Tag Archives: holy thursday

Dear Benedict: Go to hell!

This print from Martin Luther’s Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft, (Against the Papacy founded by the Devil, 1545) depicts the Pope with ass’s ears sitting on a pyre erected in the mouth of Hell, represented by an enormous monster. The Pope, with hands held together in prayer is surrounded by demons who fly around him and hold the papal tiara above his head.

Reform minded blindness

It is Holy Thursday.  The day during Holy Week that the church commemorates the institution of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Ordination. I will spend the entire evening and into the early morning hours of Good Friday alone in the church praying with Jesus Christ–body, blood, soul, and divinity truly present within the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar–The Eucharist.

This morning I learned who I’ll be praying for: Pope Benedict The XVI and all who have validly received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. But, particularly those who have strayed from the promises they made at ordination.

I will also be praying for this terribly misguided soul who just today wrote on the Facebook page of the dissident group, Call To Action, these very words:

Dear Benedict: Go to hell!

Note: As of 5pm P.S.T. Call To Action has yet to delete the offensive remark… To leave a charitable protest you can find their site here.

Father Corapi Easter Blessing: This Holy Week and the Rest of Your Life

 

Fr. John Corapi
Fr. John Corapi

As I write this it is safe to say that there is more fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and distrust of authority than at any other time in my lifetime of over sixty years. This can be said for the United States and for most other countries in the Western world, probably the entire world. 

Why? 

The secular and worldly thinker will come up with a veritable flock of cackling, screeching, barking, whining and screaming excuses. 

They will all be wrong.

To understand our tenuous position, one must go to the order of causes rather than mere effects. The serious illness we see manifest socially, economically, and politically has its origin in the moral and spiritual realm. 

To be blunt and to the point, it concerns that “dour combat with the forces of evil” that haunts the entire history of humanity. 

We have divorced God in the public sphere. We have evicted the Owner of the house, forgetting that nature abhors a vacuum. If we reject the One that is Goodness and Truth, then it is guaranteed that He will be replaced by the one who is the “father of lies and murderer from the beginning,” as Jesus referred to the ancient adversary of man-Satan or the devil. 

If you don’t believe that you don’t believe in the existence of either the enemy or the war…You will have little chance to survive.

The newest spectator sport in America is watching the disintegration of the great nations of the world on the cable news networks. Each day there is more drama and adventure in the news than the wildest of fiction. Every day you have to worry

What’s next?” 

Mass murders multiply-in the workplace, in schools, public places, private homes. It is a frightening and sobering spectacle. The pundits marvel: How could it happen? Who could do that? The unthinkable becomes commonplace. The largest corporations vaporized in the twinkling of an eye. The net worth of millions of people cut in half in a matter of months. The politicians bluster and threaten. CEOs of major corporations fired by politicians, one wonders if the banking industry, the auto industry, the energy industries, etc. will soon be nationalized. Will the United States end up like some insolvent Third-World country. Will we bring wheelbarrows full of dollars to the checkout counter at Walmart soon for a few household items?

Why wonder?
We’ve divorced God.
.. 
Countries call abortion the “law of the land.” 

Can such societies that espouse what is tantamount to genocide be pleasing to God? 
Can they survive for long?

Please recall that this:

During Holy Week we celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ over all of this avalanche of sin, Satan, and death. He nailed it to the Cross. “Dying He destroyed our death. Rising He restored our life.” It is necessary that we enter into the Paschal mystery one person at a time, fully and seriously. Live in a state of grace. Do not persist in sin, for your life and mine is shorter than we think. The only way a family, a school, a parish, a city, a country, or a world can be healed is one person at a time.

All of the suffering and darkness of Good Friday finds its meaning in the burst of Light that is Easter morning. All of the fear, the insecurity, and the uncertainty; all of the betrayal, the mockery, and the suffering are vanquished by the glory of the Cross. No pain, no gain! No cross, no crown! No battle, no glory.

So stop worrying! 

Trust the Lord Jesus...

After all, He is the Savior, and only He is the Savior. Place your trust in Him. All of this is really small potatoes. It simply provides a proving ground for saints. That’s all. We have no lasting dwelling in this valley of tears. It is the crucible wherein imperfect human beings are transformed by the fire of trial and the power of grace into the pure gold of God’s holy ones.

In the twinkling of an eye this will be over and we’ll stand before Jesus, Who will wipe away every tear, and having been faithful to our Faith we’ll hear those beautiful words:

“Well done my good and faithful servant! Now at last enter into the joy of your Master’s house.”

A blessed Holy Week to you, and may the Light and glory of Easter comfort you in your struggles and confirm you in your faith.

Fr. John Corapi

Fratres Daily Mass Readings: Holy Thursday, ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ 03.20.08

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Reading 1
Ex 12:1-8, 11-14

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
“This month shall stand at the head of your calendar;
you shall reckon it the first month of the year.
Tell the whole community of Israel:
On the tenth of this month every one of your families
must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household.
If a family is too small for a whole lamb,
it shall join the nearest household in procuring one
and shall share in the lamb
in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.
The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.
You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month,
and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present,
it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.
They shall take some of its blood
and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel
of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh
with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

“This is how you are to eat it:
with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the LORD.
For on this same night I will go through Egypt,
striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast,
and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD!
But the blood will mark the houses where you are.
Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.

“This day shall be a memorial feast for you,
which all your generations shall celebrate
with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18

R. (cf. 1 Cor 10:16) Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
 in the presence of all his people.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.

Reading II
1 Cor 11:23-26

Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Gospel
Jn 13:1-15

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Source

Look To The Cross: Archbishop John Vlazny

                                    vlazny.gifWhen the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and even St. Patrick have to step aside to make room for something else, you know it has to be important. With Holy Week and Easter Week on the horizon, feasts of Mary, of Joseph and of the great Irish evangelizer are not being observed on their traditional dates this year. Mary’s Annunciation will be celebrated on Monday, April 7. St. Joseph’s Day is Saturday, March 15. St. Patrick’s Day is being observed on a variety of days, depending on the local pastor. Liturgically, it’s not on our calendar here this year.

            Yes, Holy Week and Easter Week are the centerpiece of the liturgical year of our Catholic family. It all begins on Palm Sunday with the blessing of the palms and the procession into our churches. It concludes on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 6, when we acknowledge that the paschal mystery of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection is the reason we are all confident that healing and reconciliation are indeed possible.

            This week I would like to say something about Holy Week in our parishes. Next week I will focus on our great Easter feast, one that actually lasts not just for a week but for several weeks. The news of the Lord’s resurrection is so good that one day or one week could never be enough to celebrate all those wonderful events that happened outside Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago.

            In his Holy Thursday homily last year, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the apparent contradiction between the gospel of St. John and the synoptic gospels about the Last Supper of Jesus. According to John, Jesus died on the cross precisely when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the temple. Matthew, Mark and Luke suggest that the Last Supper was truly a Passover meal at which a slain lamb was already the centerpiece. Until the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran were discovered several decades ago, most exegetes concurred with the synoptics, believing that John was hesitant to tell the true historical date of the death of Jesus and chose a symbolic date. But the discovery of the scrolls now leads us to believe that John’s account is historically accurate.

            As our Holy Father relates, Jesus shed his own blood at the very time of the immolation of the lambs. More than likely He celebrated the Passover supper without a lamb, like the Qumran community. When Jesus celebrated the Passover with his friends, the lamb present was not one that had been sacrificed in the temple. The lamb was Jesus, who the next day gave himself, his own body and blood, for the salvation of the world!

            You may recall that at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus was pointed out by John the Baptist who said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29) When Jesus was nailed to the cross on Good Friday, He himself became the lamb of sacrifice. It is for that reason that the cross has become the focal point of the new Passover of Jesus which we Christians celebrate whenever we gather for Eucharist. On Holy Thursday evening we commemorate the institution of the most Blessed Sacrament of the altar. We receive Holy Communion with reverence and we spend a good part of the night in adoration before the Lamb present among us in the tabernacle of our altar.

            Another major celebration for us each year is the Mass of the Blessing of Holy Oils. According to the liturgical books, it should be celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday. But diocesan bishops are given permission to celebrate this liturgy at a time when priests may more conveniently gather to concelebrate this important Eucharist with their bishop. Here in the Archdiocese of Portland we celebrate this Mass on Monday night of Holy Week. Given the great distances many of our priests must travel, it would not be feasible for them to be present at the cathedral on Holy Thursday morning and then return in time to their parishes for the Holy Thursday evening liturgy. I am grateful each year for the wonderful turnout of religious and laity for this liturgical celebration.

            Through the Eucharist we are nourished with the very life of Jesus on our journey of faith. But the holy oils blessed each year before Easter also mark us in a very unique way as God’s holy people, chosen to be the instruments of his evangelizing mission in today’s world.

            The oil of the sick is usually reserved for healing in our parish communities. We still have some folks who misunderstand the use of this sacramental oil, waiting to call a priest for the sacred anointing only at the time of death. The name of the sacrament was changed years ago from Extreme Unction to the Anointing of the Sick so that people would understand the nature of these prayers for healing and forgiveness. The sacraments for the dying are Reconciliation and Viaticum, that is, Holy Communion, the important spiritual nourishment we need for the final and sometimes difficult steps on the journey of faith.

            The oil of catechumens is used to prepare those about to receive the sacraments of Initiation so that they will be assisted by the grace of God in their struggle with temptation and evil. On the very first Sunday of Lent we meditated on the temptations of Jesus. Like the Lord himself, we too are prompted by the devil to seek prestige, power and possessions rather than the will of God. Jesus resisted the temptations. It’s a much more difficult task for us, just as it was for our first parents, Adam and Eve. We see all around us how people want to be their own gods, controlling life and death, decrying virtue and embracing freedom in all things, even in the realm of what is both unhealthy and unholy.

            The final oil that we bless before Easter each year is the sacred chrism, our “Christ oil,” the sacramental sign whereby in Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders Christians are set aside to be “other Christs,” bringing the love and care of Jesus to all around us. We all are gifted with the royal priesthood of Jesus in Baptism and re-anointed with chrism at Confirmation to remind us that the gift is one meant to be shared. Some are anointed again through Holy Orders so that they might carry on the servant-ministry of Jesus as did the first apostles.

            There is much to ponder in Holy Week each year. It is a most sacred time. I encourage all of you to attend the liturgical services in your parish churches throughout the week. Please pray for all of us clergy, bishops, priests and deacons, and all our lay pastoral ministers who have come among you to serve and not to be served. When we look to the cross throughout Holy Week, we do so with great love, abiding hope, and renewed faith that this Jesus who loved us to the end still lives among us and will be with us until our end.

Source: Catholic Sentinel

Pope John Paul II: Letter For Holy Thursday 2001

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Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

            1. On the day when the Lord Jesus gave to the Church the gift of the Eucharist, and with it instituted our priesthood, I cannot but address to you — as is now traditional — a word of friendship and, I might say, of intimacy, wishing to join you in thanksgiving and praise.

            Lauda Sion, Salvatorem, lauda ducem et pastorem, in hymnis et canticis! Great indeed is the mystery of which we have been made ministers. A mystery of love without limit, for “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1); a mystery of unity, which from the source of Trinitarian life is poured out upon us in order to make us “one” in the gift of the Spirit (cf. Jn 17); a mystery of divine diakonia which prompts the Word made flesh to wash the feet of his creation, thus showing that service is the high road in all genuine relationships between people: “You also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:15).

Of this great mystery we have been made, in a special way, witnesses and ministers.

            2. This is the first Holy Thursday after the Great Jubilee. What we have experienced together with our communities, in that special celebration of mercy, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, now becomes the incentive to continue the journey. Duc in altum! The Lord invites us to put out into the deep, with trust in his word. Let us learn from the Jubilee experience and persevere in the task of bearing witness to the Gospel with the enthusiasm that contemplating the face of Christ engenders in us!

            As I in fact stressed in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, we must start out from Christ, in order to be open, in him, with the “ineffable” groanings of the Spirit (cf. Rom 8:26), to the embrace of the Father: “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6). Christ must be our point of departure in rediscovering the source and the profound rationale of our brotherhood: “As I have loved you, you also must love one another” (Jn 13:34).

            3. Today I wish to express to each of you my gratitude for all that you did during the Jubilee Year to ensure that the people entrusted to your care might experience more intensely the saving presence of the Risen Lord. At this time, I am also thinking of the work you do every day, work that is often hidden and, without making headlines, causes the Kingdom of God to advance in people’s minds and hearts. I want you to know of my admiration for this ministry, discreet, tenacious and creative, even if it is sometimes watered by those tears of the soul which only God sees and “stores in his bottle” (cf. Ps 56:8). Your ministry is all the more admirable when it is tested by the resistance of a widely secularized environment, which subjects priestly activity to the temptations of fatigue and discouragement. You well know that such daily commitment is precious in the eyes of God.

            At the same time, I wish to echo the voice of Christ who continuously calls us to deepen our relationship with him. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev 3:20). Chosen to proclaim Christ, we are first of all invited to live in intimacy with him: we cannot give to others what we ourselves do not have! There is a thirst for Christ which, despite many appearances to the contrary, emerges even in contemporary society; it is present among all the inconsistencies of new forms of spirituality; it can be seen even where, on important ethical issues, the Church’s witness becomes a sign of contradiction. This thirst for Christ — whether conscious or not — cannot be quenched with empty words. Only authentic witnesses can communicate in a credible way the word that saves.

            4. In my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte I said that the true legacy of the Great Jubilee is the experience of a more intense encounter with Christ. From among the many aspects of this encounter, today I would like to choose for this reflection the theme of sacramental reconciliation: this too was a central feature of the Jubilee Year, also because it is closely connected with the gift of the Jubilee indulgence.

            Here in Rome, and I am sure that you too had similar experiences in your local Churches, one of the most visible manifestations of the Jubilee was certainly the exceptional numbers of people receiving the Sacrament of mercy. Even non-religious observers were impressed by this. The confessionals in Saint Peter’s and in the other Basilicas were “stormed”, as it were, by pilgrims, who often had to wait in long queues, patiently waiting their turn. The interest shown by young people in this Sacrament during the splendid week of their Jubilee was particularly significant.

            5. As you well know, in recent decades this Sacrament has passed through a certain crisis, for a number of reasons. Precisely in order to tackle this crisis, in 1984 a Synod was held, the conclusions of which were presented in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia.

            It would be naive to think that the mere intensifying of the practice of the Sacrament of forgiveness during the Jubilee Year is proof of a definitive turnabout. It was nevertheless an encouraging sign. It impels us to recognize that the profound needs of the human spirit, to which God’s saving plan responds, cannot be cancelled out by temporary crises. We should accept this Jubilee indication as a sign from on high, and make it a reason for renewed boldness in re-proposing the meaning and practice of this Sacrament.

            6. But it is not so much on pastoral problems that I wish to dwell. Holy Thursday, the special day of our vocation, calls us to reflect above all on “who we are”, and in particular on our journey to holiness. It is from this source too that our apostolic zeal will flow.

            So, as we gaze upon Christ at the Last Supper, as he becomes for us the “bread that is broken”, as he stoops down in humble service at the feet of the Apostles, how can we not experience, together with Peter, the same feeling of unworthiness in the face of the greatness of the gift received? “You shall never wash my feet” (Jn 13:8). Peter was wrong to reject Christ’s gesture. But he was right to feel unworthy of it. It is important, on this day of love par excellence, that we should feel the grace of the priesthood as a super-abundance of mercy.

Mercy is the absolutely free initiative by which God has chosen us: “You did not choose me but I chose you” (Jn 15:16).

Mercy is his deigning to call us to act as his representatives, though he knows that we are sinners.

Mercy is the forgiveness which he never refuses us, as he did not refuse it to Peter after his betrayal. The avowal that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Lk 15:7) also holds true for us.

            7. Let us then rediscover our vocation as a “mystery of mercy”. In the Gospel we find that Peter receives his special ministry with precisely this spiritual attitude. His experience is indicative for all those who have received the apostolic task in the different grades of the Sacrament of Orders.

            Our thoughts turn to the scene of the miraculous catch of fish as described in the Gospel of Luke (5:1-11). Jesus asks Peter for an act of trust in his word, inviting him to put out into the deep for a catch. A disconcerting request, humanly speaking: after a sleepless and exhausting night spent casting the nets with no result, how could one believe him? But trying again, “at Jesus’ word”, changes everything. The fish arrive in such quantities as to tear the nets. The Word reveals his power. The result is wonder, but also fear and trembling, as when we are unexpectedly struck by an intense beam of light which lays bare all our personal limits. Peter exclaims: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). But scarcely has he uttered his admission when the Master’s mercy becomes for him the beginning of new life: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men” (Lk 5:10). The “sinner” becomes a minister of mercy. From a fisher of fish to a “fisher of men”!

            8. Dear priests, this is a great mystery: Christ was not afraid to choose his ministers from among sinners. Is not this our own experience? It is Peter once again who will become more aware of this in his touching dialogue with Jesus after the Resurrection. Before entrusting him with the mandate to care for the flock, the Master asks the embarrassing question: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Jn 21:15). The one being questioned is the very man who a few days earlier had denied him three times. It is easy to understand the humble tone of his reply: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). And it is on the basis of this love, which knows all too well its own frailty, a love professed with both trust and hesitation, that Peter receives the commission: “Feed my lambs”, “feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15, 16, 17). It will be on the basis of this love, strengthened by the fire of Pentecost, that Peter will be able to accomplish the ministry entrusted to him.

            9. And is it not within an experience of mercy that Paul’s vocation too is born? No one experienced the gratuitousness of Christ’s choice as vividly as he did. His past as a ferocious persecutor of the Church seared itself deep into his soul: “I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God” (1 Cor 15:9). Yet, far from stifling his enthusiasm, this memory made it soar. The more he was embraced by mercy, the more Paul felt the need to bear witness to it and to let it shine forth in his life. The “voice” which speaks to him on the road to Damascus leads him to the heart of the Gospel, and enables him to discover the Gospel as the merciful love of the Father who in Christ is reconciling the world to himself. On this basis, Paul will also understand apostolic service as the ministry of reconciliation: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting men’s trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18-19).

            10. Dear priests, the witness of Peter and Paul contains valuable pointers for us. Their lives invite us to live the gift of the ministry with a sense of endless thanksgiving: nothing is due to our merits, all is grace! The experience of the two Apostles prompts us to abandon ourselves to the mercy of God, to give over to him in sincere repentance our frailties, and with his grace to set out again on our journey to holiness. In Novo Millennio Ineunte I indicated the commitment to holiness as the first element of all wise pastoral “planning”. It is the basic task of all believers, so how much more must it be for us (cf. Nos. 30-31)!

            For this very reason it is important for us to rediscover the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a fundamental means of our sanctification. Approaching a brother priest in order to ask for the absolution that we so often give to the faithful enables us to live the great and consoling truth that, before being ministers, we are all members of the same people, a “saved” people. What Augustine said of his task as bishop is true also of the service of priests: “If I am anxious about being for you, I am consoled by being with you. For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian … In the first there is danger, in the second there is salvation” (Discourses, 340, 1). It is wonderful to be able to confess our sins, and to hear as a balm the word which floods us with mercy and sends us on our way again. Only those who have known the Father’s tender embrace, as the Gospel describes it in the parable of the Prodigal Son — “he embraced him and kissed him” (Lk 15:20) — only they can pass on to others the same warmth, when after receiving pardon themselves they administer it to others.

            11. On this holy day, therefore, let us ask Christ to help us to rediscover, for ourselves, the full beauty of this Sacrament. Did not Jesus himself help Peter to make this discovery? “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me” (Jn 13:8). Jesus of course was not referring directly to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but in some sense he was pointing to it, alluding to that process of purification which would begin with his redeeming Death, and to its sacramental application to individuals down the ages.

            Dear priests, let us make regular use of this Sacrament, that the Lord may constantly purify our hearts and make us less unworthy of the mysteries which we celebrate. Since we are called to show forth the face of the Good Shepherd, and therefore to have the heart of Christ himself, we more than others must make our own the Psalmist’s ardent cry: “A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps 51:12). The Sacrament of Reconciliation, essential for every Christian life, is especially a source of support, guidance and healing for the priestly life.

            12. The priest who fully experiences the joy of sacramental reconciliation will find it altogether normal to repeat to his brothers and sisters the words of Paul: “So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).

            The crisis of the Sacrament of Reconciliation which I mentioned earlier is due to many factors from the diminished sense of sin to an inadequate realization of the sacramental economy of God’s salvation. But perhaps we should also recognize that another factor sometimes working against the Sacrament has been a certain dwindling of our own enthusiasm and availability for the exercise of this delicate and demanding ministry.

            Conversely, now more than ever the People of God must be helped to rediscover the Sacrament. We need to declare with firmness and conviction that the Sacrament of Penance is the ordinary means of obtaining pardon and the remission of grave sins committed after Baptism. We ought to celebrate the Sacrament in the best possible way, according to the forms laid down by liturgical law, so that it may lose none of its character as the celebration of God’s mercy.

            13. A source of renewed confidence in the revival of this Sacrament is not only the fact that, despite many incongruities, a new and urgent need for spirituality is becoming widespread in society. There is also a deeply-felt need for interpersonal contact, which is increasingly experienced as a reaction to the anonymous mass society which often leaves people interiorly isolated, even when it involves them in a flurry of purely functional relationships. Obviously sacramental confession is not to be confused with a support system or with psychotherapy. But neither should we underestimate the fact that the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when correctly celebrated, also has a “humanizing” effect, which is in perfect harmony with its primary purpose of reconciling the individual with God and the Church.

            Here too, it is important that the minister of reconciliation should fulfil his role correctly. His ability to be welcoming, to be a good listener and to engage in dialogue, together with his ready accessibility, is essential if the ministry of reconciliation is to be seen in all its value. The faithful and uncompromising proclamation of the radical demands of God’s word must always be accompanied by great understanding and sensitivity, in imitation of Jesus’ own way of dealing with sinners.

            14. The liturgical form of the Sacrament also needs to be given due attention. The Sacrament forms part of the structure of communion which is the mark of the Church. Sin itself cannot be properly understood if it is viewed in a purely “private” way, forgetting that it inevitably affects the entire community and lowers the level of holiness within it. Moreover, the offer of forgiveness expresses a mystery of supernatural solidarity, since its sacramental significance rests on the profound union between Christ the Head and the members of his Body.

            It is extremely important to help people recover this “community” aspect of the Sacrament, also by means of community penance services which conclude with individual confession and absolution. This manner of celebration enables the faithful to appreciate better the two-fold dimension of reconciliation, and commits them more effectively to following the penitential path in all its revitalizing richness.

            15. Then there is also the fundamental problem of catechetical teaching about the moral conscience and about sin, so that people can have a clearer idea of the radical demands of the Gospel. Unfortunately, there exists a minimalist tendency which prevents the Sacrament from producing all the benefits that we might hope for. Many of the faithful have an idea of sin that is not based on the Gospel but on common convention, on what is socially “acceptable”. This makes them feel not particularly responsible for things that “everybody does”, and all the more so if these things are permitted by civil law.

            Evangelization in the third millennium must come to grips with the urgent need for a presentation of the Gospel message which is dynamic, complete and demanding. The Christian life to be aimed at cannot be reduced to a mediocre commitment to “goodness” as society defines it; it must be a true quest for holiness. We need to re-read with fresh enthusiasm the fifth chapter of Lumen Gentium, which deals with the universal call to holiness. Being a Christian means to receive a “gift” of sanctifying grace which cannot fail to become a “commitment” to respond personally to that gift in everyday life. It is precisely for this reason that I have sought over the years to foster a wider recognition of holiness, in all the contexts where it has appeared, so that Christians can have many different models of holiness, and all can be reminded that they are personally called to this goal.

            16. Dear Brother Priests, let us go forward in the joy of our ministry, knowing that we have at our side the One who called us and does not abandon us. May the certainty of his presence sustain and console us.

            On Holy Thursday may we have an even more vivid sense of this presence, as we contemplate with deep emotion the hour when Jesus, in the Upper Room, gave himself to us under the signs of bread and wine, sacramentally anticipating the sacrifice of the Cross. Last year I wrote to you from the Upper Room itself, during my visit to the Holy Land. How can I forget that touching moment? I re-live it today, not without sorrow for the tragic situation which persists in the land of Christ.

            Our spiritual meeting-place on Holy Thursday is still there, in the Upper Room, as we celebrate in union with the Bishops in the cathedrals of the whole world the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ and gratefully recall the origins of our Priesthood.

In the joy of the immense gift which we have all received, I embrace you all and give you my blessing.

From the Vatican, on 25 March, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, in the year 2001, the twenty-third of my Pontificate.

JOHN PAUL II

Holy Week 2008

Holy Week

            jesus-and-the-twelve.jpg“In Holy Week, the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of the earthly life, beginning with his messianic entry into Jerusalem”(141).

            The people are notably involved in the rites of Holy Week. Many of them still bear the traces of their origins in popular piety. It has come about, however, that in the course of the centauries, a form of celebrative parallelism has arisen in the Rites of Holy Week, resulting in two cycles each with its own specific character: one is strictly liturgical, the other is marked by particular pious exercise, especially processions.

            This divergence should be oriented towards a correct harmonisation of the liturgical celebrations and pious exercises. Indeed, the attention and interest in manifestations of popular piety, traditionally observed among the people, should lead to a correct appreciation of the liturgical actions, which are supported by popular piety.

 

Palm Sunday 

Palms, olive branches and other fronds

            Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, or “Passion Sunday”, which unites the royal splendour of Christ with the proclamation of his Passion”(142).

            The procession, commemorating Christ’s messianic entry into Jerusalem, is joyous and popular in character. The faithful usually keep palm or olive branches, or other greenery which have been blessed on Palm Sunday in their homes or in their work places.

            The faithful, however, should be instructed as to the meaning of this celebration so that they might grasp its significance. They should be opportunely reminded that the important thing is participation at the procession and not only the obtaining of palm or olive branches. Palms or olive branches should not be kept as amulets, or for therapeutic or magical reasons to dispel evil spirits or to prevent the damage these cause in the fields or in the homes, all of which can assume a certain superstitious guise.

            Palms and olive branches are kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ, the messianic king, and in his Paschal Victory.

 

The Paschal Triduum 

            Every year, the Church celebrates the great mysteries of the redemption of mankind in the “most sacred triduum of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection”(143). The Sacred Triduum extends from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper to Vespers on Easter Sunday and is celebrated “in intimate communion with Christ her Spouse”(144).

 

Holy Thursday  

Visiting the Altar of Repose

            Popular piety is particularly sensitive to the adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the wake of the Mass of the Lord’s supper(145). Because of a long historical process, whose origins are not entirely clear, the place of repose has traditionally been referred to as a “a holy sepulchre”. The faithful go there to venerate Jesus who was placed in a tomb following the crucifixion and in which he remained for some forty hours.

            It is necessary to instruct the faithful on the meaning of the reposition: it is an austere solemn conservation of the Body of Christ for the community of the faithful which takes part in the liturgy of Good Friday and for the viaticum of the infirmed(146). It is an invitation to silent and prolonged adoration of the wondrous sacrament instituted by Jesus on this day.

            In reference to the altar of repose, therefore, the term “sepulchre” should be avoided, and its decoration should not have any suggestion of a tomb. The tabernacle on this altar should not be in the form of a tomb or funerary urn. The Blessed Sacrament should be conserved in a closed tabernacle and should not be exposed in a monstrance.

            After mid-night on Holy Thursday, the adoration should conclude without solemnity, since the day of the Lord’s Passion has already begun.

 

Good Friday  

Good Friday Procession

            The Church celebrates the redemptive death of Christ on Good Friday. The Church meditates on the Lord’s Passion in the afternoon liturgical action, in which she prays for the salvation of the word, adores the Cross and commemorates her very origin in the sacred wound in Christ’s side (cf. John 19, 34)(149).

            In addition to the various forms of popular piety on Good Friday such as the Via Crucis, the passion processions are undoubtedly the most important. These correspond, after the fashion of popular piety, to the small procession of friends and disciples who, having taken the body of Jesus down from the Cross, carried it to the place where there “was a tomb hewn in the rock in which no one had yet been buried” (Lk 23, 53).

            The procession of the “dead Christ” is usually conducted in austere silence, prayer, and the participation of many of the faithful, who intuit much of the significance of the Lord’s burial.

            It is necessary, however, to ensure that such manifestations of popular piety, either by time or the manner in which the faithful are convoked, do not become a surrogate for the liturgical celebrations of Good Friday.

            In the pastoral planning of Good Friday primary attention and maximum importance must be given to the solemn liturgical action and the faithful must be brought to realize that no other exercise can objectively substitute for this liturgical celebration.

            Finally, the integration of the “dead Christ” procession with the solemn liturgical action of Good Friday should be avoided for such would constitute a distorted celebrative hybrid.

Passion Plays

            In many countries, passion plays take place during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday. These are often “sacred representations”which can justly be regarded as pious exercises. Indeed, such sacred representations have their origins in the Sacred Liturgy. Some of these plays, which began in the monks’ choir, so as to speak, have undergone a progressive dramatisation that has taken them outside of the church.

            In some places, responsibility for the representations of the Lord’s passion has been given over to the Confraternities, whose members have assumed particular responsibilities to live the Christian life. In such representations, actors and spectators are involved in a movement of faith and genuine piety. It is singularly important to ensure that representations of the Lord’s Passion do not deviate from this pure line of sincere and gratuitous piety, or take on the characteristics of folk productions, which are not so much manifestations of piety as tourist attractions.

            In relation to sacred “representations” it is important to instruct the faithful on the difference between a “representation” which is commemorative, and the “liturgical actions” which are anamnesis, or mysterious presence of the redemptive event of the Passion.

            Penitential practices leading to self-crucifixion with nails are not to be encouraged.

Our Lady of Dolours

            Because of its doctrinal and pastoral importance, it is recommended that “the memorial of Our Lady of Dolours”(150) should be recalled. Popular piety, following the Gospel account, emphasizes the association of Mary with the saving Passion her Son (cf, John 19, 25-27; Lk 2, 34f), and has given rise to many pious exercises, including:

  • the Planctus Mariae, an intense expression of sorrow, often accompanied by literary or musical pieces of a very high quality, in which Our Lady cries not only for the death of her Son, the Innocent, Holy, and Good One, but also for the errors of his people and the sins of mankind;

  • the Ora della Desolata, in which the faithful devoutly keep vigil with the Mother of Our Lord, in her abandonment and profound sorrow following the death of her only Son; they contemplate Our Lady as she receives the dead body of Christ (the Pietà) realizing that the sorrow of the world for the Lord’s death finds expression in Mary; in her they behold the personification of all mothers throughout the ages who have mourned the loss of a son. This pious exercise, which in some parts of Latin America is called El Pésame, should not be limited merely to the expression of emotion before a sorrowing mother. Rather, with faith in the resurrection, it should assist in understanding the greatness of Christ’s redemptive love and his Mother’s participation in it.

 

Holy Saturday 

            “On Holy Saturday, the Church pauses at the Lord’s tomb, meditating his Passion and Death, his descent into Hell, and, with prayer and fasting, awaits his resurrection”(151).

            Popular piety should not be impervious to the peculiar character of Holy Saturday. The festive customs and practices connected with this day, on which the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection was once anticipated, should be reserved for the vigil and for Easter Sunday.

The “Ora della Madre”

            According to tradition, the entire body of the Church is represented in Mary: she is the “credentium collectio universa”(152). Thus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she waits near the Lord’s tomb, as she is represented in Christian tradition, is an icon of the Virgin Church keeping vigil at the tomb of her Spouse while awaiting the celebration of his resurrection.

            The pious exercise of the Ora di Maria is inspired by this intuition of the relationship between the Virgin Mary and the Church: while the body of her Son lays in the tomb and his soul has descended to the dead to announce liberation from the shadow of darkness to his ancestors, the Blessed Virgin Mary, foreshadowing and representing the Church, awaits, in faith, the victorious triumph of her Son over death.

 

Easter Sunday 

            Easter Sunday, the greatest solemnity in the liturgical year, is often associated with many displays of popular piety: these are all cultic expressions which proclaim the new and glorious condition of the risen Christ, and the divine power released from his triumph over sin and death.

The Risen Christ meets his Mother

            Popular piety intuits a constancy in the relationship between Christ and his mother: in suffering and death and in the joy of the resurrection.

            The liturgical affirmation that God replenished the Blessed Virgin Mary with joy in the resurrection of her Son(153), has been translated and represented, so as to speak, in the pious exercise of the meeting of the Risen Christ with His Mother: on Easter morning two processions, one bearing the image of Our Lady of Dolours, the other that of the Risen Christ, meet each other so as to show that Our Lady was the first, and full participant in the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection.

            What has already been said in relation to the processions of “the dead Christ” also applies to this pious exercise: the observance of the pious exercise should not acquire greater importance than the liturgical celebration of Easter Sunday nor occasion inappropriate mixing of liturgical expressions with those of popular piety(154).

Blessing of the Family Table

            The Easter liturgy is permeated by a sense of newness: nature has been renewed, since Easter coincides with Spring in the Northern hemisphere; fire and water have been renewed; Christian hearts have been renewed through the Sacrament of Penance, and, where possible, through administration of the Sacraments of Christian initiation; the Eucharist is renewed, so as to speak: these are signs and sign-realities of the new life begun by Christ in the resurrection.

            Among the pious exercises connected with Easter Sunday, mention must be made of the traditional blessing of eggs, the symbol of life, and the blessing of the family table; this latter, which is a daily habit in many Christian families that should be encouraged(155), is particularly important on Easter Sunday: the head of the household or some other member of the household, blesses the festive meal with Easter water which is brought by the faithful from the Easter Vigil.

Visit to the Mother of the Risen Christ

            At the conclusion of the Easter Vigil, or following the Second Vespers of Easter, a short pious exercise is kept in many places: flowers are blessed and distributed to the faithful as a sign of Easter joy. Some are brought to the image of Our Lady of Dolours, which is then crowned, as the Regina Coeli is sung. The faithful, having associated themselves with the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin in the Lord’s Passion and Death, now rejoice with her in His resurrection.

            While this pious exercise should not be incorporated into the liturgical action, it is completely in harmony with the content of the Paschal Mystery and is a further example of the manner in which popular piety grasps the Blessed Virgin Mary’s association with the saving work of her Son.

 

Eastertide 

The Annual Blessing of Family Homes

            The annual blessing of families takes places in their homes during Eastertide – or at other times of the year. This pastoral practice is highly recommended to parish priests and to their assistant priests since it is greatly appreciated by the faithful and affords a precious occasion to recollect God’s constant presence among Christian families. It is also an opportunity to invite the faithful to live according to the Gospel, and to exhort parents and children to preserve and promote the mystery of being “a domestic church”.

The Via Lucis

            A pious exercise called the Via Lucis has developed and spread to many regions in recent years. Following the model of the Via Crucis, the faithful process while meditating on the various appearances of Jesus – from his Resurrection to his Ascension – in which he showed his glory to the disciples who awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14, 26; 16, 13-15; Lk 24, 49), strengthened their faith, brought to completion his teaching on the Kingdom and more closely defined the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church.

            Through the Via Lucis, the faithful recall the central event of the faith – the resurrection of Christ – and their discipleship in virtue of Baptism, the paschal sacrament by which they have passed from the darkness of sin to the bright radiance of the light of grace (cf. Col 1, 13; Ef 5, 8).

            For centuries the Via Crucis involved the faithful in the first moment of the Easter event, namely the Passion, and helped to fixed its most important aspects in their consciousness. Analogously, the Via Lucis, when celebrated in fidelity to the Gospel text, can effectively convey a living understanding to the faithful of the second moment of the Pascal event, namely the Lord’s Resurrection.

            The Via Lucis is potentially an excellent pedagogy of the faith, since “per crucem ad lucem”. Using the metaphor of a journey, the Via Lucis moves from the experience of suffering, which in God’s plan is part of life, to the hope of arriving at man’s true end: liberation, joy and peace which are essentially paschal values.

            The Via Lucis is a potential stimulus for the restoration of a “culture of life” which is open to the hope and certitude offered by faith, in a society often characterized by a “culture of death”, despair and nihilism.

Devotion to the Divine Mercy

            In connection with the octave of Easter, recent years have witnessed the development and diffusion of a special devotion to the Divine Mercy based on the writings of Sr. Faustina Kowalska who was canonized 30 April 2000. It concentrates on the mercy poured forth in Christ’s death and resurrection, fount of the Holy Spirit who forgives sins and restores joy at having been redeemed. Since the liturgy of the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday – as it is now called – is the natural locus in which to express man’s acceptance of the Redeemer’s mercy, the faithful should be taught to understand this devotion in the light of the liturgical celebrations of these Easter days. Indeed, “the paschal Christ is the definitive incarnation of mercy, his living sign which is both historico-salvific and eschatological. At the same time, the Easter liturgy places the words of the psalm on our lips: “I shall sing forever of the Lord’s mercy” (Ps 89[88] 2)”.

The Pentecost Novena

            The New Testament tells us that during the period between the Ascension and Pentecost “all…joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1, 14) while they awaited being “clothed with the power from on high” (Lk 24, 49). The pious exercise of the Pentecost novena, widely practised among the faithful, emerged from prayerful reflection on this salvific event.

            Indeed, this novena is already present in the Missal and in the Liturgy of the Hours, especially in the second vespers of Pentecost: the biblical and eucological texts, in different ways, recall the disciples’ expectation of the Paraclete. Where possible, the Pentecost novena should consist of the solemn celebration of vespers. Where such is not possible, the novena should try to reflect the liturgical themes of the days from Ascension to the Vigil of Pentecost.

            In some places, the week of prayer for the unity Christians is celebrated at this time.

Source: Directory of Popular Piety

Death Into Life: Lent leads into the Holy Week

Holy Week

138. “In Holy Week, the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of the earthly life, beginning with his messianic entry into Jerusalem”(141).

The people are notably involved in the rites of Holy Week. Many of them still bear the traces of their origins in popular piety. It has come about, however, that in the course of the centauries, a form of celebrative parallelism has arisen in the Rites of Holy Week, resulting in two cycles each with its own specific character: one is strictly liturgical, the other is marked by particular pious exercise, especially processions.

This divergence should be oriented towards a correct harmonisation of the liturgical celebrations and pious exercises. Indeed, the attention and interest in manifestations of popular piety, traditionally observed among the people, should lead to a correct appreciation of the liturgical actions, which are supported by popular piety.

Palm Sunday 

Palms, olive branches and other fronds

139. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, or “Passion Sunday”, which unites the royal splendour of Christ with the proclamation of his Passion”(142).

The procession, commemorating Christ’s messianic entry into Jerusalem, is joyous and popular in character. The faithful usually keep palm or olive branches, or other greenery which have been blessed on Palm Sunday in their homes or in their work places.

The faithful, however, should be instructed as to the meaning of this celebration so that they might grasp its significance. They should be opportunely reminded that the important thing is participation at the procession and not only the obtaining of palm or olive branches. Palms or olive branches should not be kept as amulets, or for therapeutic or magical reasons to dispel evil spirits or to prevent the damage these cause in the fields or in the homes, all of which can assume a certain superstitious guise.

Palms and olive branches are kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ, the messianic king, and in his Paschal Victory.

The Paschal Triduum 

140. Every year, the Church celebrates the great mysteries of the redemption of mankind in the “most sacred triduum of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection”(143). The Sacred Triduum extends from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper to Vespers on Easter Sunday and is celebrated “in intimate communion with Christ her Spouse”(144).

Holy Thursday  

Visiting the Altar of Repose

141. Popular piety is particularly sensitive to the adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the wake of the Mass of the Lord’s supper(145). Because of a long historical process, whose origins are not entirely clear, the place of repose has traditionally been referred to as a “a holy sepulchre”. The faithful go there to venerate Jesus who was placed in a tomb following the crucifixion and in which he remained for some forty hours.

It is necessary to instruct the faithful on the meaning of the reposition: it is an austere solemn conservation of the Body of Christ for the community of the faithful which takes part in the liturgy of Good Friday and for the viaticum of the infirmed(146). It is an invitation to silent and prolonged adoration of the wondrous sacrament instituted by Jesus on this day.

In reference to the altar of repose, therefore, the term “sepulchre” should be avoided, and its decoration should not have any suggestion of a tomb. The tabernacle on this altar should not be in the form of a tomb or funerary urn. The Blessed Sacrament should be conserved in a closed tabernacle and should not be exposed in a monstrance(147).

After mid-night on Holy Thursday, the adoration should conclude without solemnity, since the day of the Lord’s Passion has already begun(148).

Good Friday  

Good Friday Procession

142. The Church celebrates the redemptive death of Christ on Good Friday. The Church meditates on the Lord’s Passion in the afternoon liturgical action, in which she prays for the salvation of the word, adores the Cross and commemorates her very origin in the sacred wound in Christ’s side (cf. John 19, 34)(149).

In addition to the various forms of popular piety on Good Friday such as the Via Crucis, the passion processions are undoubtedly the most important. These correspond, after the fashion of popular piety, to the small procession of friends and disciples who, having taken the body of Jesus down from the Cross, carried it to the place where there “was a tomb hewn in the rock in which no one had yet been buried” (Lk 23, 53).

The procession of the “dead Christ” is usually conducted in austere silence, prayer, and the participation of many of the faithful, who intuit much of the significance of the Lord’s burial.

143. It is necessary, however, to ensure that such manifestations of popular piety, either by time or the manner in which the faithful are convoked, do not become a surrogate for the liturgical celebrations of Good Friday.

In the pastoral planning of Good Friday primary attention and maximum importance must be given to the solemn liturgical action and the faithful must be brought to realize that no other exercise can objectively substitute for this liturgical celebration.

Finally, the integration of the “dead Christ” procession with the solemn liturgical action of Good Friday should be avoided for such would constitute a distorted celebrative hybrid.

Passion Plays

144. In many countries, passion plays take place during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday. These are often “sacred representations”which can justly be regarded as pious exercises. Indeed, such sacred representations have their origins in the Sacred Liturgy. Some of these plays, which began in the monks’ choir, so as to speak, have undergone a progressive dramatisation that has taken them outside of the church.

In some places, responsibility for the representations of the Lord’s passion has been given over to the Confraternities, whose members have assumed particular responsibilities to live the Christian life. In such representations, actors and spectators are involved in a movement of faith and genuine piety. It is singularly important to ensure that representations of the Lord’s Passion do not deviate from this pure line of sincere and gratuitous piety, or take on the characteristics of folk productions, which are not so much manifestations of piety as tourist attractions.

In relation to sacred “representations” it is important to instruct the faithful on the difference between a “representation” which is commemorative, and the “liturgical actions” which are anamnesis, or mysterious presence of the redemptive event of the Passion.

Penitential practices leading to self-crucifixion with nails are not to be encouraged.

Our Lady of Dolours

145. Because of its doctrinal and pastoral importance, it is recommended that “the memorial of Our Lady of Dolours”(150) should be recalled. Popular piety, following the Gospel account, emphasizes the association of Mary with the saving Passion her Son (cf, John 19, 25-27; Lk 2, 34f), and has given rise to many pious exercises, including:

  • the Planctus Mariae, an intense expression of sorrow, often accompanied by literary or musical pieces of a very high quality, in which Our Lady cries not only for the death of her Son, the Innocent, Holy, and Good One, but also for the errors of his people and the sins of mankind;

  • the Ora della Desolata, in which the faithful devoutly keep vigil with the Mother of Our Lord, in her abandonment and profound sorrow following the death of her only Son; they contemplate Our Lady as she receives the dead body of Christ (the Pietà) realizing that the sorrow of the world for the Lord’s death finds expression in Mary; in her they behold the personification of all mothers throughout the ages who have mourned the loss of a son. This pious exercise, which in some parts of Latin America is called El Pésame, should not be limited merely to the expression of emotion before a sorrowing mother. Rather, with faith in the resurrection, it should assist in understanding the greatness of Christ’s redemptive love and his Mother’s participation in it.

Holy Saturday 

146. “On Holy Saturday, the Church pauses at the Lord’s tomb, meditating his Passion and Death, his descent into Hell, and, with prayer and fasting, awaits his resurrection”(151).

Popular piety should not be impervious to the peculiar character of Holy Saturday. The festive customs and practices connected with this day, on which the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection was once anticipated, should be reserved for the vigil and for Easter Sunday.

The “Ora della Madre”

147. According to tradition, the entire body of the Church is represented in Mary: she is the “credentium collectio universa”(152). Thus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she waits near the Lord’s tomb, as she is represented in Christian tradition, is an icon of the Virgin Church keeping vigil at the tomb of her Spouse while awaiting the celebration of his resurrection.

The pious exercise of the Ora di Maria is inspired by this intuition of the relationship between the Virgin Mary and the Church: while the body of her Son lays in the tomb and his soul has descended to the dead to announce liberation from the shadow of darkness to his ancestors, the Blessed Virgin Mary, foreshadowing and representing the Church, awaits, in faith, the victorious triumph of her Son over death.

Easter Sunday 

148. Easter Sunday, the greatest solemnity in the liturgical year, is often associated with many displays of popular piety: these are all cultic expressions which proclaim the new and glorious condition of the risen Christ, and the divine power released from his triumph over sin and death.

The Risen Christ meets his Mother

149. Popular piety intuits a constancy in the relationship between Christ and his mother: in suffering and death and in the joy of the resurrection.

The liturgical affirmation that God replenished the Blessed Virgin Mary with joy in the resurrection of her Son(153), has been translated and represented, so as to speak, in the pious exercise of the meeting of the Risen Christ with His Mother: on Easter morning two processions, one bearing the image of Our Lady of Dolours, the other that of the Risen Christ, meet each other so as to show that Our Lady was the first, and full participant in the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection.

What has already been said in relation to the processions of “the dead Christ” also applies to this pious exercise: the observance of the pious exercise should not acquire greater importance than the liturgical celebration of Easter Sunday nor occasion inappropriate mixing of liturgical expressions with those of popular piety(154).

Blessing of the Family Table

150. The Easter liturgy is permeated by a sense of newness: nature has been renewed, since Easter coincides with Spring in the Northern hemisphere; fire and water have been renewed; Christian hearts have been renewed through the Sacrament of Penance, and, where possible, through administration of the Sacraments of Christian initiation; the Eucharist is renewed, so as to speak: these are signs and sign-realities of the new life begun by Christ in the resurrection.

Among the pious exercises connected with Easter Sunday, mention must be made of the traditional blessing of eggs, the symbol of life, and the blessing of the family table; this latter, which is a daily habit in many Christian families that should be encouraged(155), is particularly important on Easter Sunday: the head of the household or some other member of the household, blesses the festive meal with Easter water which is brought by the faithful from the Easter Vigil.

Visit to the Mother of the Risen Christ

151. At the conclusion of the Easter Vigil, or following the Second Vespers of Easter, a short pious exercise is kept in many places: flowers are blessed and distributed to the faithful as a sign of Easter joy. Some are brought to the image of Our Lady of Dolours, which is then crowned, as the Regina Coeli is sung. The faithful, having associated themselves with the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin in the Lord’s Passion and Death, now rejoice with her in His resurrection.

While this pious exercise should not be incorporated into the liturgical action, it is completely in harmony with the content of the Paschal Mystery and is a further example of the manner in which popular piety grasps the Blessed Virgin Mary’s association with the saving work of her Son.

Eastertide 

The Annual Blessing of Family Homes

152. The annual blessing of families takes places in their homes during Eastertide – or at other times of the year. This pastoral practice is highly recommended to parish priests and to their assistant priests since it is greatly appreciated by the faithful and affords a precious occasion to recollect God’s constant presence among Christian families. It is also an opportunity to invite the faithful to live according to the Gospel, and to exhort parents and children to preserve and promote the mystery of being “a domestic church”(156).

The Via Lucis

153. A pious exercise called the Via Lucis has developed and spread to many regions in recent years. Following the model of the Via Crucis, the faithful process while meditating on the various appearances of Jesus – from his Resurrection to his Ascension – in which he showed his glory to the disciples who awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14, 26; 16, 13-15; Lk 24, 49), strengthened their faith, brought to completion his teaching on the Kingdom and more closely defined the sacramental and hierarchical structure of the Church.

Through the Via Lucis, the faithful recall the central event of the faith – the resurrection of Christ – and their discipleship in virtue of Baptism, the paschal sacrament by which they have passed from the darkness of sin to the bright radiance of the light of grace (cf. Col 1, 13; Ef 5, 8).

For centuries the Via Crucis involved the faithful in the first moment of the Easter event, namely the Passion, and helped to fixed its most important aspects in their consciousness. Analogously, the Via Lucis, when celebrated in fidelity to the Gospel text, can effectively convey a living understanding to the faithful of the second moment of the Pascal event, namely the Lord’s Resurrection.

The Via Lucis is potentially an excellent pedagogy of the faith, since “per crucem ad lucem”. Using the metaphor of a journey, the Via Lucis moves from the experience of suffering, which in God’s plan is part of life, to the hope of arriving at man’s true end: liberation, joy and peace which are essentially paschal values.

The Via Lucis is a potential stimulus for the restoration of a “culture of life” which is open to the hope and certitude offered by faith, in a society often characterized by a “culture of death”, despair and nihilism.

Devotion to the Divine Mercy

154. In connection with the octave of Easter, recent years have witnessed the development and diffusion of a special devotion to the Divine Mercy based on the writings of Sr. Faustina Kowalska who was canonized 30 April 2000. It concentrates on the mercy poured forth in Christ’s death and resurrection, fount of the Holy Spirit who forgives sins and restores joy at having been redeemed. Since the liturgy of the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday – as it is now called(157) – is the natural locus in which to express man’s acceptance of the Redeemer’s mercy, the faithful should be taught to understand this devotion in the light of the liturgical celebrations of these Easter days. Indeed, “the paschal Christ is the definitive incarnation of mercy, his living sign which is both historico-salvific and eschatological. At the same time, the Easter liturgy places the words of the psalm on our lips: “I shall sing forever of the Lord’s mercy” (Ps 89[88] 2)”(158).

The Pentecost Novena

155. The New Testament tells us that during the period between the Ascension and Pentecost “all…joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1, 14) while they awaited being “clothed with the power from on high” (Lk 24, 49). The pious exercise of the Pentecost novena, widely practised among the faithful, emerged from prayerful reflection on this salvific event.

Indeed, this novena is already present in the Missal and in the Liturgy of the Hours, especially in the second vespers of Pentecost: the biblical and eucological texts, in different ways, recall the disciples’ expectation of the Paraclete. Where possible, the Pentecost novena should consist of the solemn celebration of vespers. Where such is not possible, the novena should try to reflect the liturgical themes of the days from Ascension to the Vigil of Pentecost.

In some places, the week of prayer for the unity Christians is celebrated at this time(159).