Holy Week is such a beautiful time of year in which all the mysteries of our faith reach their culmination. Don’t let this week pass you by as just another ordinary and busy week before Easter. Please attend our Holy Week liturgies if your schedule permits. This year they will be celebrated at St. Michael’s in Hewitt: Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 6:30pm; Good Friday Service at 1pm; and the Easter Vigil on Saturday at 8:30pm. In addition to attending the Holy Week liturgies, here are just a few thoughts and suggestions for more fully entering into these days:
Tuesday: If your day is open, consider driving down to the Cathedral in La Crosse for the Chrism Mass with Bishop Callahan at 10:30am. Traditionally, this Mass is celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday, but Bishop Callahan celebrates it on Tuesday of Holy Week so that more priests from around the diocese are able to concelebrate and not feel rushed to return to their parishes for the evening Mass. The Chrism Mass is a truly unique experience. The Mass focuses on two main things: the consecration of the holy oil (the oil of the infirm used for the anointing of the sick, the oil of catechumens used before baptism, and the sacred chrism oil used for baptism, confirmation, and the ordination of priests), and the priests present for the Mass renew the promises of ordination. There are not many other places in which you’ll find more priests gathered together in one location. It’s such a beautiful liturgy and I recommend going sometime in the future if not this year, as it is open to the public.
Thursday: At the conclusion of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is a procession with the Holy Eucharist to a tabernacle set up in another place in the church. This action calls to mind Jesus’ departure from the Last Supper with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. At the garden, Jesus prays to the Father before he is arrested by a group of armed men directed by Judas, his betrayer. Many churches remain open for a while for a period of adoration and silent prayer before Jesus in the tabernacle, during which one is able to keep vigil with the Lord in the “garden.” Many churches decorate this temporary place of reservation with flowers. I remember when I was studying in the seminary in Rome. Following the Mass of the Lord’s supper at the seminary, my classmates and I would walk to visit several of the churches around the city to pray at their beautifully decorated places of reservation.
Friday: “Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fast and abstinence from meat. Fast binds all over the age of 21 and under the age of 59. On days of fast, one full meal is allowed. Two other meals sufficient to maintain strength may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating in between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and juices, are allowed. When health or ability to work would be seriously affected, the law does not oblige.” Remember fasting is to remind us that earthly food and material things will not ultimately satisfy the deepest needs of our souls. Offer your fast for a special intention, and remember, you are taking part in it with the whole Church throughout the world. Prayer and fasting done together is spiritually very effective!
Also, today there is a special Divine Mercy novena that begins, leading up to Divine Mercy Sunday. You can find all the information to participate in this Novena by going to https://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/mercy/novena.htm. Finally, Good Friday is also a great day to watch Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Few movies are done so artfully and inspire devotion such as this one.
Saturday: Holy Saturday is a day of holy waiting. It is the day of Jesus in the tomb in which we anticipate the Resurrection. When we say in the Creed at Mass that Christ “descended into hell,” this is the time we are referring to. Jesus descends into the underworld to free those holy persons (such as the Old Testament patriarchs) for salvation in heaven. Here is an excerpt from the Church’s Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours for this day:
“Something strange is happening — there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear… He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ Christ answered him: ‘And with your spirit.’ He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’”
While this day is technically no longer in the season of Lent, it is still a day of austerity in which we want to maintain our Lenten observances.