April 16, 2015
Celebrating With a Sense of Simplicity
The glorious Easter season—Paschaltide—is a grand time of celebration.
The joy of our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead is so radiant that it takes us fifty days to savor it—the forty days up to the Ascension of Jesus, then ten more until Pentecost.
What we relish is not just the new life of Jesus, His victory over sin, Satan, and death, but the good news that He shares His triumph with us!
We Catholics are renowned for celebrating, and this Easter season, these fifty days each Spring, give us wonderful occasions to rejoice in ways Jesus lets us share in His risen glory:
- The Baptisms of our new Catholics just twelve days ago, the night before Easter;
- now so many of our children will make their first holy communions, having already told Jesus “I’m sorry!” at their first confession;
- we bishops will confirm thousands of our young people;
- couples will administer the sacrament of matrimony to each other, and so many married couples will toast wedding anniversaries;
- candidates will kneel before me for the sacrament of Holy Orders and rise deacons and priests;
- eighth graders, high school and college seniors will graduate;
The list goes on, as we rejoice in the life-giving providence and love of God, evident always, but so dramatic this paschaltide.
I feel obliged to risk being a “party pooper” here.
No one likes a good feast more than me, but...I do worry we can at times be tempted to go overboard!
- When I hear of first communion celebrations with limousines;
- When I am told of high school proms, even at our Catholic high schools, where clothes, transportation, meals, flowers, photographers and parties can cost well over $1,000—money put out by parents who still owe tuition!—making it impossible for many kids to be “uncool” because they can’t afford to go;
- When I see some Quinceañera festivities among our beloved Latino families, the cost of which put a family further into debt;
- When my priests tell me of lavish weddings that end up costing tens of thousands of dollars;
- when baptisms and confirmation parties look like scenes from The Godfather...I worry!
A simplicity has to characterize our celebrations of the sacraments and other happy occasions. By all means, let’s do it well, with a lot of wholesome, good fun, a lot of family and friends.
But, opulence? Lavishness? A sense of rivalry where one has to outdo another? Please, no!
This exaggerated sense of celebration is contrary to the very faith we are trying to rejoice about!
Do we teach our young people that style and expense are more important than the substance of the event we are observing?
Do flashbulbs and fashion push aside faith, in elaborate, hyper-expensive extravaganzas which put folks into debt, embarrass those unable to afford such glitter, and make it easier to ignore the needs of the poor?
Let me say it again: we Catholics are not Puritans! We love to feast, toast, dance, sing, eat, drink, laugh, and embrace! We especially love to have a good time at special times of God’s grace—Baptisms, first communions, Confirmations, weddings, ordinations—and when our children have achieved—graduations.
But we learned a long time ago that “the simpler – the better”; that we need not overdo, try to impress others, spend money we don’t have, or better spent elsewhere; that the love, laughter, and success of a celebration does not depend on an overabundance of glitter and glamour.
I congratulate the overwhelming majority of our families who celebrate with dignity, joy…and moderation. These grand festivities are all about Jesus, the sacraments, our faith, the accomplishments and hopes of our graduates, all reasons enough for joy, not requiring huge expense.
Let the celebrations begin! Let them be fun! Let them be memorable! Let them be simple! Let them not be scandalous!