Thursday, April 29, 2010

We Need Women Like St. Catherine of Sienna

The Life of Saint Catherine of Sienna

Today, the Church celebrates the memorial of one of the few women who have been declared a "Doctor of the Church" - Saint Catherine of Sienna.  She's probably most remembered for having deliberately told popes, queens and kings how to behave.  We was spontaneous, unafraid of authority, fearless in the face of death BUT loved the Church and the Holy Father, the Pope, and lived her life in total obedience to him - while at the same time urging him to return to Rome.

Born in 1347, at Siena, Italy, Saint Catherine lived through the Black Death, famine and numerous civil wars.  During her lifetime the papal residence moved from Rome to Avignon and back again, and the great western Schism pitted Pope against anti-pope.  Even at a young age, Catherine sensed the troubled society around her and wanted to help. Childishly she dreamed of dressing up like a man to become a Dominican friar; more than once she ran into the street to kiss the ground where Dominicans walked.

Catherine's parents tried hard to discourage her from becoming religious, but eventually, when she was about sixteen-years-old, Catherine, with the help of the Holy Spirit, was permitted to enter the sisters of Penance of St Dominic.  During her life as a religious, St. Catherine had numerous visions and long ecstasies, but she is most remembered for her writings, which eventually led to her being declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Her bold letters, even today, have a way of shocking the reader into reality. The style of her letters was lean and direct. She sometimes broke with polite convention. For example, during the Great Western Schism, in defense of Pope Urban VI, she rebuked three Italian cardinals who were supporting the anti-pope, writing to them, "what made you do this? You are flowers who shed no perfume, but stench that makes the whole world reek."

These words are strong, and it is not recommended that we imitate them. St. Catherine had a unique call from God, which Pope Paul VI referred to as her "charism of exhortation."  It was her great love and fidelity to the Pope and college of bishops that prompted her to respond to God's urgings that she be forthright with those who were against the Vicar of Christ.

Wanting Pope Gregory XI to leave his residency in Avignon and return to Rome, and knowing the Supreme Pontiff was afraid of being poisoned, Catherine wrote to him, "Be not a timorous child, but manly . . ." she spoke to him as a loving daughter would.

It was with great courage that Catherine approached the Vicar of Christ. She succeeded in convincing Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome, but he soon died and Pope Urban VI took his place. Relentless, Catherine began to write to the new Pope. She was direct with him and told him he needed to control his temper. Pope Urban VI appreciated her forthright counsel. When an anti-pope was supported and the Great Western Schism began, Urban VI invited Catherine to Rome. He needed her support. She went to Rome in 1378 and from there wrote regular letters to state and Church leaders in defense of Pope Urban's sole right to the papal throne. Every day she walked to St. Peter's Basilica and prayed for church unity. After two years of this exhaustive work, she died in 1380 at age thirty-three.

We need people like St. Catherine of Sienna today!
With the current "crisis" in the Church, we need people like Saint Catherine to stand up for the Truth - to boldly defend the helpless and the victims, but to do so with her love for the Church and the Holy Father.  This is something we are not seeing today.  

The last thing I want to become is an apologist for the Church in regard to the present abuse crisis.   Many people have been seriously harmed by these scandals.  I have been disheartened (if that is a strong enough word).  I believe, if it had not been so in the past, that members of the Church, including leadership, understand more and are much more sensitive to victims of abuse.  We all reverence their struggle.

On the other hand, I am more and more disturbed and unsettled by groups who are using victims of child sex abuse to promote their own self-serving agenda.  It is inexcusable!

Specifically, I am referring to those who would disassemble an ancient Church and reassemble her to fit norms and preferences acceptable to their own closed and limited whims.  Some, today, are using the failings of clergy in order to promote the feminist agenda within the Church.  Their approach to "reprimanding" Church leadership is not what Saint Catherine did.  She loved the Church and the Pope - the current "critics" want to destroy the Church and the Papacy - make no doubt about it.
This is not easy to say, probably less easy to read, but if the Catholic Church began ordaining women to the priesthood today, there would not be a single additional article published about sexual abuse cases.  The victims of abuse deserve to be heard, but the liberal culture could care less… they are only using this misfortune to promote a self-serving agenda.  For years, I truly believed the “culture” hated the Church because of her stand on abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception, or divorce.  But now, it is ever more clear, more than just these issues; the real  issue is the male priesthood.

Remember, I believe we deserve the beating we are receiving.  The actions taken or not taken by bishops in certain cases in regard to failures of the clergy is indefensible. 

To illustrate, consider an article by an allegedly Catholic woman, Maureen Dowd, in her New York Times Op-Ed Column she entitled: A Nope for Pope.

She begins her silly piece, “Yup, we need a Nope. A nun who is pope.” Then spills paragraph after paragraph of distorted and inaccurate reports of what the Church did or did not do to address the current abuse situation.  [Remember, if you are an advocate for victims of sex abuse, this is terribly hurtful to the cause as the truth of the situation is not being told.  Many will dismiss the true problems in the Church and consider them part of the hype created by people like Ms. Dowd.]
She concludes her article with “The nuns have historically cleaned up the messes of priests. And this is a historic mess. Benedict should go home to Bavaria. And the cardinals should send the white smoke up the chimney, proclaiming ‘Habemus Mama.’” Thus, she uses the current painful situation for her own power-seeking agenda.  For example, “Nuns have historically cleaned up the messes of priests?” Really? How about just one example?
Next, another Catholic women, Peggy Noonan, has played the same card in the April 17th Wall Street Journal.  After drudging up dirt on the Church which would make the Boston Globe jealous, she concludes “The old Vatican needs new blood… Most especially and most immediately, they need to elevate women.  As a nun said to me [Ms. Noonan] this week, if a woman had been sitting beside a bishop transferring a priest with a history of abuse, she would have said, ‘Hey, wait a minute!’”

First, there were plenty of men in the priesthood or hierarchy who did say, “Hey, wait a minute!”  It is ludicrous for an educated woman like Noonan to think otherwise.  That the Church would be better off if we simply elevated women is a myth.  Women sin just as men sin.  Furthermore, from personal experience, my brother priests and I could provide ample examples of women [i.e., theologically liberal nuns] who were on staff in our seminaries and who intervened to protect dysfunctional men allowing them to advance to the priesthood.  We seminarians protested, but were "silenced" by Sr. "Mary" while the dysfunctional men were advanced to Holy Orders.   And again, how many women (mothers) have stood by while their husbands or boyfriends molested their own children without intervening? Answer:  it happens… too frequently.

I, too, like John Paul II, believe that women contribute greatly to the life of the Church, and should be given more opportunity to do so… but it will be on their own merit, not in the sleazy way Dowd and Noonan and their ilk are attempting to do it.  Rather, we need more women like St. Catherine of Sienna - women who are not afraid to speak the Truth - even to the hierarchy, but who do it with love for the Church and as loving daughters of the Pope.
Before I close, I want to illustrate how the press is distorting the truth to confuse Catholics.  Ms. Dowd reports that the Associated Press broke a story “pointing the finger of blame directly at Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.” The AP concluded that a newly discovered letter exists “in which [Cardinal Ratzinger is shown] to resist pleas to defrock a California priest who had sexually molested children.”  The report claims “the Oakland diocese recommended defrocking Father Stephen Kiesle in 1981.” The priest had pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years’ probation in 1978 for “tying up and molesting two boys in a church rectory.”
Two things to keep in mind about this article:
1)    Dowd claims that it “wasn’t until 1985 that “God’s Rottweiler” finally got around to addressing the California bishop’s concern (and defrocked the priest).  The manner in which the information is presented, makes it seem as though this sick man was allowed to molest children from 1978 to 1985.  What is not reported, however, is that the Oakland Bishop had absolute authority (and I am confident he used it) to remove the faculties (permission necessary to function in a priestly role) of the priest, effectively barring him from the priesthood prior to 1978.  Not reported. 
2)    Much has been made about Ratzinger’s concern about “scandal.”  Really?  Look at the dates.  The press had its day and its opportunity to report the scandal in 1978 when the priest was publically convicted.  There was no fear of scandal as it has already been reported. The scandal Cardinal Ratzinger was concerned about is a canonical question considered for any priest waiting to be laicized by the Church: “Will it cause scandal or hurt people’s faith to see a man leave the priesthood?”  Obviously, the answer in this case was no.
History will look with melancholy upon the last 50 years of the Church.  But I sincerely hope the truth is separated from the lies.  Has anybody else noticed that a week after the U.S. Bishops condemned Obama's new Health Care Law, the New York Times splashed articles on the front page of their paper detailing sexual abuse cases against the Church in which nothing new was reported?  In other words, “You stupid and superstitious Catholics, shut up!”

In the end, it is safe to conclude that these people hate the Church far more than they love the victims.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Vocation Webstie

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a new website ( aimed to be a resource for men and women in discernment; to aid in promoting a vocation culture within the home; and to provide a range of tools for educators, youth leaders and vocation directors. We all know that vocations to the Priesthood and Consecrated Life are tremendous and essential gifts to the Church, and it is the bishops’ desire that their two goals for this initiative are achieved:

1.  To help individuals hear and respond to the call by God to the priesthood or consecrated life, and
2.  To educate all Catholics on the importance of encouraging others through prayer and activities to promote vocations.

Check out the new website here...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Good Shepherd Sunday Homily

Several people asked Deacon Rolling for his homily from Good Shepherd Sunday - which addressed, in part, the scandals.  He has asked me to post this on the blog - so here it is.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Music, Thank Yous and Farewells

It's been a really great weekend here at the parish.  Last evening Belle Voix, a vocal ensemble from the Hanover area, came to Saint Andrew as part of their spring choir tour.  They performed some beautiful music by American composers.  It was a wonderful evening - I miss singing with them - but it was great to see some friends from a "few" years ago.
Then today we celebrated several things: First, the Knights of Columbus' Founders Day.  We thank and honor our parish Knights of Columbus for ALL that they do, in so many ways, for our parish and our parish school.  If there's ever a project that needs to be done, the Knights are there.  From helping the community by picking up trash on the roads or praying for a greater respect for Life in our country - the Knights are there.  Thank you, my brothers, for all you do and for your witness to following the Good Shepherd.

We also bid "farewell" to our seminarians from Mount Saint Mary's this weekend: Roy & John who are 1st year theologians who have been working with our high school CCD students on Sunday mornings - and, of course, Deacon Rolling - who has been with us all year long.  Thanks to each and all of you for your presence in our parish.  We will certainly miss you.  May God bless and keep you.  Deacon Rolling, thank you for your excellent homilies and your quiet witness to Christ.  We wish you well as you prepare to be ordained in 34 days.  You'll be an EXCELLENT priest!

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Chef" Bateman wows CCW

On Wednesday evening, Father Bateman and ladies from our parish CCW enjoyed a wonderful evening of cooking and eating - as Father dazzled the ladies with his culinary skills.  Only problem is - now everyone's scared to invite him to dinner!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates 5th Anniversary

Yesterday our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the 5th Anniversary of his election as the 265th Pope.  I remember that day well - in case you don't, we can remember it...

Then, the new Holy Father appeared and said:

His words in English:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.

The fact that the Lord knows how to work and act even with inadequate instruments consoles me, so above all I entrust myself to your prayers.

In the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help, let us move forward. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.”

On this, his fifth anniversary, let us continue to pray for his guidance, his protection, for continued blessings on our Holy Father and on the Church he guides.

V. Let us pray for our Pontiff, Pope Benedict.

R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and bless him upon earth, and deliver him not to the will of his enemies.

Our Father. Hail Mary.

Let us pray.

O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou hast chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he hath charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, may he attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Window Progress

I received an email today from the artist working on our new stained glass window.  She sent along some photos of the progress so far.  How exciting!  She is scheduled to come on Saturday, May 8 to install the window in our church - just in time for Mother's Day!  

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday

The message of The Divine Mercy is simple. It is that God loves us — all of us. And, he wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy.

The Divine Mercy message is one we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC:
A - Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.
B - Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.
C - Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.

This message and devotion to Jesus as The Divine Mercy is based on the writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska, an uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the revelations she received about God's mercy. Even before her death in 1938, the devotion to The Divine Mercy had begun to spread. 

The message and devotional practices proposed in the Diary of Saint Faustina and set forth in this web site and other publications of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception are completely in accordance with the teachings of Church and are firmly rooted in the Gospel message of our Merciful Savior. Properly understood and implemented, they will help us grow as genuine followers of Christ.

Spend time to learn more about the mercy of God, learn to trust in Jesus, and live your life as merciful to others, as Christ is merciful to you.

Works of Mercy

Be Merciful as Your Father is Merciful

We are not only to receive the mercy of God, but to use it by being merciful to others through our actions, our words, and our prayers; in other words, we are to practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works (Acts) of Mercy.

The Lord wants us to do these works of mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no use without works.

What are the Works of Mercy?

Corporal Works

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Comfort the prisoners
  • Visit the sick
  • Bury the dead

Spiritual Works

  • Teach the ignorant
  • Pray for the living & dead
  • Correct sinners
  • Counsel those in doubt
  • Console the sorrowful
  • Bear wrongs patiently
  • Forgive wrongs willingly
Jesus' Call to Mercy 
"I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.

I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first — by deed, the second — by word, the third — by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy.

Many souls ... are often worried because they do not have the material means with which to carry out an act of mercy. Yet spiritual mercy, which requires neither permissions nor storehouses, is much more meritorious and is within the grasp of every soul.

If a soul does not exercise mercy somehow or other, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgment. Oh, if only souls knew how to gather eternal treasure for themselves, they would not be judged, for they would forestall My judgment with their mercy" (1317).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Week of Easter Sundays

This week is the "Octave of Easter" - meaning for for 8 days, it is Easter Sunday.  No fasting - no penance - just utter joy in "this day that the Lord has made."  Alleluia!  Here are a bunch of pictures from our Easter Vigil Mass.  Enjoy!  I'm taking a break!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!

Easter is the feast of feasts, the unbridled joy and gladness of all Christians.

In the very center of the Mass, the great prayer of thanksgiving, from the first words of the Preface, expresses the unrivalled motive for this joy: if it is right to praise You, Lord, at all times, how much more so should we not glorify You on this day when Christ our Passover was sacrificed, for He is the true Lamb who took away the sins of the world, who by His Death destroyed our death and by His Resurrection restored our life.  Easter means, then, Redemption obtained — sin destroyed, death overcome, divine life brought back to us, the resurrection of our body which is promised immortality.  With such a certitude, we should banish all trace of sadness.

Today's Psalm says, "This is the day which the Lord has made."  Throughout the octave we will sing of the unequalled joy which throws open eternity to us.  Every Sunday will furnish a reminder of it, and from Sunday to Sunday, from year to year, the Easters of this earth will lead us to that blessed day on which Christ has promised that He will come again with glory to take us with Him into the kingdom of His Father.

"I rose up and am still with Thee."  After His labors and His humiliations, Christ finds rest with His Father.  "I am still with Thee."  This is perfect beatitude.  Through His cross He entered into the possession of eternal glory.  Christ has gained the crown of victory; through Christ men also win their crowns of victory.  Humanity was under a curse and subject to the wrath of God.  Now that they have risen with Christ, their guilt has been destroyed.  "I rose up and am still with Thee."  The liturgy places these words in the mouth of the Church that she may pray them with Christ.

"The earth trembled and was still when God arose in judgment."  The resurrection of Christ is the judgment and condemnation of those who have turned away from God.  This judgment was prefigured by the angel who passed through the land of Egypt destroying the first-born of the Egyptians. The  Israelites marked the doors of their houses with the blood of the paschal lamb.  We are the new Israel, and "Christ our Pasch is sacrificed."  We mark ourselves with His blood, which we enjoy in the Holy Eucharist.  We have been pardoned, we are saved, we shall live.

"He is risen."  The resurrection of Christ is a pledge of our own resurrection.  It is the foundation upon which our faith rests.  It is the guarantee of our redemption and God's assurance that our sins are forgiven and that we are called to eternal life.  "This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us be glad and rejoice therein.  Give praise to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.  Alleluia."  "Christ our Pasch is sacrificed. . . . The Lamb redeems the sheep.  Christ, the innocent One, hath reconciled sinners to the Father." 

Excerpted from The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Saturday - we wait

On Holy Saturday, the cross (and tabernacle) stand empty as we wait... And tonight, in a long vigil, we will continue to wait until that moment when the Alleluia is proclaimed and the Lord's resurrection is anticipated. (BTW, there is a bet amongst members of the choir: how long will the vigil really be? The winner gives the proceeds to their favorite charity. I'm betting on 2:45.)

Anyway, as we wait, here is an ancient homily given on this day. A beautiful reflection on what today is about. Enjoy.

A reading from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

‘See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.
“The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages.

Almighty, ever-living God, whose Only-begotten Son descended to the realm of the dead, and rose from there to glory, grant that your faithful people, who were buried with him in baptism, may, by his resurrection, obtain eternal life.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion

After the Stations of the Cross this afternoon, I was reflecting with someone on an experience I had a few years ago.  I was attending an ecumenical Good Friday service and noticed that their cross was draped in black - and their minister was wearing a black stole.  We Catholics, on the other hand, wear red.  What does that say?  We do not mourn the death of Christ (except for the way in which our own sins brought about His death), rather we commemorate His death and see in His death, our Life.  This was certainly the focus of the Stations of the Cross today, which are the same ones the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI is using today in the Colosseum in Rome.

Good Friday is traditionally a time of fasting and penance, commemorating the anniversary of Christ's crucifixion and death. For Christians, Good Friday commemorates not just a historical event, but the sacrificial death of Christ, which with the resurrection, comprises the heart of the Christian faith. The Catholic Catechism states this succinctly:
Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men (CCC 1992).
This is based on the words of St. Paul: "[Believers] are justified freely by God's grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood... (Romans 3:24-25, NAB). The customs and prayers associated with Good Friday typically focus on the theme of Christ's sacrificial death for our sins. 

The evening (at sunset) of Good Friday begins the second day of the Paschal Triduum.  The major Good Friday worship service is not the Stations of the Cross, but rather the solemn commemoration of the Lord's Passion which begins at 7pm today.   Various traditions and customs are associated with the Western celebration of Good Friday. The singing (or preaching) of the Passion of St. John's gospel consists of reading or singing parts of John's gospel (currently John 18:1-19:42 in the Catholic Church). The Veneration of the Cross is also part of the principle service.  This is when we approach a wooden cross and venerate it, often by kneeling before it, or kissing part of it.  In addition to these traditions, Holy Communion  is distributed using the hosts which were reserved after last night's Mass of the Lord's Supper - this is because in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, no Masses are celebrated on Good Friday nor on Holy Saturday.   Thus, today's liturgy is also called the "Mass of the Pre-Sanctified." 

Many Churches offer the Stations of the Cross, as we did today, also called the "Way of the Cross."  This is a devotion in which fourteen events surrounding the death of Jesus are commemorated.  Another service started by the Jesuit Alphonso Messia in 1732, now less common, the Tre Ore or "Three Hours," is often held from noon until 3:00 PM, and consists of seven sermons on the seven last words of Christ.  This service has been popular in many Protestant churches.  Good Friday, along with Ash Wednesday, is an official fast day of the Catholic Church.

The Eastern Churches have different customs for the day they call "the Great Friday."  The Orthodox Church begins the day with Matins (Morning Prayer), where the "Twelve Gospels" is chanted, which consists of 12 passages drawn from the Passion narratives.  In the morning, the "Little Hours" follow one after the other, consisting of Gospel, Epistle, and Prophet readings.  Vespers (Evening Prayer) ends with a solemn veneration of the epitaphion, an embroidered veil containing scenes of Christ's burial.  Compline (Night Prayer) includes a lamentation placed on the Virgin Mary's lips.  On Good Friday night, a symbolic burial of Christ is performed.  Traditionally, Chaldean and Syrian Christians cease using their customary Shlama greeting ("peace be with you") on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, because Judas greeted Christ this way.  They use the phrase "The light of God be with your departed ones" instead.   In Russia, the tradition is to bring out a silver coffin, bearing a cross, and surrounded with candles and flowers.  The faithful creep on their knees and kiss and venerate the image of Christ's body painted on the "winding sheet" (shroud). 

Good Friday has a long history - in fact, it is ancient, and some of the practices associated with Good Friday are attested to by Egeria in the 4th century.  The day gradually became a time of penance and fasting as the anniversary of the death of Christ.  The name "Good Friday" possibly comes from "God's Friday," although the exact reason for the current name is unclear.  The custom of venerating the cross on Good Friday probably originated in Jerusalem in the 7th or 8th century, and continues to this day in many Western Churches.  Pre-sanctified Masses are referenced in the documents of the Quinisext Council, which was held in AD 692, which means the practice pre-dates the seventh century.  The Council mentions pre-sanctified liturgies as occurring primarily during Lent.

Mass of the Lord's Supper

In a beautiful and solemn liturgy, our parish began the Sacred Triduum.  

Holy Thursday is the day on which we recall the Lord's Last Supper, the institution of the Priesthood, the institution of the Eucharist, and the "Mandatum" - the command to wash one another's feet.  Jesus celebrated the Last Supper as part of the Passover (or Seder) Meal which commemorates the escape of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  It was during this supper that Jesus offers Himself as THE Paschal Lamb - the Paschal Sacrifice.  Every ordained priest to this day presents this same sacrifice, by Christ's authority and command, in exactly the same way. The Last Supper was also Christ's farewell to His assembled disciples, some of whom would betray, desert or deny Him before the sun rose again.

The Holy Thursday liturgy, celebrated in the evening because Passover began at sundown, also shows both the worth God ascribes to the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water (a symbol of baptism) in the Mandatum, or washing in Jesus' washing the feet of His disciples, and in the priest's stripping and washing the feet of some of his parishioners (in our case, the Knights of the Holy Temple). Cleansing, in fact, gave this day of Holy Week the name Maundy Thursday.

The action of the Church on this night also witnesses to the Church's esteem for Christ's Body present in the consecrated Host in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, carried in solemn procession to the Altar of Repose, where it will remained 'entombed' until the celebration of the Night Prayer of the Church.  The people were invited to come and spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - just as the disciples stayed with the Lord during His agony on the Mount of Olives before the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.

Also during this Mass, the Oils which were consecrated during the Chrism Mass on Monday were officially presented in the parish.  Mrs. Shirley Whittington (who helps coordinate the ministry of taking Holy Communion to the sick and homebound each Sunday) first carried in the Oil of the Sick.  Then Lisa Lewis, one of our Catechumens (one who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil, brought in the Oil of Catechumens.  Finally, one of our Confirmation Students, Taylor, carried in the Sacred Chrism which will be used to anoint the faithful during the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders.

There is such an abundance of symbolism in the solemn celebration of the events of Holy Thursday layer upon layer, in fact that we can no more than hint at it in these few words. For many centuries, the Last Supper of Our Lord has inspired great works of art and literature, such as the glorious stained glass window in Chartres cathedral, Leonardo's ever popular (and much imitated) Last Supper in the 16th century, and the reminiscence called Holy Thursday, by the French novelist, Franasois Mauriac, written in the 1930s. 

Today, our liturgical mind shifts now to the Crucifixion of Christ.  Today we have Morning Prayer at 8am; the Office of Readings at 11:30; the Stations of the Cross at 12noon; and the solemn Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at 7pm this evening. 

The text of the Holy Thursday homily follows: