well put our energy into watching and listening.
Next weekend will be the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. In these politically-charged times, we often question one another’s values. We assume we can identify our own, but it is not always easy. At some point, we all need to consider where our faith is rooted and what difference that makes in our life choices. Next weekend’s readings address these centuries-old questions quite directly. They matter, because who and what we believe in undergirds every aspect of our lives. What would our personal inventories reveal?
Principal Search: The Search Committee has been formed to seek our new principal.
Mr. Joe Wientge is the chairman of the committee. It had its first meeting last Thursday evening, February 7. Please watch the bulletin, and the school newsletter, for more information. Also now, more than ever, please join with us on Wednesday mornings 7:45 as we pray the Rosary for the school: students, faculty, and staff. We also pray for the entire parish.
Our 40 Hours Devotion, is weekend of the Presidents’ Day Holiday: February 17, 18, and 19. We will begin with Evening Prayer and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 7:00 p.m. Sunday, February 17. Exposition will be all night, until prior to the 6:30 a.m. Mass. We will have the “normal” time between the 6:30 and 8:15 Masses, then, following the 8:15 Mass, around 8:45 a.m., we will have Exposition in the small chapel “Cry Room.” At 7:00 p.m. on Monday there will be a Holy Hour, with prayer and praise and an outreach to some of our younger parishioners who prefer that style of prayer. Following that there will be Exposition again all night, with the same schedule on Monday night, as we had on Sunday. All morning / early afternoon on Tuesday we will have Exposition again. We will close the 40 Hours with “Mid-Day Prayer” from the Divine Office and Benediction. Weekly Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will resume on Wednesday, February 20, following the 8:15 a.m. Mass, until the evening when Deacon Jim Martin will repose the Blessed Sacrament at 9:00 p.m. There are sign up sheets for Forty Hours and a COMMITMENT to WEEKLY Adoration on Wednesdays available in the MAIN LOBBY of the Church. PLEASE prayerfully consider spending some time with Jesus, not only during Forty Hours, but weekly. As of this time there are only about twenty slots filled … from a parish this size? I’m sorry but I just don’t understand. PLEASE sign up for this spirit filled opportunity.
A couple people asked me “what’s 40 hours”? (And these weren’t YOUNG people!) So, here is a BRIEF history of the devotion. Forty Hours Devotion is a special forty-hour period of continuous prayer made before the Blessed Sacrament in solemn exposition. Of course, the focus of this devotion is on the Holy Eucharist. As Catholics, the words of our Lord burn in our hearts: “I myself am the living bread come down from Heaven. If anyone eats this bread, He shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51). Affirming our belief in the real presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the Vatican Council II taught that the Holy Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, #11).
While the Mass is the central act of worship for us Catholics, an act which participates in the eternal reality of our Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, Vatican Council II upheld and encouraged the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass. Of course such devotion derives from the sacrifice of the Mass and moves the faithful to both sacramental and spiritual communion with our Lord. As Pope Pius XII taught, “This practice of adoration has a valid and firm foundation.” Pope St John Paul II repeatedly “highly recommended” public and private devotion of the Blessed Sacrament, including processions on the Feast of Corpus Christi and the 40 Hours Devotion.
Second, the number forty has always signified a sacred period of time: the rains during the time of Noah lasted 40 days and nights; the Jews wandered through the desert for 40 years, our Lord fasted and prayed for 40 days before beginning His public ministry. The 40 Hours Devotion remembers that traditional “forty-hour period” from our Lord’s burial until the resurrection. Actually in the Middle Ages, the Blessed Sacrament was transferred to the repository, “the Easter Sepulcher,” for this period of time to signify our Lord’s time in the tomb.
Forty Hours Devotion can be seen almost like a parish mini-retreat or mission. Such practices are evidenced in the history of this devotion. The practice of Forty Hours Devotion originated in Milan about the year 1530. Granted, prior to this time, the Church did have exposition and benediction, Eucharistic processions, and devotions to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle. In 1539, Pope Paul III responded to a petition from the Archdiocese of Milan asking for an indulgence for the practice. While this pronouncement seems to be the earliest official approval by the Church of this devotion, the Forty Hours Devotion spread rapidly.
By 1550, both St Philip Neri and St Ignatius Loyola had also instituted this practice, especially for the reparation of sin. Recognizing the tremendous graces offered through this devotion as well as the dangers threatening the Church, Pope Clement VIII in 1592 proclaimed, “We have determined to establish publicly in this Mother City of Rome an uninterrupted course of prayer in such ways that in the different churches, on appointed days, there be observed the pious and salutary devotion of the Forty Hours, with such an arrangement of churches and times that, at every hour of the day and night, the whole year round the incense of prayer shall ascend without intermission before the face of the Lord.” He also issued regulations for the devotions, which were later collected and promulgated by Pope Clement XI in 1705. In our own country, St John Neumann (1811-60), the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, was a strong promoter of the Forty Hours Devotion. While the practice had already existed in individual churches throughout the city (as well as in other places in the country), no organized, cohesive diocesan schedule for it had ever before been attempted. St. John had a tremendous devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and desired to foster such a spiritual life in his people.
The Forty Hours Devotion provides a wonderful opportunity for the spiritual growth of each person and the parish as a whole. In a world where temptation and evil abound, where devotion to the Mass and our Lord in the Holy Eucharist have declined, where the practice of penance and confession have been forgotten, we need the Forty Hours Devotion more than ever.
So, please try to come and spend some time in prayer before the Lord exposed in the Monstance during this special week! Thank you!
May God’s blessings descend on us all.
Father Joe Weber