Seasonal Reflection: New Beginnings

James Vacco, OFM Features

The weeks following Easter Sunday can be seen as a season of sacraments. Many parishes celebrate first communions and confirmations, and couples exchange wedding vows. Below, a Western New York pastor considers some of the challenges that come with this time of new life and new beginnings.

If “April showers bring May flowers,” accordingly then it can also be said that May starts — in the social sphere — the blossoms of graduations, baseball games, picnics and the early scents of summer activities.

But, from a religious perspective, the Easter mystery celebrated in April brings on May’s sacraments of first communions, confirmations and weddings. Whether it’s the secular blossoms of May or the religious practices that typically dot the landscape of our churches during the Easter season, this is the time when the ceremonies celebrating new life, new beginnings, and new directions are as abundant as poppies in the fields around Assisi.

vacco2High Expectations
While the crowds are numerous and excitement fills the air at the Easter Sunday Masses, at the first communions and confirmations, I find myself a bit tired afterward. Yes, part of the tiredness is from all the preparations and running around that accompany the liturgies; but more the tiredness is from what I interpret as the low level of commitment to what these Easter sacraments call forth.

While the crowds swell for these occasions, I get tired of the lack of follow-through of many who are a part of these moments. My expectations are high regarding what these sacramental encounters summon forth from us.

One of the things I have held onto from my days studying at the Washington Theological Union are my notebooks from my classes with the late Regis Duffy, OFM. I occasionally page through them.

Last week, after first communion celebrations here at “Little Bona’s,” as I sat in the lounger “tired,” I began to page through one of the notebooks and came across the following: “Sacraments call us to commitment. Commitment points us to a response to God’s gratuitousness. The issue with the celebration of the sacraments is that many are recipients, but few are participants.”

Joyful Hope
Now, I’m not sure if those were Regis’ words or my reflection at that moment in class. Wherever the source, there is something very true stated there.

Yet, at the same time, I also have written on the next page of that notebook: “While the sacraments are a call to commitment and a gratuitous response, it’s all in ‘God’s time and timing,’ and the Church waits in joyful hope.”

Regis’ words or the thoughts of a young friar in a sacramental theology class? Do April showers bring May flowers? Hopefully, by God’s time.

— Fr. James became pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Allegany, N.Y., often referred to as Little Bona’s, in summer 2011.