The days and weeks in the liturgical season following the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord are called “Ordinary Time.” This refers to the fact that the Sundays are now counted or “ordered” one after another. This period of Ordinary Time is rather short because next month the season of Lent will be upon us. The longest section of Ordinary Time follows the celebration of Pentecost and the end of the season of Easter, the 50 days celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord. These days are not to be understood as “ordinary” as compared with “extraordinary.”
Yet, in these early days of Ordinary Time there are a number of days and weeks marked out by the Church in the United States and the Universal Church for our study, consideration and celebration. For example, between Jan. 18 and 25 we have the week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This week of prayer is between these dates because Jan. 18 had historically been the feast day of the “Chair of Peter” at Antioch, and Jan. 25 is the feast day of the Conversion of Saint Paul. Following these days, I would especially like to acknowledge the commitment of Bishop Brown to his study, prayer and dialogue in the ministry of working together with so many ministers and officials of other faith communities and his work on the national level in the path to Christian unity.
This past week also saw many of the marches and prayer vigils for life held around the country, and especially here in California in Orange County, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The typically snowy winter weather on the East Coast did not hamper the enthusiasm or commitment of the crowd in Washington, D.C. at the annual March for Life that I have participated in a number of times. The march has changed over the years and it is now very youth-oriented, a fact which was noted by pro-choice advocates in the past and which concerned them. This powerful witness to the sanctity of life before birth gives a young voice to those who cannot speak.
In addressing Catholic gynecologists in Italy last year, and in his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis spoke very strongly about our “throwaway” culture and the ending of pre-born life through abortion, at the same time speaking clearly about the need for pastoral care for those women and families who need care and assistance in difficult times so that they do not have to choose abortion. We need to be particularly grateful to such organizations and the many people who are committed to this in such efforts as Birth Choice, Catholic Charities, Casa Teresa and Mary’s Shelter.
Finally, we are now in Catholic Schools Week, with many of our parishes and schools planning celebrations. I was grateful to be at St. Justin Martyr Church last weekend for Sunday Mass to celebrate the opening of Catholic Schools Week and I plan on visiting a number of our other schools this coming week. Thanks to all for the sacrifice and commitment of our faculty, staff and parents, who are missioned in these schools to help our young people meet the Lord and be transformed for life. We are grateful for the religious who are still missioned in various ways throughout the schools of our diocese, and such networks as the Sisters of St. Joseph Educational Network and the Affiliated Schools Network of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. The work of the Orange Catholic Foundation and all of its efforts are tireless in providing scholarships and grants to families to help with the cost of tuition.
I was in Washington, D.C. recently for a meeting of the United States Bishops Education Committee to strengthen and help to focus once again on the centrality of the mission of our Catholic schools in our local Church. The materials they gave me from the Secretariat for Catholic Education begins with these words: “Our Greatest and Best Inheritance: Catholic Schools and Educational Choice” and “The Catholic School Advantage: Forming Children for College and Heaven.”
Enjoy and take advantage of these special weeks.
The Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Orange