Dear Sisters and Brothers –
As I write, it’s Easter Monday. As glad as I am that this morning’s pace is far slower than last week’s, I’m also a little sad that the Triduum and Easter Sunday are behind us. We prayed together so, so beautifully, for four days. It was a banquet for our hearts and souls, both individual and collective.
When I sat in the quiet of my room last night and in that of our house chapel this morning, my attention was repeatedly drawn back to Saturday night, to the confirmations: “Catherine [of Sienna], be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” “Niels [Stenson], be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” “Francis [Xavier], be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” “Mary [Mother of God], be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The proscribed response to that formula is, “Amen.” Yet, what I heard most often Saturday night, verily whispered with profound sincerity and authentic awe, was, “Thank you.” The eyes of 18 young adults glistened with joy as brightly as the Chrism that gilded their foreheads and consecrated their lives.
Nine of them had just been baptized. Six of them had just professed their faith in the Catholic Church. Three of them were Catholics completing their sacraments of initiation. (In addition to those 18 were three youths who were baptized, and three more youths who joined the 21 for their First Communion. Twenty-four people in all!)
Consider this for a moment. Since September, since the revelations of last summer that have rocked the universal Church, 18 young adults and six youths had been studying and praying about being Catholic. Some were longing for it, others were investigating it. With great authenticity, all were discerning the call of the Voice that speaks to each of us in the sacred integrity of our hearts. And they said “yes,” to both the Voice and to the Church.
“God continues to call the Church into existence.” These words have remained in my thoughts, conversations and prayer for a number of weeks now. They give flame to my hope, and they stir my imagination. They were the filter through which I listened to those 18 young adults during their retreat on Palm Sunday as they spoke of what they hope from their parish. The common themes were two: they want to feel that they belong to this faith community, and they want to bring their gifts to bear in our existing and potential social justice and formation programs. I was struck by the similarity to the reflections from the prior two weekends in our Why I Am Catholic conversations.
St. Ignatius teaches us to listen to our holiest desires, believing that they come from God and will lead us back to God. He also teaches that each must share with other disciples what she or he hears, and together we can hear how God is speaking to us as a community. Our new Catholics have added to the Why I Am Catholic conversation, and we must continue to listen and discern together, as I believe that all of us want to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, who is clearly moving in and among us. I am still discerning with parish leaders and staff the "hows" and "whens" of that. Please keep this in your prayers.
We would be remiss if we did not take time and ink to thank all those who enabled us to pray so well during Holy Week and Easter. From the Palm Sunday Vigil Mass, with the main aisle dramatically enveloped in palm branches to the last heartfelt Alleluia on Easter Sunday, there are 13 big liturgies, eight of them in less than 65 hours, beginning Holy Thursday night. Meticulous planning began months prior, and scores of parishioners brought those plans to life over the course of the week. These generous people wrote and edited scripts. They hung banners. They ironed and swept. They lifted, and they schlepped. They rehearsed. And they rehearsed. They arranged, and they rearranged, chairs, flowers, vessels, crosses and more. They decorated and undecorated, then decorated again. They stuffed Easter eggs and scattered them for children. They set up and took down. They proclaimed the Word, they ministered the Eucharist, they greeted, they ushered, and they served at the altar.
To all of you who created the experience and wonder of Holy Week and Easter, the rest of us extend our great gratitude to those. We are most grateful for your creativity, long hours, and great generosity. To the members of the Liturgical Environment Committee, our many creative volunteers, and our staff, we say thank you. Holy Week is a smorgasbord of rich fare for the soul, and all of you gave our parish a wonderful gift.
And now, together, let us be inspired by the readings from the Acts of the Apostles we’ll be hearing throughout the Easter season, and let us be about the building up of Jesus’ Church.
Oremus pro invicem.