*Email Scam: Do Not Respond!
Please do not ever respond to emails that seem to be coming from me, any staff member or the parish which request money, gift cards, temporary funds, or the like. THESE ARE ALL SCAMS. ALWAYS!! I have received one supposedly from myself (!), one from Archbishop Vigneron (called in the email Fr. Vigneron) and one from a neighboring pastor. Even though the names seem correct or the message seems plausible, these are all attempts to defraud you of your money. We would never ask for help in that way. You do not ever need to call to see if we need such help. Simply delete them from your email server. I am not sure who is generating them, but all it takes is one or two to respond and the criminals will keep at it. Not just from me, but from anyone: never respond to email requests for financial help. I guarantee you that they are all scams. If it is a relative of yours, I am sure it is still a scam, often saying that they cannot answer the phone just now, but will get back to you soon. These are clever people. Please be smart and refuse to bite.
*Gospel Readings for Passion (Palm) Sunday
As we begin this Holy Week we go from the external glory of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as we bless palms at the beginning of the Mass to the somber reality of his crucifixion and death in the Passion Narrative of the Gospel. This is deliberate. The surface glory always fades, turning to dust and ashes. Popularity turns to anger; fame to avoidance; seeming support to condemnation, but there is a deeper glory hidden within life. A glory that we know as the resurrection. A glory that comes from Easter which can bring hope into the midst of despair, life through death. For that deeper glory we need to be willing to say “yes” to the cross and follow Jesus all the way.
*Holy Week and the Great Triduum
There will be extra time for individual confessions on Tuesday this Holy Week, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. We then begin the three most important days of every Church year—Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. I have sent a letter to all who help with the liturgy—communion ministers, lectors, sacristans, altar servers, ushers, choir/music, and greeters—asking that as many as possible be with us on Holy Thursday evening as we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00 p.m.. But this beautiful evening liturgy is for all of us. Come and be part of this important celebration. Through the washing of the feet we acknowledge that there is no fully authentic Eucharist unless we let the Lord teach us how to serve others. Then, with the candlelit procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the chapel, we create an environment for those who want to come back for personal prayer until eleven that night. Please note that all are encouraged to have their feet washed. Yes, it is awkward and humbling. But that is the point, ist it? Let the full reality of the Holy Thursday celebration touch our lives.
The Church asks that all tabernacles be emptied and doors left open, so that we begin Holy Thursday evening with no reserved Eucharist. Unless we are willing to come together in faith and do what Jesus did with his disciples at the Last Supper there will be no Eucharistic presence of Christ in the world. That is how important this liturgy is. For those who would be interested in a unique Holy Week experience, there is a Chrism Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral on Holy Thursday morning. At this Mass the oils are blessed for every parish (Sacred Chrism, Oil of Catechumens, Oil of the Sick) and priests renew their commitment to priestly ministry. You need to get there early for a seat. The Mass begins at 11 a.m. For those who would like to take a little extra time in prayer Holy Thursday evening, it is a custom in many parts of the world to visit several churches on Holy Thursday evening and pause for prayer. The Blessed Sacrament will be placed in the chapel tabernacle after the evening Mass and the chapel will remain open for prayer until 11 p.m. For those who want to join me, I will lead a night prayer in the chapel around 10:30 p.m. until the closing.
Good Friday usually brings forth extra participation, though in the past few years even that liturgy seems to be declining in the number of participants. There is something about meditating on the passion of Jesus and venerating the cross which connects us so immediately and emotionally to what Jesus’ suffering and death mean to us. As in the past, we will have a cross set up for veneration. This year we will use the cross that will then be mounted in the gathering area as part of the Donor Wall display. Please note that the Church asks that it be a cross without the body (in other words, not a crucifix). Why? So that as we venerate the cross we place ourselves on that cross, willing to be with Jesus in suffering when necessary, in order to share with him his resurrection.
We will have the church open from noon to 3 p.m. that day and ask that people respect the quiet of those hours when talking in the gathering area. The main liturgy is the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, beginning at 1:00 p.m. with the Veneration of the Cross mentioned above followed by Holy Communion. Beforehand there will be a Stations of the Cross at 12 noon for those who wish to come early or whose commitments do not allow them to be at the main liturgy. At 3 p.m., in order to give our liturgical environment people time to get the church ready of Easter, we will transfer the cross to the chapel. The chapel will remain open until 6:00 p.m. for those whose work prevents them from being at the afternoon liturgy.
Finally, on Holy Saturday evening at the Easter Vigil we come to the central celebration of the whole liturgical year. NB: The Easter Vigil this year begins at 7:00 p.m. This is much earlier than in previous years in order to accommodate the children who are being baptized and also to see if more people can attend at the earlier hour. This is the most important celebration of the entire Church year. The church should be packed with people, though that does not happen. Let us see if the earlier hour adds at least a few more.
The blessing of a new fire and lighting of the Easter Candle, followed by the proclamation of the history of salvation through key Scriptural passages, help us to experience how the Light of Christ is truly for us the way of salvation. The initiation of new members into the Church through Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, along with our renewal of our baptismal promises and being blessed by the baptismal waters, allows us to be most fully Church, witnessing to Christ and giving birth to new members in Christ. We are blessed this year to have several adults and children who will be receiving Easter sacraments at the Vigil this year, then the first celebration of Easter Eucharist, whose Alleluias and prayers bring forth the joy of being united to the risen Jesus.
The chapel will be open each of these mornings for morning prayer at 8:30 a.m. On Holy Saturday morning we will have a blessing of Easter food baskets at 11:00 a.m. I think it is a wonderful custom to bring a selection of the foods that will be the family’s Easter meal and have the food blessed.
These are days of important, beautiful, and transformative celebrations if we enter into and participate in them. If you have never come to these before, please do this year. To celebrate all three—Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, and Easter Vigil—will be like participating in a mini-retreat.
* Parish Pastoral Council – Need Four New Members
At the April meeting of the Parish Pastoral Council we discussed the role of the Council over the next few years. That role will focus on helping the parish keep focused on the Parish Vision (available online under Church/Get Involved/Parish Leadership) and the Archdiocesan efforts to “Unleash the Gospel.” For that we need people on the council who are willing to pray, to share in the vision for the parish, to offer their wisdom for the good of the parish. We are looking for four or so new members. I would love to see some from the school and some not from the school of varying ages.
A year ago we started tri-annual Parish Leadership Nights to bring together all the Councils and Commissions and parish groups. Our next night is May 14, open to all. The focus is on how we can be a parish of welcome and hospitality in all that we do. That fits into one of the major themes from our parish vision statement, as well as from Archbishop Vigneron’s pastoral letter Unleash the Gospel. A major part of any Pastoral Council member’s role over the next three years or so will be to encourage these leadership nights, be aware of and actively thinking about the Parish Vision and the wider objectives of the Archdiocesan Unleash the Gospel efforts, and helping the parish prepare for a Missionary Strategic Plan. The Archbishop envisions every parish coming up with a fairly comprehensive plan tied to the goals and objectives listed in his pastoral letter.
Almost everything we have done over the past three years has already begun that process—from Mass schedules, to personnel hiring, to worship initiatives, to welcome and evangelization efforts such as the information desk and periodic postcards. Building on those, Pastoral Council members will take a look at each major area of parish life over the next couple of years and help formulate further objectives that will concretize what it means to “Unleash the Gospel’ here at St. Regis Parish. Please nominate yourself or another person for the Pastoral Council. If we have more than four (which is my hope) we will then draw names from a basket after giving the parish some time to pray. The catchphrase from the diocese is “from maintenance to mission.” Be part of visioning how that mission unfolds here at St. Regis by becoming a member of the Pastoral Council.
* A Gentle Reminder
I want to thank all of you for adapting to the four central sections of pews at our weekend celebrations. I have noticed a very positive effect on the community’s shared prayer and singing at the 4:30 p.m. and 10 a.m. Masses. The Worship Commission will evaluate the experience after Easter and we will then make a decision about continuing the practice or modifying it (some have suggested for example, it would be good to let the lectors have the front pews by the ramp rather than roping those off). In the meantime, I would like us to be intentional in our welcome and hospitality in terms of where we sit. Think about where you like to sit. If we all then moved up two pews and, if we do not need to sit at the end of the pew, three seats inward, all sorts of space would be opened up in the back and at the edges. Yes, this would reward latecomers. But isn’t that what hospitality is about? Or, simply move into the first few pews which are often left empty. That would also open up space. Worth considering.