Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Presentation of...Phil?

I love the movie "Groundhog Day." Every year I wake my kids up in the morning with, "Wake up! iiiiIIITT'SSS----- GROUNDHOG DAY!!!!" (The boys don't know what the heck has gotten into me, but I'm happy to say that we finally put the movie on our Netflix queue to watch for our weekly Family Movie Night. With luck, they'll be quoting the movie before this month is out.) The other day I was pondering the film's message (actually, for years I didn't realize it even had one), and realized that many of us live our lives much like Phil Connors: we wake up and face each day with a sense of dread knowing that it will be very much like the day before--and tomorrow will be just like today. It isn't until we begin to open our eyes to the small joys in our lives that we begin to look forward to another day of work, school, chores, messes to clean up, and the frustrations and challenges we're bound to face. Phil wakes up every day, and it's always Groundhog day, and he always finds himself stuck in the little town of Punxatawney with the same people he can't stand, doing the same things day after day, and having the same conversations; and to make matters worse, the woman he loves blows him off over and over and over. Pretty soon he's so depressed he kills himself--only to wake up the next morning to live the same day all over again. After several suicide attempts he finally decides to make the best of his situation. He learns to play the piano. He begins to treat the people around him with kindness. He decides that his beautiful collegue who won't give him the time of day will someday love him back, and it's that hope that keeps him going. Every day he gets to know her a little bit more, until finally, one Groundhog Day, she falls in love with him. He realizes that the mundane things in life are often the things that give us the most joy. (Just like in the movie, "UP;" when the little boy says, "It's the boring stuff I remember the most.")

I've always thought Groundhog Day was a silly holiday. When the guy in the top hat pulls Phil the Groundhog out of the little box, there are TV lights shining in his face; of course he's going to see his shadow! Why does everyone make a big deal of Groundhog Day? I suppose it marks the halfway point between fall and spring; we've lived through winter for six weeks, so we can make it for six more. Sure, it's fun, but you've gotta admit, kinda pointless.

It was only this morning that I realized that Groundhog Day falls on the same day as the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Forty days after Jesus' birth, Mary and Joseph brought the infant to the temple to dedicate Him to God. (Click here to see today's readings.) I love the mental images of Mary and Joseph bringing their little baby into the temple, with their two turtledoves in a cage to offer for sacrifice. Here's an old man praying; when he notices the Holy Family, he humbly asks the teenage mother if he can hold the child. When he looks upon the face of Jesus, he recognizes the Messiah and offers prayers of thanksgiving to God. I wonder what Mary was thinking at this moment? She knew her child was the Son of God, but did she have any inkling of the suffering he would endure in order to save mankind from their sins?

Years ago this was apparently quite an important feast day in the Church but for whatever reason, it seems to have lost its significance. Now on February 2, we wait in joyful hope that Punxatawney Phil won't see his shadow predict an early spring. Is Grounhog Day the Pagan version of the Presentation? Hmmm...I wonder....

Today on The Catholics Next Door radio show, Greg Willits remarked that even though Groundhog Day is a fun holiday, the Presentation of Christ is much more interesting. I certainly agree! Maybe next February 2, I'll rouse the boys with "WAKE UP! iiiiIIIITTT'SS....PRESENTATION DAY!!!" Somehow that doesn't seem as funny, but it's definitely a better reason to celebrate.


  1. For generations preceding ours, the day was known as "The Feast of the Circumcision." Depending on the age and knowledge of your boys, announcing THAT could rouse them remarkably quickly!

  2. Gah, I'm so embarrassed at my lapse! The old Circumcision is the new Mary, Mother of God. Either way, unlikely to replace, "Happy New Year!"

    Happy St. Blaise Day :)

  3. Ha, ha! I guess people generally don't like to talk about the circumsision part, so it's easy to forget when it would have happened!

  4. Thanks for sharing these thoughts of yours. We don't celebrate Groundhog Day here in Italy but unfortunately we no longer celebrate The Presentation :(


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