Today we enter into the most holy days of the year – the Sacred Triduum, or the Holy Three Days. While I understand why we are apart this year, it is still heartbreaking. But this heartbreak reminds me of an experience in Rome several years ago.
Fr. David Boettner and I were leading a pilgrimage to Italy, and our group attended a general audience with Pope Francis. This didn’t turn out to be any general audience – this day was a day to honor the elderly. Andrea Bocelli was there and sang a couple of songs, Pope Benedict was present – and Pope Francis honored him as “a wise grandfather” in the house next door. And there were testimonies – several people who, from all walks of life, gave their testimonies. A Franciscan priest who had spent his whole ministry working in hospices for those with dementia spoke of the blessings and sufferings of his ministry, and of his own acceptance of a recent diagnosis of dementia. A widow spoke of her rediscovery of joy when she was introduced to the community of Sant’Egidio – a community that doesn’t just work for the poor, but lives alongside the poor and enters into true companionship, breaking bread frequently together. A veteran who had been a P.O.W. told how letters from his grandfather back home consoled him while he was imprisoned in World War II. There were several others – each as moving as the one before.
Fr. David and I were already having trouble translating – neither of us get very weepy, but it was all so powerful that it was difficult not to be moved to tears. Then the last couple stood to give testimony. They were recently arrived to Italy from Iraq, if I remember correctly. They spoke in Arabic, and a translator spoke in Italian over the speakers in the piazza of St. Peter’s. You could have heard a pin drop. We choked back tears as we each tried to translate to our group. The couple said, “Our bells have been torn down, our churches destroyed, our priests have been killed. But thank you. Thank you, Holy Father, and brothers and sisters for your faith. We have hope…”. Their testimony continued – I can’t recall everything they said, but I am moved every time I think of that day.
I tell you this because the Sacred Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday – speaks for itself through the liturgy, and while I hope that you will follow the liturgies online, I get it that it is not the same as being here. While Mass is still Mass whether the priest is alone, saying Mass on the hood of a Jeep for a few soldiers, or celebrating in St. Peter’s Square alongside the pope – it doesn’t feel the same without you there. But that means that this year – please God – presents a very unique opportunity. So here is what I propose. Take this year to give a testimony, to bear witness – perhaps in a different way each day.
Holy Thursday – parents and grandparents could briefly recount their most memorable sacrament or religious meal, and kids could do the same or ask questions about the next sacrament they are to receive. Consider also praying for vocations to the religious life and holy orders from within our own community.
Good Friday – talk about how God has been with you through the dark times [keeping it age appropriate, of course]. Perhaps apologize for those times you have crucified someone in your family.
Holy Saturday – spend some time in silence alone or with others. Good Friday and Holy Saturday are the only days of the year that there are no Masses for those days [the Easter Vigil is just that, a Vigil of the Resurrection, thus it is always in the evening]. Pray for the suffering Church throughout the world – for all of those communities who only rarely have access to the Eucharist because of persecution and war.
Easter Sunday – give thanks. Thank the Lord for your family – whether you like them or not, pray for them. Give thanks to the Lord for all of those people who are trying to keep us safe and trying to care for the suffering. And perhaps call, text, FaceTime or even write a note to someone for whom you are thankful. Tell others why you are thankful to God.
Those are just some ideas – and I know that you are all faithful and creative and can add to them in the way that works best for you. I am thankful to the Lord for y’all. I apologize for my faults, and I can’t wait to see us all back together again when the time is right.
And now for some more general news and thanks. Thank you to each and every one of you for continuing to support St. John Neumann. The parish and school staff have both remained hard at work, some remotely and some on campus. The Church continues to remain open each day for adoration and the choir loft is still accessible at night – I simply ask that you stop by only when you have a reason to be out, e.g. on your way to/from work or exercise or grocery run, etc. We continue to have the Church cleaned nightly. I will continue with pop-up Confessions and announcing them shortly before they start and we will continue to hear confessions for at least two hours at a time. This has proven to be an effective way of giving many, many people the opportunity for sacramental absolution as well as doing so in a way that avoids a group of people gathering at a pre-announced start time.
Please continue to pray for all of us here at St. John Neumann and we will keep you in our prayers as well. I will write to you again on Easter, if not before.
Fraternally in Christ,
Fr. Joe Reed
St. John Neumann Catholic Church
Livestreaming Schedule of the Sacred Easter Triduum
The following services will be livestreamed on the parish Facebook page and on the parish YouTube channel:
Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper: 7pm
Good Friday Liturgy: 3pm
Easter Vigil: Saturday at 8pm
Mass of Easter Day: Sunday at 10:30am
Online Holy Week Resource for Families A Journey through Holy Week for Families was distributed via e-mail by the Diocese of Knoxville last weekend. It is a great online guide to Holy Week that includes readings, prayers, hymns, devotionals, kids’ activities, and other resources.
Thank You for Your Support
Thank you for continuing to support the parish during what is a difficult time for everyone. Your contributions enable us to minister to and serve our community, and the needs are great. Please continue to give as you are able so we can make up for the lack of collections caused by the coronavirus crisis. You can give online at sjnknox.org/give or mail your contribution to the parish office.