Hard to believe but Holy Week is almost here! For me, it will be the 70th time that I walk with Jesus in His final days on earth, not just to remember what happened over 2,000 years ago but also to remember, cherish and allow His presence to enter my life more deeply.
I imagine, like most children raised Catholic, my first experience was the Easter basket full of chocolates waiting to be devoured. We got to take the first taste on Holy Saturday right after we got home from the Church blessing of the Easter food. I especially loved the Paska – Easter bread made by my mother. I likely was only a few months old when the aroma of freshly baked bread filling our home got my attention. If I pause for a little, I can actually conjure up that wonderful scent. Of course, as I got a bit older, it was the chocolate that got front and center.
So my early learning did not emerge straight from the Gospels – not even the name of Jesus. I just liked great candy and the wonderful smell of bread. But make no mistake – I knew with all my being that something special was happening. These were the holiest days of the year.
Then came the reminder to come home from playing basketball on Good Friday to get ready for church. From noon to three on Good Friday, there was no television and no recreation. I entered into the mystery of Good Friday and that sacrificial death of Jesus for my and your salvation – first through the heart and then the mind.
This past Wednesday, Cardinal Dolan of New York came to town to deliver a powerful message about Catholic schools at the Catholic Education Foundation Salute to Catholic School Alumni Dinner. I have been told that this annual meal – with nearly 1,900 participants – may be one of the largest annual banquets in Kentucky. It certainly brings together friends who want to participate in passing on the joy of our Catholic faith to the next generation. This is an exciting time for Catholic schools because our archdiocesan energies are focused not so much on schools and buildings but on that young student who deserves a chance for a good Catholic school education.
Before the banquet, Cardinal Dolan and I visited St. Edward School at the invitation of 8th grade teacher, Charlie Shircliff. He was staging a mock papal conclave, and since Cardinal Dolan was at the conclave three years ago when Pope Francis was elected, Mr. Shircliff wanted to involve a real live witness to the proceedings.
During these days of Holy Week, think about the real live witnesses to the faith that has been handed down to you. Invite your parents and brothers and sisters to share their memories of Holy Week in their lives. Just as I am reflecting on Easter food, Good Friday silence, the rites of Holy Week and reflections on Sacred Scripture, you ought to find your own witnesses who can relate how they came to know those days in which Jesus saved us.
This year I have been slowly reading the pages of the Gospel according to St. Luke. On Palm Sunday, I revisited the long passage of that first Holy Week … from the Hosannas and palm branches to the shouts of “crucify Him!” to the “Alleluia, He is risen!” I want this Holy Week to be just as special as those first memories that I had as a child. Lord Jesus, come to me this Holy Week so that in You, I might cherish Your conquering of sin and death. As I die to self, let me rise with you to newness of life. Amen.
For a listing of the times of Mass and Holy Week services in your area, go here.