Advent has Gaudete and Lent has Laetare, and both command that we Rejoice. Thanksgiving through New Year’s is what the secular society calls “the holidays,” and parties abound, even if they are not always quite certain what the holidays are commemorating. But in this parish, no time has celebrations quite like this time of year.
From Easter until about Flag Day, this place rocks. There are parties and barbeques and carnivals and fiestas and receptions and gatherings and just about every other form of human celebration ever known.
Over the past two weeks, I have rejoiced in the Resurrection of the Lord in countless ways, from the drowsy convivium at the rectory kitchen island at midnight after the Easter Vigil, to dinner with Fr. Nick and my classmate Fr. Mark Knestout at our favorite steak place, to the reflective reception we have for our RCIA group once they have entered the joy of the Sacraments.
We also opened the season for what I call Munchkinball, our CYO’s baseball for the smaller folks on the back field on springtime Friday evenings. I don’t have the arm to throw out the first pitch, but I do get to offer the invocation, and can assure you that the excitement and delight of that evening rival Opening Day at any major league park.
Of course next week is Mother’s Day, that which cannot be skipped, moved, diluted, or elided with any other feast or party. Later, there is Memorial Day, which occasions all sorts of outdoor festivity, usually centered on fire. Could this be a residual cultural reference to the New Fire of the Great Vigil of Easter? Perhaps I should consider that. But I digress.
It is also Ordination Season. Most priests ordained in the last forty or even fifty years mark our anniversaries in this time – including all three of us in the rectory (six, sixteen, and forty, respectively). Observances have been known to occur.
Then comes Graduation. Kindergarten, high school, college, and assorted graduate programs – all of them have their commencements in these days, and the parties that go with them are remarkable. For Catholic parochial school kids, even finishing eighth grade merits pomp and circumstance; and some of them – including ours – have a whole octave of festivities celebrating their wonderfulness and achievements.
There are end-of-school parties and last-chance gatherings before everyone scatters for the summer. The easy evenings of summer are welcomed warmly and in good company.
But my personal, top-of-the-line, all-out, no-exceptions favorite is this weekend. First Holy Communion is a marvelous moment that I enjoy to the very core of my being, and the Pastor’s privilege of giving these children (71 of them this year!) their first taste of heaven is one I count most precious. The rest of the day is filled with parties and receptions in which the joy and friendship is commensurate with the gift being celebrated.
Then, the next morning, I get to give the same children, this time in the company of their families, their second Holy Communion, perhaps less dramatic but more indicative of the path they will follow to more lasting joy. We cap the whole experience with our May Procession and Crowning, with flowers, songs, and love for her who gave her body so that Christ would have a body to give us as food, and thus was the very First to receive Holy Communion.
Altogether, this weekend is a divine celebration indeed; that’s what I consider a party!