The year of our Lord 2015, which most Catholics will highlight as the year Pope Francis visited Philadelphia to cap the eighth World Meeting of Families, is receding in the rear-view mirror.
With all of Philadelphia’s sports teams ending this year in a four-part harmony chorus of “Wait til Next Year,” let’s look at 10 things Catholics can keep an eye on for 2016.
Bienvenido a Mexico, Papa Francisco
The pope will visit our southern neighbors in Mexico Feb. 12-17. The trip to the world’s second largest Catholic country (by population) is likely to include a stop at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City plus other areas. Of note is his planned stop at Ciudad Juarez, a border town with El Paso, Texas, that will shine a bright light on cross-border migration, the drug trade and violence. The pontiff is expected to address poverty, gang violence and migration in his talks to Mexicans, as well as messages to strengthen family life and the Catholic faith.
Young Catholics, old pope, in Poland
Young people still have time to get their passport in order and raise money to join the thousands of other peers attending World Youth Day July 26-31 in Poland – Europe’s most Catholic country. Pope Francis will be there to join in the days of fun, friendship and prayerful devotion.
Call her St. Teresa of Calcutta
Another big Catholic event will occur when the pope canonizes Blessed Teresa of Kolkata (Calcutta) perhaps in September. Catholics from around the world will likely stream to Rome for the ceremonies to declare the beloved Mother Teresa a saint, then return home to begin renaming churches and schools “St. Teresa,” such as this local parish in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Bring out the purple and the fish
Close to home for all Catholics is the early start of Lent on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10. As wise young students know, Lent doesn’t end at Easter (March 27) but three days before on Holy Thursday, March 24. The purple colors of Advent won’t stay in the church closets for long.
What about remarried Catholics?
Sometime in the spring, it’s rumored, the pope will announce a decision on the hottest topic of debate at last fall’s Synod of Bishops on the family in Rome: new pastoral approaches to divorced and remarried Catholics. It is unknown what action, if any, the pope will announce, but one observer thinks one of four outcomes is likely: The pope will announce no changes to current policy; broadly offer Communion to Catholics in such situations; call for more time to study the issue; or permit bishops worldwide to decide on a policy for their own dioceses.
In a first, it’s back to Constantinople
In June our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Christian churches will follow closely the Holy and Great Council, a global meeting of their leaders in Istanbul, Turkey. In the making for more than 50 years and somewhat akin to the Catholic Second Vatican Council, it will be an unprecedented gathering of representatives from all 14 Orthodox churches.
In the U.S., Mister or Madam President?
Leadership will be on the minds of Americans this year as we’re invited to elect a new president. Residents of Iowa and New Hampshire will vote in the early primary elections, while Pennsylvanians go to the polls for the primaries on April 26. The general election is Nov. 8.
Go plant your beans
In between, the warmth of spring and summer are a time to grow things in the garden. The United Nations’ declaration of 2016 as the Year of Pulses has got nothing to do with blood pressure or the next dance craze, but with beans. It calls to mind the healthy benefits of lentils, lima beans, pinto beans and other legumes. Plant a row in your home garden and try this recipe for summertime hummus that goes beyond chick peas.
The sports we’ll cheer
Speaking of summer, sports fans will be watching the Summer Olympics in August from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Before that international spectacle is America’s biggest sports extravaganza, the Super Bowl, marking its 50 anniversary in 2016. The “Golden Super Bowl” will be televised by CBS TV from the Golden Gate in San Francisco Feb. 7. (There’s lots of great football to play, but I predict Carolina and Denver meeting for the big game, and the Panthers winning their first championship.)
Christmas falls on Sunday
The New Year is also a leap year, which in addition to getting that Feb. 29 on the calendar, we’ll also see next Christmas fall on a Sunday in 2016.
Of course, just like every year, some extraordinary events will take place in the lives of people and their families that will not make the news in 2016 – weddings, graduations, job promotions, funerals.
In the Ordinary Time of everyday life, we’ll get up each day to work or study, and enjoy the simple pleasures and endure the common problems of living honest, loving lives. We’ll try to live holiness each day as we find it, ready to be surprised any moment by the grace of God who walks with us in it all.