On March 25, nine months before Christmas, we celebrate one of the Church’s most important feast days, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. Like all solemnities, this feast is one of formal celebration and great joy. The Annunciation is particularly special to many Catholics because it brings together three Catholic beliefs that are intrinsic to our faith.
August 15 marks the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This solemnity celebrates the end of Mary’s earthly life and the beginning of her heavenly life, in keeping with the Catholic dogma that Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. Though belief in the Assumption dates back to the early days of the Church, it was not declared dogma until 1950.
In the First Letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
November is Black Catholic History Month, during which we give special recognition to the contributions of Catholics of African descent. Northern Africa had great importance of the early Church, and some of our most well-known saints, including St. Augustine, St. Monica, St. Martin de Porres, St. Felicity, and St. Perpetua, were African or of African descent. Despite the importance of black Catholics throughout Church history, however, African American Catholics have faced discrimination and hardship.
Advent is a time when we prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus. Although we observe this holy season every year, the question remains baffling: How can we adequately prepare for our Messiah, for the Word made Flesh who came into the world to save us? It’s a tall order, and we know that even the best preparation is only a pittance compared to what Jesus has done and continues to do for us.
There is a common misconception among both Catholics and non-Catholics that Ordinary Time is the “boring” part of the Church’s liturgical year. We are not in the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter, and so there is no readily apparent sense or object of anticipation or joy. It can be easy to celebrate during Easter, or to look forward with determination toward Christmas during Advent.