“The Feasts”: When Catholics Do What We Do

Thanks to everyone who read my review of “The Feasts” by Donald Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina, as part of the blog tour celebrating the launch of their new book. And thanks as well to the dozens who entered for a chance to win a free copy, courtesy of Image Books.  I’m pleased to announce that the winner is Jeff Quinton of Maryland! If you missed out this time around, check back in the coming weeks as I’ll have more books to review and give away.

Last evening I was able to drop by the Catholic Information Center here in DC and hear Cardinal Wuerl both present an overview of the reasoning behind the book, as well as answer questions from the audience.  He noted that the book was part of a trilogy, along with two other books co-written with Mike Aquilina – also published by Image – in response to the realization that they had to re-state things which many Catholics had taken for granted about knowledge of the Faith.  Thus, as his Eminence put it, the Mass is what we do, the church is where we do it, and the feasts are when we do it.

Cardinal Wuerl recognized that in earlier times, when people simply learnt about Christianity through a sort of osmosis in this country, the parish church and school were the center of community life.  In that atmosphere, Catholics more easily grasped the importance of the Mass, the church building and its contents, and the celebration of the feasts on the liturgical calendar as part and parcel of being Catholic.  Even today, the cycle of the Church year is of immense importance in calling Catholics to lives of constant prayer in all that we do, and also reflecting on our relationship with God through the recalling and celebrating of salvation history.

Today, because the culture is not going to reinforce this knowledge, these books are an attempt to pick up an important pedagogical tool and use it.  They serve as a way of reaching generations which did not have the benefit of the experience that older Catholics did, of growing up in such an environment.  He noted that the feasts allow us, every year, to continually re-experience the journey of faith, which is important for us as incarnate beings.  We thereby come to understand what we believe not just cognitively, but experientially.

I was also struck by something the Cardinal mentioned in the Q&A, when answering a question about his favorite saints.  He said that the first thing he sees when waking up in the morning, hanging on the wall, are a crucifix and an icon/relic of St. Thomas Becket, who of course was murdered on the implicit orders of King Henry II in 1170.  I have a similar experience, in that the first thing I see on the wall opposite when I wake up in the morning are a crucifix and a framed reproduction of Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna”.  Of course for a bishop, the daily visual reminder of the example of Becket, particularly in the present culture, is one that has a particularly deep and personal meaning in his vocation as a shepherd of the people of God.  As Cardinal Wuerl noted, in the midst of everything going on, when we’re caught up in the things of this world, Becket’s example is that the Church as the Body of Christ matters, first and foremost, above all else.

Thank you again, readers, for your patronage of this site, and thanks to Image Books as well for the opportunity to share this excellent book with you.

Detail of "The Feast Day of Saint Roch" by Canaletto (c. 1735) National Gallery, London

Detail of “The Feast Day of Saint Roch” by Canaletto (c. 1735)
National Gallery, London

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