Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary His Most Holy Mother! Today we celebrate the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. Cross, most faithful, you are the noblest tree of all. No other tree can compare with your leaves, your flower and your fruit. Thus did we all sing last Good Friday as we came forth to venerate the Holy Cross (which now hangs in the daily Mass Chapel).
Through the Passion of Our Lord the Cross became a throne of glory, not a gallows of infamy. Today, in her liturgy, the Church sings: How radiant is that precious Cross which brought our salvation. Through the Cross we are victorious. With the Cross we shall reign. By the Cross all evil is destroyed, alleluia!
The feast we celebrate today has its origin in the first centuries of Christianity. According to ancient testimony this commemoration began the day the Cross was found by the Empress St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. It developed quickly in the Eastern Church and soon spread throughout all of Christendom. In Rome a solemn procession from the basilica of St. Mary Major to that of St. John Lateran took place to venerate the Holy Cross before Mass.
At the beginning for the seventh century the Persians ransacked Jerusalem. They destroyed many churches and took possession of the sacred relics. A few years later the Emperor Heraclius recovered them. According to pious tradition, the splendidly-dressed monarch, in full regalia, personally wanted to carry the Holy Cross to its original place on Calvary. The weight became increasingly unbearable as he walked the Via Dolorosa. The Bishop of Jerusalem, Zechariah, explained to him that in order to carry the Holy Cross he must imitate the poverty of Christ, who bore it free of every earthly attachment. Heraclius immediately divested himself of the imperial garments and put on humble pilgrims’ clothes. He was then able to carry the Holy Cross barefoot to the summit of Calvary.
As children we all learned how to make the sign of the Cross as an external sign of the profession of our faith. The Church makes use of the Holy Cross on her altars during Holy Mass and the Cross is displayed atop the church buildings. As a tree of most savory fruit it is a powerful weapon for warding off all kinds of evil, and especially for instilling fear in the spiritual foes of our salvation. Lord through the Holy Cross, free us from our enemies, we pray each day before signing ourselves with the sign of the Cross.
One of the great Fathers of the Church, St. John of Damascus, teaches us: The Cross is a shield against the devil as well as a trophy of victory. It is the promise that we will not be overcome by the angel of death. The Cross is God’s instrument to lift up those who have fallen and to support those still on their feet fighting. It is a crutch for the crippled and a guide for the wayward. It is our constant goal as we advance, the very wellspring of our body and soul. It drives away all evils, annihilates sin and draws down for us abundant goods. This is indeed the seed of the resurrection and the tree of eternal life.
The Cross is present in our lives in different ways. It may be manifest through sickness, poverty, tiredness, pain, scorn, false accusations or loneliness. Though hard to bear at times, the encounter with the Cross can become a source of purification, and when it is embraced with love, it becomes our life and joy. Embracing the Cross should lead us never to complain when suffering adversity and setbacks.
Today we pray: Most honorable Cross of the Lord! Through You, mankind has been relieved of the curse. You are a sign of joy indeed, and of terror to our spiritual enemies; you are the help of Christians, the glory of kings, the strength of the just, the splendor of priests, a staff of power to your people, and a source of peace. Around You the Angels gather in awe: You are the Glory of Christ who grants great mercy to the world!
PARISH PICNIC: Last Saturday, September 6th, was our annual parish picnic. May God reward the picnic Committee chaired by Jesse Cromer who did so much to assure us all a very happy and pleasant evening. Once again, our father St. Joseph aided us with the weather. After a heavy downpour during the 4.00pm Mass, the rains stopped the sun came out and everything was dry. Over 300 parishioners attended the picnic and all enjoyed it very much. All the leftovers were distributed to the Little Sisters of the Poor and local Food pantries.
SQUIRES: Next Sunday our parish squires will attend the 11.00am Mass after which they will have their installation. These are fine young Christian men of whom we are all proud. On Good Friday they held the Holy Cross for us as we came forward to venerate It. That Cross now hangs in our daily Mass Chapel and was blessed on September 6th. It is given in memory of Louise Loffredo and Sharmane Cromer. On that day also a lovely image of the wonder working saint, St. Philomena, was placed in the Chapel. It was hung in its place of honor by one of our recently confirmed, Jessica Dawson, who took the name of St. Philomena as a confirmation name. It is my fond hope that St. Philomena, whose Shrine is in Mugnano near Avellino, will be greatly venerated in our parish. She has never failed in any of our requests.
FATHER JAMES: After a happy summer with us, our beloved Father James will be returning to Rome to continue his doctoral studies. Father James will celebrate the 9.30 Mass today and there will be a reception in his honor after the Mass in Monsignor Costa (the Lower) Hall. Please stop by to wish Father James well in his studies. We look forward to his return to us. May God bless and reward his goodness.
NURSING HOMES: Many parishioners may not be aware of a group of very special parishioners. They are the residents of the two Nursing Homes located within our parish: the Arbors and Amber Court. We are blessed to have these special parishioners who are so close to God. Every Sunday our own Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion bring them Holy Communion and thus they are joined to us in the Sunday Mass. Since the very first month of my arrival fifteen months ago, I have celebrated Mass once each month in each of the two Nursing Homes. The Mass at the Arbors is the first Wednesday of every month and the Mass at Amber Court is the third Wednesday of every month. I have been told by parishioners that a priest had not visited the homes in twenty years (I hope this is an inaccurate recollection), but it is a joy for a pastor to be among his people who cannot come to Mass. The residents have received the Holy Anointing and have the opportunity to confess.
Next week I will write about the new doors for the Church and some other matters of building and maintenance.
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda