Happy New Year!
I am reflecting on a few things in the early days of 2009.
In Canada, we have only Two Holy days of Obligation. These are non-Sundays (not always the case depending on the holy day) on which Catholics are obligated to attend Mass. Catholics are obliged, under normal circumstances, to attend Mass (where Mass is available to them) on any Sunday as well.
Our two holy days are Christmas Day (or the vigil Midnight Mass or even the anticipated Mass which may happen earlier in the evening of Christmas Eve.) and the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, which falls on January 1st.
An aside here is that Good Friday is not a Holy Day of obligation because no Mass is celebrated. Easter Sunday is automatically an obligation as it is on a Sunday. As with Christmas, the Vigil Mass fulfills the obligation.
Our January 1st Mass was surprisingly well attended. For very predictable reasons, namely New Year's Eve parties, people often choose to ignore the January 1st obligation.
Perhaps less surprising was that this congregation contained a great number of children. Our chapel tends to be a younger than average congregation due to our military nature, but even for us, this was rather remarkable.
What a joy it was to see these little people bouncing around. I found it reminded me that as they have most of their lives to look forward too, I have a new year to look forward to. Oh, that I should have half their enthusiasm!
One of the not-joyful notes was that one of our parishioners had recently been killed in a military 'situation'. I was very impressed to see his widow and their children at Mass with us that day. To me, this spoke volumes about her faith. So many would hide at a time like this.
It became evident that this remarkable woman was relying on her faith and on the prayers of those around her for strength during what could only be a horrific time...at least from an earthly perspective.
I saw a lot of people looking ahead...to life, to the new year, to a radically changed life. All here were looking to (or were being guided to) Christ as their beacon.
Although in our case I regret that the role of Mary was not really commented on at all, I do think that the Church is wise in declaring January 1 as a day of obligation. What a grand way to start off the New Year!