Built on hope
While serving at Saint Joseph Seminary College in Saint Benedict, Louisiana, I was introduced to living in the midst of Carnival, which extends from the day after Epiphany until Ash Wednesday (Jan. 7 – Feb. 16, 2021). This season of feasting precedes the long fast of Lent in preparation for Easter.
Carnival and the liturgical year are an outgrowth of Christianity serving as the foundation of our experience of time. It anchors life to the reality of our Catholic faith. The year is not just a measure of time. Each year is our annual living through the mystery of our redemption. We remember the expectation of the birth of Jesus Christ; His life and ministry among us; His suffering, passion, death, and resurrection; His continuing presence in the life of the Church; and our waiting in joyful hope for His coming at the end of time.
Carnival is a festive season, a continuation of the Christmas season and preparation for Lent. Preparation for great feasts and fasts helps us to build our lives on that which will last and that which is eternal. Times of feasting in the Church are not a distraction from real life. They serve to remind us our faith is built on hope — the promise of eternal life with Christ.
Seasons during the liturgical year help us to root our lives in Jesus Christ. Life lived mindful of Christ necessarily leads us to ask what God desires of us and what He is asking of us in our lives. Living a life rooted in the annual celebration of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection draws us into a closer relationship with Him.
One thing I look for when young people ask me to help them discern the priesthood or religious life is how they live their daily life. The interest and attention they pay to the liturgical year is a good indicator of how important the faith is in their lives.
One important way we can help promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life is to live out the seasons of the liturgical year in our own lives. The Church provides us with times of feasting and fasting. The liturgical year is not monotonous, and it helps create contrast in our experience of life.
In 2020 we saw prolonged crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our lives continue to be changed as we struggle with the effects of COVID-19. The normal highs and lows of life — living in times of feasting and fasting — have been flattened by living against the background of continuing crisis.
Continuing crisis can make discerning God’s will more difficult. It can seem the current crisis will never end, and life will never again be normal. Times like this make seasons of feasting in the Church all the more important.
Our faith is one of hope. We live in the midst of challenges, but times like Carnival can remind us God is greater than any of our crises, problems, or doubts. Seasons of feasting in the Church help us root our daily lives in the life of Jesus Christ. Being rooted in the life of Jesus Christ is what makes following Him as a priest or religious sister possible. Sin, death, and sorrow do not have the last say.
Living out our faith and asking if we might be called by God to the priesthood or religious life in a time of crisis is not easy. Taking time to recall the good things that God has done in our lives is not an escape from the world. Taking time to feast during Carnival serves to remind us of the goodness of God. He has created the world and all that is in it, and He calls us to Himself.
During this time of Carnival, may we strive to live lives that are mindful of Him. May this entire year be one in which we focus on the mystery of Christ present in our lives. Let us also be willing to follow Him into priesthood or religious life and pray that many from our diocese are willing to do so.