Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Hallowing of Time

The Catholic Church, both in its wisdom and in its understanding of humanity, has many means of sanctifying time. Today, set between Candlemas, which brought Christmastide to a close, and Septuagesima, which opens the long period of preparation for Easter, is an excellent moment to consider the lesser cycles that sanctify time which are blessed by the Church.

Liturgically, we have Ember Days, seasonal periods of prayer and fasting, or Rogations, the twice-yearly occasions for rogating or imploring the mercy and goodness of God.

We also have the dedication of days and months to particular devotions. One traditional method, for example, dedicates Monday to the Holy Ghost, Tuesday to the Holy Angels, Wednesday to St. Joseph, Thursday to the Blessed Sacrament, Friday to the Sacred Passion, Saturday to Our Lady and Sunday to the Most Holy Trinity. The cycle of Votive Masses in the Missal varies from this formula slightly, dedicating Monday to the Most Holy Trinity and including the Holy Ghost on Thursday, while including the Holy Apostles in the dedication of Wednesday.

Of the days dedicated, the most familiar and the most commonly practised, even in our own day, is the dedication of Saturday to Our Lady. The visions of Simon Stock and the children of Fatima would seem to be confirmation from Heaven of this venerable tradition. However, the origin of the dedication of Saturday seems to originate in the Court of Charles the Great (742-814) with the monk Alcuin of York, who composed two Masses in honour of Our Lady for Saturdays. By the 11th Century, the devotion was well established in the Universal Church when St. Peter Damien famously promoted the devotion and Pope Urban II prescribed prayers to Our Lady on Saturdays for the success of the first Crusade.

The dedication of months is also very traditional and frequently enriched with Indulgences. One traditional method devotes January to the Holy Name of Jesus, March to St. Joseph, May to Our Lady, June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, July to His Precious Blood, September to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, October to the Holy Rosary, November to the Holy Souls, and December to the Holy Infancy. Most of these are derived from liturgical feasts ocurring during the month.

The tradition of special devotions to Our Lady during the month of May can certainly be traced to the High Middle Ages, the Cantigas de Santa Maria of Alfonso X of Castille being frequently cited. The dedication of the entire month to Our Lady may have taken until the 17th Century to be widespread. However, to Pope Clement VIII we owe the custom of the Crowning of Images of Our Lady, now strongly associated with May.

The origin of the dedication of June to the Sacred Heart is less clouded in the mists of history. We owe it to Angéle de Saint Croix, a Parisienne schoolgirl of the 1830s, who was inspired to propose it to the Superioress, not because the feast of the Sacred Heart falls in June, since it is a movable feast dependent upon the timing of Easter, but because Angéle felt that, if Our Lady had a whole month of May, the Sacred Heart should have a whole month of June.

The Superioress recommended her to make the suggestion to the Archbishop when he visited the school the following week. This she did and the Archbishop responded immediately, dedicating the month of June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus throughout the Archdiocese for the joint intentions of the conversion of sinners and the return of France to the practice of the faith. The devotion soon spread and became universal throughout the Church.

In such ways, the Church recommends to the Faithful to dedicate each moment of time to God and to His Angels and Saints, to sanctify time and, by doing so, to sanctify ourselves.


Anonymous said...

This is great. I never thought of it like this before. Can you suggest any specific prayers to use for each feast?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the First Fridays!

Anonymous said...

In the next post the Priest makes an excellent point about Sextuagesima. The mainstream Church needs to rediscover the wonder of seasons like Septuagesima.