Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Recently we got news from the Bishop about how the whole state of New Jersey will be celebrating the Ascension of the Lord in the year 2021 that I’d like to share with all of you. Before I do so, it is worth noting that how we celebrate here in New Jersey does look a little different from how the majority of the United States and other countries throughout the world. There are pluses and minuses to either way, but our celebration this year will line up with more how many dioceses celebrate the Ascension.

It basically boils down to the actual day when we commemorate the Ascension of the Lord. While Tradition holds that Our Blessed Lord remained on Earth for forty days before He ascended to Heaven, the practicality of counting out and celebrating on exactly the fortieth day is where the distinction comes in. If you think about it, to count out forty days from Easter Sunday, one does not land in a perfect weekly cycle back on Sunday. Most of you have probably guessed or rightly know that Thursday is where that fortieth day falls; indeed many of us refer to it simply as Ascension Thursday. However, liturgical speaking, having such an important solemnity in the middle of the week, makes attending the holy day of obligation a bit of struggle. Looking at our attendance at St. Charles, we certainly see more people over a weekend than we do for the Ascension.

One potential solution to this is to transfer the holy day to the nearest weekend. The great advantage to this is a greater inclusion of individuals in the celebration of a momentous occasion within salvation history. A disadvantage is that it throws the strict accounting off of forty days when going from Easter to the Ascension.

While it might seem to us to be somewhat strange to do so, this kind of transfer has been the practice in every diocese in the US except those in PA, NJ, and NE for many years. And this year, in the midst of the pandemic, New Jersey will join those other dioceses in transferring the Ascension to the 7th Sunday of Easter. The coronavirus has brought about many changes and adaptations to the way the world works and how we gather and pray within our parish community. In the Ascension we meet yet
another change.

Personally, I’m a bit torn by this development. On the one hand, I’m excited by the prospect that more people will get to take part in the liturgy for the Ascension and be exposed to prayers and readings they may commonly miss by not attending the regular holy day. On the other hand, I’m a bit saddened by moving off of Thursday which has for so long been associated with this particular solemnity. But is good and in whatever fashion we
celebrate or whichever day it falls upon, recalling Our Blessed Lord’s ascent to the heavenly realms is a grace filled occasion.

Peace and Goodness,
Fr. Dan