Christ is Risen! He is Truly Risen! The glorious celebration of Our Lord’s Holy Resurrection is so wondrous that it is not celebrated in merely one day, but through an entire octave, i.e., for eight days. During the Easter Octave which begins on Easter Sunday and concludes today, each day is Easter yet again. And although the stores may advertise Easter candy at 50% off, we know that Easter has just begun. For after the Easter Octave then we move into the Easter season which reaches its wondrous fulfillment on Pentecost Sunday and the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit upon the earth.
As is evident by the title of our meditation, there is no other Sunday in the Church’s Year of Grace with so many wondrous names. It is, of course, the first Sunday after Easter, and thus is called the Second Sunday of Easter because it is the second Sunday in the glorious time of Easter. During the Middle Ages in England and Ireland the Sunday was given the very charming name of Low Sunday. It was thus called to differentiate it from the previous Sunday (Easter) which was called the High Sunday. It is also called Quasimodo Sunday after the first word of the Entrance Antiphon in Latin, Quasimodo infantes (As infants…) Students of literature will recall the famous novel of Victor Hugo The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Many may recall that the hunchback’s name was Quasimodo. In the novel the future hunchback was discovered on the steps of Notre Dame in Paris on the Sunday after Easter. The canons of the Cathedral gave the infant the name Quasimodo after the Sunday of his discovery, since they never were certain of his birthday.
Another interesting name for today is Dominica in Albis (depositis). In English translation it would be called the Sunday of the putting away of the albs. It is amazing how much can be said in just a few Latin words. After the catechumens were baptized on the Great and Holy Vigil of Easter they continued to wear their white robes (albis) for an entire week so all would know the great grace which had come to them. On this Sunday they would remove their robes and place them in the wardrobe of the Church and simply wear their everyday clothing.
In our own day, Pope St. John Paul II elevated the Sunday to the Divine Mercy Sunday. The Mercy of God, deserved by none yet accessible to all, was poured upon the world through the resurrection of Our Lord. On this Sunday we give thanks to God for the Divine Mercy. You will notice an image of the Divine Mercy near the ambo (pulpit). For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and upon the whole world! We come under the Divine Mercy whenever we go to confession. Let us all make the resolution to do so each month.
Holy Week: Holy Week at St. Paul’s this year was most uplifting and inspiring. For that I am deeply grateful to all of you. I was so impressed with the faith and devotion of our people. The music was so uplifting as we heard the ancient chants of the Church. The Palm Sunday procession, in which the choir participated for the first time, when we followed Our Lord into His own city was so joyous and grace-filled. I was particularly moved by the Veneration of the Holy Cross on Good Friday. The Roman Missal instructs us that there should be only one Crucifix for the veneration of the faithful. Naturally, that takes longer but it is a time of grace that we all need to be before the Cross. You may have noticed that our Squires held the Cross for us all and wiped Our Lord’s most sacred wounds. What a service they did for our parish! They took their duty in holding the Cross. Many of you commented on the beauty of the Crucifix. This magnificent crucifix (hand carved in the northern part of Italy by German craftsmen) was donated to our parish by a family who wishes to remain anonymous. It was donated in loving memory of Louise Loffredo and Sharmane Cromer. It will be venerated in our parish for generations to come. As the sixth pastor of our beloved St. Paul’s I had the honor to carry the Cross into the Church for the first time on Good Friday and to kiss it barefoot. During the veneration I was thinking that the 60th pastor of St. Paul’s will be barefoot before the same crucifix. This was the first Holy Week that our Choir sang. What a blessing that we have a choir under the direction of Mr. Gary Ducoing. Bishop Andrzej remarked that it was the finest music he has heard in Holy Week, because it was the liturgical texts that were sung. We were blessed to have the passion sung on Good Friday as its haunting melodies washed over us. On Easter Day timpani and brass heralded Our Lord’s Resurrection.
Our altar guild, under the direction of Mrs. Ursula Coughlin did a splendid job in decorating the Church. We did not use a professional florist. Who would need one when we have so many talented members of the Altar Guild. I am most grateful to our ushers, lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, sacristans and our servers. The servers were present in large numbers.
First Holy Communion and Confirmation: Our parish will be blessed to celebrate First Holy Communion on April 25th and May 2rd. May our little ones always be as close to God as they are on the day of their First Holy Communion. Our First Communicants will return for the 9.30 Mass on May 10th at which time they will be enrolled in the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This garment of grace will give them many blessings. On May 9th Bishop Murphy will administer the Sacrament of Confirmation to our eighth graders. They have been preparing diligently for this happy day and we are grateful to Br. Joseph Bellizzi, Mrs. Shannon, and all of our devoted catechists and teachers.
Mass Manners: I am very pleased with the reverence of our parishioners. When sometimes we may do things that should not be done in Church, I know there is never any malice; it is simply forgetting or being unaware of some things.
I would like to address the issue of eating and drinking in Church. Naturally we do not eat or drink in the House of God. Sometimes there may be a presentation of a religious play or pageant in the Church. We should not sit in the pews with coffee, drinks or food. When there is hospitality in the Monsignor Costa Hall, we should not enter the Church with doughnuts, cookies or beverages. Unless we have a medical condition we should not bring a bottle of water into the Church to drink during the Divine Services. Children should not sit in Church eating popcorn or other treats. Think of Our Lord’s great thirst upon the Cross and try to offer any slight inconvenience to Him in His sufferings.
This brings me to the next logical consideration. Gum should never be chewed in the Church. I have forgotten many of the regulations when I was in the United States Air Force, but one I will always remember is that no gum chewing was permitted on base. (I am not sure if this was a reg in the other branches of the service). This was because it was considered undignified to wear the military uniform while chewing gum and to safeguard the cleanliness both of the base and its personnel. While I was in the service our beloved nation was enjoying a long period of peace. In fact we were required to wear the BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) every Wednesday just to remind us how to wear it, since there were no military interventions occurring. Sadly, after 2001 the BDU was the normal daily uniform. Normally we wore the Class A uniform (blues) with highly shined shoes that had to be protected from gum. Chewing gum in the Church is not appropriate. Just think that the mouth which will in a matter of moments be filled with the Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ should not be filled with gum. Sadly, gum is often placed under the pews.
So much time, energy and effort has to be put into ridding the Church of gum. It is placed under the pews; it is placed in the missals and hymnals. It had been my fond hope to go forward with beautifying the Church. It is difficult to do this when we are so preoccupied with remediating gum damage. How sad it is to look out at the congregation and to see a good third of the people rigorously chewing gum.
That will be our one thought for mass manners this week. Next week will be a few matters for after Mass.
May God reward you for all you have done for me and for St. Paul’s. Christ is Risen; he is Truly Risen.
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda