Author Archive for Tom Schenk


Originally, this was the second feast in rank for the Jews, the celebration of thanksgiving for the harvest and the ending of Passover time.  Later it was also to become a celebration of the giving of the law to Moses at Sinai.

In Christian recognition, Pentecost is the feast celebrated fifty days after Easter or ten days after the Feast of the Ascension.  It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles.

Pentecost marks the beginning of the active apostolic work and is hailed as the birthday of the Church, for it was through the coming of the Holy Spirit that the Church began to form members of the new kingdom.

As St. Peter spoke on the first Pentecost of the new covenant: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

It is the Spirit who makes effective the New Law and by coming to each one, enables us to profit by and fulfill the acts necessary for salvation. (9:27)


The Ascension of the Lord was the going up into heaven of Christ by His own power, in the presence of the Apostles, the Blessed Mother and His disciples, forty days after His resurrection.

St. Thomas Aquinas asserts He ascended by the virtue proper to Him as God, and by that which belongs to a blessed spirit.

The feast commemorating the event was celebrated in the Church from the earliest times.

It is a holy day of obligation occurring on Ascension Thursday forty days after Easter.

Many dioceses in the United States, including the Diocese of Des Moines, have transferred the feast day to the Sunday following Ascension Thursday.

Imitation of Christ

The Imitation of Christ is the title of a devotional book of personal directions for the practice of the virtues found in the life of Christ; it is a collection of maxims and prayers urging one to pattern his or her life after that of Christ.

It was first published early in the fourteen century and has been attributed to Thomas à Kempis.  This book is also titled The Following of Christ.

Its directives are arranged in such a manner that they seem to be communicated by Christ Himself as teacher and guide.

With the exception of the Bible, it is perhaps the most widely read spiritual book in the world. (9:25)


The first day of the week, sometimes called the eight day of the week, also called the “Lord’s Day,” is set aside for public worship.  This was true in the early Church under the Apostles who recognized that the Christian mystery supplanted that of the Old Law, the Sabbath.

On this day, Catholics are obliged by law to assist at the Sacrifice of the Mass.

By grant of the Congregation for the Clergy (January 10, 1970), the faithful, where the bishop considers this a pastoral benefit, may satisfy the Sunday precept of attending the celebration of the Eucharist by participating in the Mass in the late afternoon or evening of the preceding Saturday.  The same grant extends to the time before a holy day of obligation.

The following quotations are just two examples to show that the first Christians understood this principle and gathered for worship on Sunday.  “But every Lord’s Day . . . gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.  But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned” (Didache, A.D. 70).

And another, “We keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead” (Letter of Barnabas, A.D. 74). (9:24)

Easter Season

Following the great solemnity of Easter there is in the Church calendar a period of time when the celebration of the Eucharist and the cycle of readings recall the event of Christ’s Resurrection.

The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated as one feast day, sometimes called “the great Sunday.”  The singing of the alleluia is characteristic of these days.

The Sundays of this season are counted as the Sundays of Easter.  Following the Sunday of the Resurrection, they are called the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter or the Easter Season.  The period of fifty days ends on Pentecost Sunday.

The first eight days of the Easter season form the octave of Easter and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord.

The Ascension is celebrated on the fortieth day after Easter.  In places, such as the Des Moines Diocese, where it is not a holy day of obligation, it is assigned to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

The weekdays after the Ascension to Saturday before Pentecost inclusive are a preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The Easter Season is a significant time in the Church calendar.  The faithful spend the forty days of lent in prayer, fasting and charity preparing for the great three-day event called the Triduum, and then spends the next fifty days unpacking the Paschal Mystery. (9:23)


The Church has published a plenary indulgence for people who are sick with the coronavirus COVID-19, and anyone caring for people who are sick with the coronavirus COVID-19, and people who are quarantined because of the coronavirus COVID-19.

The conditions for receiving the plenary indulgence are: a spirit of detachment from any sin (like saying “I hate sin”); the intention to go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, and pray for the Pope’s intentions as soon as possible; participate (even via the media) in the celebration of Holy Mass, or the Rosary, or the Way of the Cross, or if that isn’t possible, to recite the Creed, the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

During this time of pandemic, a plenary indulgence is also available to the Catholic faithful who – in addition to having a spirit of detachment from any sin, have the intention to go to Confession, receive Holy Communion and pray for the Pope’s intentions as soon as possible – make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or read Scripture for at least 30 minutes, or pray the Rosary, or make the Way of the Cross, or recite the Divine Mercy chaplet for the following intentions: an end to the pandemic, relief to those afflicted, and eternal salvation for those who have died.

Finally, a plenary indulgence is granted to people at the moment of death, when they are unable to receive Anointing and Viaticum.  The only conditions are that the person be properly disposed, have recited a few prayers during his/her lifetime, and at the moment of death to hold or look at a cross or crucifix, if possible. (9:22)

Spiritual Communion

During this time of fasting from the Eucharist at Holy Mass, we can still reach out to Him by making a Spiritual Communion in prayer!  The prayer below can be said at anytime, anywhere and as often as we like to bring oneself into spiritual union with Christ.

My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament.  I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul.  Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.  I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You.  Never permit me to be separated from You.  Amen.  (Composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori in the 18th century.)

St. Thomas Aquinas once defined a Spiritual Communion as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament and lovingly embrace Him as if we had actually received Him.”  One can also make a Spiritual Communion using the following prayer before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament (prayer before the tabernacle), or anywhere else where we feel moved by the Spirit.

Oh Jesus, I turn toward the holy tabernacle where You live hidden for love of me.  I love you, O my God.  I cannot receive you in Holy Communion.  Come, nevertheless, and visit me with Your grace.  Come spiritually into my heart.  Purify it.  Sanctify it.  Render it like unto Your own.  Amen.

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.  (9:21)

Fasting From The Eucharist

Not being able to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament will be distressing for some, especially those accustomed to receiving him every day.

Recalling of church history may prove helpful.  Though (thanks be to God) we live in an age where all are used to the frequent, uninterrupted reception of Holy Communion, that hasn’t always been the case in the Church, and this wasn’t just always a “pre-Vatican II” mentality where the faithful were too scared of sin.

Saints often went long periods of time without Holy Communion.  For example, St. Francis of Assisi once fasted 40 days and nights on a mountain.  He was a deacon, and so went without Holy Communion.

Even some of the great priestly saints of the Church had to fast from Holy Communion for long periods.  During the great missionary efforts to the new world and India, priests were forbidden from celebrating Masses on oceanic crossings due to the risk of spilling the Precious Blood.  Hence, St. Francis Xavier and other priests went months without celebrating Mass or receiving communion.

All are encouraged to avail themselves of the unique graces the Lord wants to give us right now—perhaps an increased devotion to the rosary, the reading of Scripture, etc.  (9:20)

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday occurs as the Sunday feast before Easter.  This day is also called Passion Sunday.

On this Sunday palm leaves are blessed and carried in a procession that follows the blessing ceremony.  The liturgy recalls the entry of Christ into Jerusalem to accomplish his Paschal Mystery.

The Gospel for the day’s liturgy is the account of the Passion taken from the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark or Luke coinciding with the yearly cycle.

Holy Week precedes the feast of Easter beginning with Palm Sunday.  Holy Week is ordered to the commemoration of Christ’s Passion beginning with his Messianic entrance into Jerusalem.

The days of Holy Week, from Monday to Thursday, inclusive, have precedence over all other celebrations as the Passion of the Lord dominates these solemn days.

It is not fitting, except in the danger of death, that baptisms or confirmations be celebrated on these days since they have their natural place in the Easter Vigil.

During the days of Holy Week, you may see the crucifix hidden from sight, and if not removed, draped with a violet or red cloth. (9:19)

Stations of the Cross

For Roman Catholics throughout the world, the Stations of the Cross are synonymous with Lent, Holy Week and, especially, Good Friday.

The Stations of the Cross began as the practice of pious pilgrims to Jerusalem who would retrace the final journey of Jesus Christ to Calvary.

Later, for the many who wanted to pass along the same route, but could not make the trip to Jerusalem, a practice developed that eventually took the form of the fourteen stations currently found in almost every church.

This devotion is also known as the “Way of the Cross,” the “Via Crucis,” and the “Via Dolorosa.”

The Stations of the Cross are a fourteen -step Catholic devotion that commemorates Jesus Christ’s last day on Earth as a man.

The stations focus on specific events of His last day, beginning with His condemnation.

The stations are commonly used as a mini pilgrimage as the individual moves from station to station.  At each station, the individual recalls and meditates on a specific event from Christ’s last day.

Specific prayers are recited, then the individual moves to the next station until all fourteen are complete.  The Stations of the Cross are commonly found in churches as a series of fourteen small icons or images.  They can also appear in church yards arranged along paths.

Although the stations are most commonly prayed during Lent they can be said anytime. (9:18)