The next step of Partners in the Gospel – priest transitions

Across the archdiocese, announcements are being made at every parish about priest transitions. On one hand – and I’m surely not alone in this! – it is good to finally have priest (re)assignments known publicly. On the other hand, this is another benchmark where things get real: major changes are coming and we can’t pretend otherwise.

Adding to my own mixed feelings is the fact that I am on away with my family in Austin, Texas this week and next – we’re here to see the total solar eclipse, a trip we’ve been planning since my folks saw the last one in 2017. Even two thousand miles away, our hearts & minds (and conversations!) are enmeshed in all that is happening and to come with Partners in the Gospel. Who will our priest(s) be? What will our parish(es) look like? How will our communities change? Even with some of those questions answered this weekend, there is a lot that has yet to be discerned and revealed by the Lord.

It may be providential that we are reflecting on these questions at the tail end of the octave of Easter. Surely the Apostles were wondering these things at Christ’s death, but all the moreso at His resurrection. Though a wholly joyful event, His return must have raised new worries and anxieties. What will happen next? If Jesus is willing to suffer and die for His Father, what might He ask of us? Surely things won’t be the same as before…. but what does that mean going forward?

With the advantage of time & hindsight, we know that everything did change – with great fruitfulness even where sacrifice & suffering was required. But before that was demanded of the Apostles, Jesus made sure to spend personal time with them, to repeatedly console them – “peace be with you” – even when that meant walking through locked doors to find them where they were huddled in fear.

Jesus I trust in you…. mostly ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Despite any unease about what the future might hold, there is great peace to be found, if only we will spend time with the Lord. I know that I have spent – and will spend many more! – hours before the Lord in prayer, sometimes with great serenity, other times with great restlessness. But His message remains the same: “peace be with you”. Though it is hard to accept the ambiguities the future holds, the Holy Spirit is here with us now. As best we can, may we entrust ourselves to the providential care of God, confident that regardless of what comes next, He is actively caring for and guiding us.

Click below to read the letter from Archbishop Etienne as well as my own letter, both shared with my parish at all the weekend Masses:
Archbishop Etienne’s letter announcing the new priests of Parish Family 12
Father Maurer’s parish letter regarding priest transitions
Archdiocesan appointments for Partners in the Gospel

Easter Vigil in the Holy Night & Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Happy Easter! We have, at long last, reached the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord. And what a series of celebrations we have had, between the Easter vigil and the two Sunday morning Masses!

As I told the servers before Mass, the Easter vigil is the most solemn, the most important Mass of the entire liturgical year. It is our great privilege to be ministers of the mysteries we celebrate this night – and we do our best to do so with reverence, care, and attention to detail.

And there are a LOT of details. The first half of the day, in the morning, was spent in rehearsals. The servers and I spent and hour & a half going over the Mass, from top to bottom. After a brief break – fueled by several pizzas from Dominos – those to receive sacraments of initiation ran through their own rehearsal of the rites of baptism & confirmation.

When the night finally came, things fell together wonderfully. I won’t say that it was without a few hitches – not the least being my voice beginning to give out! But the Mass was beautiful. I have many favorite moments, but the most mystical one was during the Exsultet. Inside the church, illuminated only by the candles held by the congregation and the altar servers, with the smoke of the incense floating above us, the history of God’s plan for salvation was sung. This is one of the great highlights of the liturgy for me, and one I look forward to throughout the year.

We continued on with the Old Testament readings – proclaimed in the darkness. When we finally reached the seventh and final reading, the gloria was proclaimed and the lights came up. Servers lit all the candles in the church while bells rang out. At last, the light of Christ has dispelled the long dark night of Lent! I was struck by the contrast of extinguishing the candles at Tenebrae (the Service of Shadows) and lighting them anew at Easter: death & darkness do not prevail.

For the first time in a long time, we had baptisms and confirmations at the Easter vigil. I think my face is sore from how much smiling I did throughout – these folks were ready! They were so excited to be baptized and confirmed, and their joy was contagious. As I look through the photos of the night (thank you, Hope, for taking them!), I find myself smiling all over again.

All in all, the Mass was nearly three hours long – but it felt like it moved far quicker than that. And at the end, no one rushed out to leave! Thanks to the generosity of many parishioners, we had a wonderful reception afterwards – home made coconut macaroons (so good!), cake, fruit, sandwiches, sweets and more.

While I can’t pretend I wasn’t dragging a bit on Sunday, both of the Easter Masses were lovely – and packed! Special kudos, by the way, to the many volunteers who came back to serve on Sunday mere hours after the Easter vigil! There were a lot of naps being taken Sunday afternoon, I’m sure 🙂

Of course, Easter is not ended but rather, just beginning – we have a whole octave of celebrations, each day of which is a solemnity! And the entire Easter season – running until Pentecost – is fifty days. May we use it well, rejoicing in the graciousness of our Saviour, praying for all of those who received the sacraments of initiation, and proclaiming the Good News: He is risen, He is risen indeed!

Preparing for the Triduum

As I write this, it is Tuesday evening of Holy Week – my day off landing smack dab in the quiet lull before the many liturgies to come. Here at Saint Mark parish, we had three Masses for Palm Sunday – the procession was at our principal Mass (10:30 am Sunday), but we also had simple processions at the Saturday vigil and 8:30 am Sunday Masses. Thanks to the many hands that go into our liturgical celebrations, our celebrations went without a hitch. The choir even had a lovely meditative piece at the conclusion of communion that captured well the joy and sorrow of the Passion we had heard earlier in the Mass – it was as beautiful as it was haunting.

As familiar as this week is, I nonetheless find myself at least a little (if not a lot!) overwhelmed both in the minutiae of each liturgy and the emotions they elicit. The gospels for Palm Sunday (from Mark, since we’re in Cycle B) had a couple of particular moments that stood out for me – I found myself unexpectedly empathizing with the owner of the colt Christ used to enter Jerusalem. While my irritation might (probably?) would have transformed to a sense of honor eventually, I couldn’t help but think of how frustrated I would be in his shoes! Similarly, I wondered about the owner of the upper room where the Last Supper was celebrated – what must have he thought when the disciples came and passed on Jesus’ words! Elizabeth Scalia, in a fictional imagining of that man & his family, paints a lovely picture of a loving family ready to share it for the Passover. I’m not certain I would be so welcoming of His request.

And this is the realization that has been coming to me as the Triduum approaches: how begrudgingly I allow the Lord to enter into my life, to re-take possession of the gifts He has entrusted to me. I know that He all-loving & good, yet I distrust and fear Him even as I desire to draw closer in relationship with Him. Despite my faith – and my priestly vocation – my heart is all-too-often afraid of what He might ask – or take, without asking! – of my life, of what I might lose from among all that I treasure.

Simcha Fisher wrote a reflection (“The temple Jesus purifies is the human heart“) and the last paragraph drives the whole thing home: Jesus’ work of purification can be summarized by the crucifixion. We are made whole by the wounds He takes on for us. He sees our suffering – suffering brought on by our sinful self-reliance – and takes it on Himself, so that we may suffer no more.

All that is left is to entrust our hearts – and their healing to Him. May we use these days well, taking time to walk the familiar way of the cross, renewing our invitation to Him to accomplish His work in us, that we make make a gift of our very selves.