Posts Tagged ‘Holy Week’

CHRISM MASS 2015

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Here are some photos from the annual Chrism Mass earlier today. To read my homily, scroll down below the photos. To watch the video recording of the Mass, please click here. To see more photos, click here.

Renewal of Priestly Promises. Photo kindness of Jeanne Smith.

Renewal of Priestly Promises. Photo kindness of Jeanne Smith.

 

 

Blessing the Oil of the Sick. Photo kindness of Jeanne Smith.

Blessing the Oil of the Sick. Photo kindness of Jeanne Smith.

 

 

Parish representatives holding their parish’s Oil of Catechumens as it is blessed. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Parish representatives holding their parish’s Oil of the Sick as it is blessed. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

 

Blessing the Oil of Catechumens. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Blessing the Oil of Catechumens. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

 

Parish representatives holding their parish’s Oil of Catechumens as it is blessed. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Parish representatives holding their parish’s Oil of Catechumens as it is blessed. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

Consecrating the Sacred Chrism. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Consecrating the Sacred Chrism. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

CHRISM MASS HOMILY 
March 31, 2015
Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop

The late bishop John Nevins of Venice with whom I spent five of the first six years of my priesthood would often tell the story of what happened to him late in his formation for priesthood, indeed just weeks before he was to be ordained a sub-deacon. An only child of an Irish mother and English father who separated and divorced shortly after young John was born, John J. Nevins could only find one religious order and no diocese which would accept him as a seminarian for the priesthood. That one community was called The Fathers of Mercy. Finishing his studies at Catholic University in Washington, John Nevins in the Spring of the final year came home from class to the Fathers of Mercy house only to be told that the community had been dissolved, its ordained were free to find any benevolent bishop or other order who would accept them and as for the seminarians, “clear your room out, move, stay warm and well fed.” As he approached the end of telling this story, he would always end it with this line: “There was no mercy to be found in the Fathers of Mercy, buster!” I know of few priests in my soon to be forty years who was kinder, more merciful and forgiving than John J. Nevins. He lived the virtue under whose title he longed to minister.

We have been hearing a lot about mercy the last two years, much of it emanating from the Holy Father. He has challenged the whole Church, all those who have been anointed with the sacred chrism in baptism, confirmation, and priesthood and episcopacy, to new heights of merciful ministry. He has preached forgiveness, inclusion, welcoming not just the sinner but also the foreigner, the immigrant, the poor. He has joined his ministry of words with a rich panoply of encounter and gesture. He has called us all, but especially we bishops to a simpler lifestyle more in touch with all God’s people which might make us more aware and understanding of the pain of poverty. The one constant through the first two years has been the bedrock belief in the mercy of God which we have both received as a gift of the spirit of God to share with the world and we have been anointed with oil to heal the wounds of people, some of which even the Church we love have caused.

Allow me for a few moments this Holy Week to reflect on the image of oil, noted in today’s very familiar readings by both Isaiah and Jesus. The glass jars which await our prayers of blessing contain simple olive oil though to the chrism will soon be joined an aromatic. All oil (olive and petroleum) has three aspects worth a few seconds: value, volatility and viscosity.

VALUE we have learned in recent times from oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, to wars of religion over oil in the Arabian gulfs, to four dollars a gallon at the pump to a 125% increase in the cost of Chanel No 5 in the last ten years. From King David through to the Saudi princes, oil is worth a lot, of money, sadly of lives lost and environment destroyed. So for moderns the oil has value and for the ancients it did as well. It healed the wounded, anointed the chosen leaders, was then and is now one of the more valuable fruits of God’s creation. And it is shared with us in sacraments. When we use it properly it dispenses mercy and love on the newborn, comforts the sick and aged and when accompanied by sacramental confession it too dispenses God’s mercy on the scared, the scarred, the solitary soul in search of God.

VOLATILITY – Oil also ignites more readily than other liquids. Jesus says that the anointing he received ignited in him a fierce blessed rage for order (in the words of David Tracy decades ago). It made him palpably burn within to bring healing to the sick, hope to the homeless, compassion for the poor, freedom not just to jailed prisoners pbut the freedom of mercy and the love of God and the presence of Jesus Christ to those imprisoned by addiction, by religious laws that limited love, and an end to tyranny from whatever source which limited mankind’s ability to drink at the cool well of mercy, kindness, love, compassion and forgiveness.

Tell me one sinner in the Gospel who having acknowledged his or her sin was dismissed by the Son of God without healing. The highly volatile oil of his anointing set Jesus on fire with the desire to establish his Father’s kingdom – a fire that did not cease within him until his penultimate breath in one Gospel account: “brother, this day you shall be with me in paradise! Has our anointing in baptism spent all its volatility or is the fire within us to reconcile the world heating up again to the point where we have a blessed rage for dispensing God’s mercy and compassion?

VISCOSITY – All oil is thick, gooey, and sticky, even olive oil. Just try to get it off your hands after confirming 150 youngsters – even lemon does not really cut it. My fingers continue to smell like PLEDGE furniture polish through at least three washings – but I digress! It is precisely the perfect image in a way to describe our ministry when it is working. What we do well sticks. What we offer is sometimes thick. Our ministry of mercy often moves far more slowly than we might wish. Maybe it is time in a sense to apply a merciful thinner to our passion for compassion. Pope Francis certainly does it, daily in his Mass homilies, in his brief but sticky audience teachings. Listen to how his words should stimulate all of us to a deeper engagement in social action ministry:

‘These days there is a lot of poverty in the world and that’s a scandal when we have so many resources to give to everyone. We all have to think about how we can become a little poorer.”

“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just”

“We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love, be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.”

“Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.

With Peter and under Peter my prayer is that today, recalling the awesome power of anointing in our own lives, everyone here has been anointed, most likely at least twice, we may ignite again in our hearts and in our ministry the joy in being agents of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “The joy of God is the joy of forgiveness. It is the joy of the shepherd who finds his lost sheep, the joy of the woman who finds her lost coin; the joy of the Father who welcomes home his lost son.”

Ah, the oil of gladness. My brother priests, this very Holy Father speaks to us often, challenges us, wants us to once again recover the fire of the day the sacred chrism was spread on our hands, the day of our ordination. He particularly it would seem focuses on our ministry of reconciliation. Most all of you have given of yourselves the past few weeks with penance services, The Light Is On For You, and hours in the box. You are very good, indeed wonderful at this expression of tender mercy. Your anointed hands and your blessed words become the sign of the forgiveness of God.

“The service that a priest assumes, a ministry, on behalf of God, to forgive sins is very delicate and requires that his heart be at peace, . . .that he not mistreat the faithful, but that he be gentle, benevolent and merciful, that he know how to plant hope in hearts and, above all, that he be aware that the brother or sister or sister who approaches the sacrament of reconciliation seeking forgiveness does so just as many people approached Jesus to be healed. . . .The penitent faithful have the right, all the faithful have the right, to find in priests servants of the forgiveness of God.

Lawrence O’Donnell, a commentator on MSNBC likened the Pope’s remarks on one occasion to his last Catholic school teacher, a Father Harrington. “Father Harrington knew that he was our last religion teacher,” O’Donnell said. “He didn’t use that final year of class time to cram our heads with rules and condemnations. . .Father Harrington talked only about the things that mattered the most in Catholicism, which meant he talked about God and love and goodness and kindness, and he never talked about sin. O’Donnell continued by noting that Pope Francis seems to be eager to deliver the same message. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrine to be imposed insistently. Indeed, O’Donnell noted, Pope Francis warned that the moral authority of the church could “fall like a house of cards” if its condemnations are the only thing people ever hear about. Quoting the Pope, “The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.” O’Donnell in that electronic moment ended his reflection with “If Father Harrington was still with us, he would like this pope. A lot.” 

Beginning soon we shall together plan for how as a local Church we shall observe the year of grace to begin in November called the Holy Year of Mercy. It could well be a very graced moment – a moment of mercy. Let no one in these five counties say of us what Bishop Nevins said of the manner in which he was treated by a community to which he had already given years: “There is no mercy to be found in this local Church, buster!”

+RNL

THE FICKLE FINGER OF FAITH?

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Palm Sunday 2015
Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch

Beginning today and continuing throughout this holy week, I have chosen as my theme, “What was Jesus thinking?” Admittedly the question reveals an “arrogance” on my part, but I hope that my humble effort at armchair psychology might be helpful in making the most of this important week of our faith.

So join me in attempting to discern what Jesus might have been thinking on that day when he entered Jerusalem for the final time. I wish to focus today on that singular moment captured in the Gospel read during the blessing of palms knowing that on Good Friday together we will have an opportunity to reflect at greater length on the Passion account.

I can see at least three important thoughts which Jesus might reasonably be expected to own in the account of his arrival at the portal to his death: fraternity, fickleness, and fulfillment.

Knowing that his days were surely numbered and a horrible and painful death was awaiting him in Jerusalem, he wished one final thing for himself and for his disciples – the opportunity to celebrate the Passover together one last time. Ever mindful of others and ever the teacher, the rabbi, the “master” Jesus knows that he and they will soon be put to the test. Were they ready for it? Were they sufficiently cognizant of his presence in their lives for the last three years that their memories would sustain and perhaps even overcome their doubts in the days to come? He must have sensed that day that if what he had done and what he would do would ultimately glorify the Father, then he had to teach them again about placing themselves at the service of others, becoming less to accomplish more.

He knew that those citizens of Jerusalem who hailed his arrival knew little about him except through rumor. In his public ministry, Jesus spent little time in Jerusalem, choosing instead the region of Galilee as the major locus for his ministry. So as he surveyed those throwing their cloaks before him and waving their palms, he must have known of their fickleness. All glory, laud and honor shouted in this moment, he knew would give way soon enough to “kill him”. Yet he took the chance to once again be seen by those who were basically fence sitters at best and fair-weather only friends at worst. Even those he sent ahead to gain his method of conveyance, a donkey, and secure a room for the last Passover supper, how would they measure up to the hostility to their friend and his message? Despite the romance of the scene of the so-called triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he knew they were fickle – all of them.

Finally there was the matter of fulfilling the will of the Father. No person seemingly in their right mind would say to themselves or to others: well it’s time for me to die so let’s get on with it. Only that deep commitment to the will of the Father could explain why he would set off to Jerusalem in the first place knowing what would await him. Obedience to the Father would find its finality in the fulfillment gained on the cross.

That inevitably begs the question of what does this entire moment mean for us on this Palm Sunday 2015? How close is our friendship to Jesus? Do we trust him, believe in him, follow him 24/7/365 or is he simply a historical figure of some attractiveness and interest but not a personal friend, an intimate. Is he truly our brother? Does his willingness to embrace pain, loneliness, and opposition to what he believes and preaches translate for us in our own faith commitment?

Are we fickle, fair weather friends who take comfort in our faith only when things are going well, only to abandon the same belief when faced with the inevitable crosses of everyone’s daily life? Is it easy to be a friend of Jesus unless and until we are challenged to stand for human life in all its phases of development, from conception to natural death? Can we also be seen as a follower of Christ’s teaching when friendship with him makes us seek genuine immigration reform while welcoming the stranger. Are we willing to question and challenge the death penalty in a state (in this we are one of only two of the fifty states) that requires only a simple majority of a jury’s vote? There are lots of things about Jesus we can love and embrace, but there are other things, which lay open our fickleness. What part of the crowd would we likely have been in: hosannas or kill him?

Finally, the cross was the fulfillment of our Lord’s mission. How well do we carry the crosses of our lives? Do we really believe that suffering, opposition and uncertainty, the hubris of daily life in our times, gain for us the favor of the Father for our future?

There was a lot which Jesus must have been thinking during these his final days. Join us this week, on Holy Thursday and Good Friday and next Sunday at Easter as we attempt to get into his mind and answer the question: what was Jesus really thinking?

+RNL

RISEN, RISING, RENEWED

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

I am writing this on Easter Sunday afternoon after a beautiful, lovely and spiritually renewing and refreshing Holy Week. On Tuesday we filled St. Catherine of Siena’s new church to capacity (c. 1200) for the annual Mass of the Chrism. A large number of my brother priests showed up to concelebrate this Mass with myself and their brothers in priestly ministry. I am always curious about those few who did not attend, especially those who seem to make it their business not to attend on an annual basis. There are, for certain,  occasional funerals and other unexpected events which crop up from time to time, but the date of the Chrism Mass has been set for some time so it is not a scheduling surprise. Those who may choose not to attend do so for other reasons which I suspect are somewhat  selfish. Because a photographer was taking pictures of those attending and concelebrating, (the pictures are on the diocesan website and you may like looking at them to see your priests) I found myself on Tuesday night pretending to be a teacher taking attendance of their class. I know this, it hurts me when men I know who could come choose not to do so, and I think the brothers also feel it. Some bishops hold absent priests accountable – I will never do that – but it does hurt that some could be there but regularly choose not to do so. Anyway, that is the only even remotely unpleasant thing I could say about Holy Week 2013.

The Cathedral of St. Jude was a challenge this year but it turned out wonderfully well for everyone. I suspect if you queried those who attended any of the Holy Week services at St. Jude’s from Palm Sunday through today, Easter Sunday, they would say that the temporary space (used during the rebuilding of the Cathedral church) works well. It is more intimate and therefore we had a sense of “full house” on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and everyone could witness the beautiful liturgies up close and personal. I always feel badly for the Cathedral priests because year after year the bishop who is the pastor of his Cathedral parish shows up and “bumps” the good priests who are there day after day but who do not get to be principal celebrant of the special liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. This year, however, I asked them to preach and they did, very well. I preached only the shorter homilies accompanying the Palm Sunday Mass and Easter Vigil ceremonies. We baptized three and accepted into the Church and confirmed about fifteen others at the Vigil and if only you could see the smiles on their faces and in one case, the tears of joy which accompanied the moment. So the Cathedral worked thanks to the efforts of staff, sacristans, musicians and choir, deacon and priests, altar servers and God’s grace.

It has been hard since the election of Pope Francis to ignore his presence in the life of the Church. Every day I find myself several times a day scanning various resources online or in blogs to find out what new and distinct thing he has done this day. So many people have said to me how refreshing he is and how proud they are of him. Of course, it has been the honeymoon and he has not had to do some of the hard things which inevitably accompany leadership anywhere, even in the Church. I still think I was right on target in the Chrism Mass homily about what we might expect when the “good times” cease to roll and reality sets in.

Each day, however, Pope Francis amazes me. He preaches like a parish priest does and as a Jesuit does (almost always three points) and his homilies so  far have not been written or delivered to wrest from St. John Chrysostom the title of “golden throat” or Aquinas or Theresa of Avila the title of “Doctor of the Church” but rather they are incredibly insightful in what it takes to be a true follower of Christ and how much joy awaits those who let Christ out of the places where they have locked him in. His glasses keep sliding down his nose like mine do and he looks at his watch like I do from time to time to see if something is going too long. But because of the Pope, we are so far witnessing to a Church which is rising again in the sights of many, our own adherents, people of other faiths, etc. Popes do make a difference and the papacy does mean something for everyone: just recall Blessed Pope John XXIII. From the top the process of renewal and reform might begin once again, only the Holy Spirit knows for certain. But when a renewal begins with the Holy Father, it is truly a reform underway. We shall wait and see and pray for him.

Francis

Photo courtesy of Christopher Graff

I also wish to mention that especially poignant for me this year was a last minute liturgy celebrated on Wednesday night of Holy Week at St. Scholastica Catholic Church in Lecanto for Father James Hoge, OSB. Father Hoge had started every parish in Citrus county and was involved in one way or another in the choice of sites for parishes and for building many of them. St. Scholastica was his final contribution as was Pope John Paul II elementary school. A funeral Mass was offered for him at St. Leo monastery, celebrated by his Abbot but I was able to be present to the priests of Citrus county and to about 350 people who knew Father Jim well and who loved him. After the Mass, I joined the priests for dinner and all came. There were wonderful stories exchanged and Monsignor George Cummings who is now our oldest priest (95 this year) and longest ordained (70 years this year) was in our midst to share his crystal clear memories of the birth of the Church in our northernmost county. He and Father Hoge went to the same minor seminary and were classmates so Father’s passing was particularly meaningful to Monsignor Cummings.

Finally, speaking of the Pope, the accompanying photo was taken at the end of the Easter Vigil last night by a friend of mine who is in Rome. I thought I would share it with you. Happy Easter all!

+RNL

PER CRUCEM AD LUCEM

Monday, April 9th, 2012

It is Easter Monday as I write this and I had some time yesterday to think about Holy Week, the Tridium and Easter for a reason which I will conclude with. I think this has been one of the best Holy Weeks I have experienced in the thirty-four years of my priestly ministry. For one thing, I preached everything from Palm Sunday through the Easter Vigil. Preaching enforces a certain discipline on a person to concentrate more fully and deeply on the meaning of that which is celebrated and proclaimed. I am very sensitive that because I am the bishop and therefore ipso facto the pastor of the Cathedral parish, I therefore cruise into every major event in the life of the parish and take over from the priests who serve there 24/7/366 [this year]. They get neither the chance to be the principal celebrants of the liturgy nor preach Christmas, Easter, etc. So most years I ask the priests to take one of the days of Holy Week and at least preach it. This year they did not get that chance.

For about three weeksI have been meditating and thinking about the theme per crucem ad lucem or as it is translated into English, “through the cross to the light.” So beginning with Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday I attempted in preaching to lead the people through the cross to the light. I also made it the principal refrain of my Chrism Mass homily which you may have read on this blogspot. I was drawn by the stark contrast between Mark’s passion account read on Palm Sunday and John’s account of the same events read on Good Friday. Mark’s passion account is all darkness, defeat almost. The last words of Jesus are “my God, my God why have you abandoned me?” In John, Jesus controls his final hours. He places Pilate, the religious leaders of his time, his friends on trial and does not allow himself to be placed on trial. His penultimate words are to Mary, his mother, and to John, entrusting us to her and her to him. And when he has decided he has had enough, he controls the moment and says, “it is finished.” Two markedly different approaches to the cross were on display this week, one seemingly suffered and the other seemingly embraced. In the crosses of our life, we more often than not have options also – to suffer them or to embrace them. Both can lead to the light which follows most suffering.

At the Easter Vigil of course I was ready to proclaim as the Liturgy of the Vigil had just done – the light. Earlier in the day I had learned of the death of the American artist Thomas Kincaide who as a Christian believer proclaimed that he was an “artist of the light”. His simple paintings adorn walls, napkins, coffee cups, and are said to have brought in 100 million dollars a year. Imagine all of that for simply showing gardens and fields and churches and cottages in the light. How much more light we have as a result of the events of that first Easter when the women (the men were still in hiding for fear of their lives we are told) discover the empty tomb. The full meaning of that moment will not be totally appreciated until next Sunday’s Gospel account of the immediate appearance to the disciples in the upper room and then the wonderful Emmaeus story. I think, well more humbly, I hope I was able to verbally trace a path through suffering to light for those in attendance at the Cathedral and I am sure that whose who journeyed with us throughout Holy Week are tired of hearing per crucem ad lucem. My thanks to the Rector, Father Joseph Waters and to his associate Father Ken Breen for their patience with me and to all the musicians, altar servers, sacristans and countless others who put themselves out, not for the bishop this last week, but for Jesus.

I ended Holy Week by spending Easter Sunday on the “throne.” By some accident of scheduling, a fault all of my own, I scheduled a colonoscopy for Monday morning at eight o’clock. That meant no food and other distractions all of Easter Sunday and especially in the afternoon and evening. Since my long period of illness began in my colon, an ounce of precaution is worth a lot more than a pound of cure, believe me. Last year, only thirteen months after surgery, there was yet another polyp found and removed. Today, it was all clear. I share this with you because I so intensely believe that with care and regular examinations, colon cancer can be avoided and if caught early enough can be survived. There are too many stories which can cause people to avoid colonoscopy check-ups and I am here to tell you that they are not true. The day of preparation is not nearly as bad as it once was (I know because I have experienced the older prep and the newer prep) and the procedure is simple and safe. Thanks to the wonderful Rays yesterday and an exciting Masters golf tournament, I did not miss Easter dinner and today I learned that it is only through this small cross of prepping that one can come to the light of being found clear of colon cancer. If you are older than fifty and have not had a screening and if you have had a screening but it has been some time ago, please, please see your specialist and inquire if it is time. Bet you didn’t think I would end my Easter reflections in this manner.

Happy Easter season to all. He is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia.

+RNL

PRICE OF OIL REMAINS THE SAME AS LAST YEAR!

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

The opening prayer. My brother priests celebrating 25 and 40 years of priesthood are on the altar to my right, with half of my brother priests in attendance behind them (the other half in attendance were behind those celebrating their 50th and 60th years of priesthood to my left). Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

This morning was the annual Chrism Mass for the diocese at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg. It is one of my favorite moments in my service as bishop as all my brother priests gather together annually publicly to recommit themselves to their priestly ministry, and the oil of the catechumens, infirm and sacred chrism are blessed in the case of the first two and consecrated in the case of the third. The Cathedral is always packed as each parish sends representatives, at least one for each of the oils and priests and deacons are present in great number. I have always thought that our diocesan Office of Worship as well as the staff of the Cathedral really knock themselves out to provide a glorious liturgy which makes all present proud. A large choir gathered from the parishes of the diocese sing their hearts out as well. There is nothing like a full Cathedral, brother priests united with me in our privileged and blessed ministry, the singing of the “Gloria” sneaking back into Liturgy having largely been absent for these thirty-eight days of Lent to reassure all present that the Church remains vibrant and strong.

Blessing the Oil of the Sick. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

I mentioned above that the oils in use throughout the coming year are either blessed or consecrated during this annual Mass. The Oil of Catechumens is used at baptism as the first of the two sacred oils which are parts of this sacrament of initiation. The Oil of the Infirm is used only during the administration of the Sacrament of the Sick. Both of these oils come from a type of Olive Oil and they are blessed both in large urns and also in other containers brought today from the parishes and held up during the part of the ceremony which comprises the blessing (following the promise of recommitment of the priests and the homily.) Olive oil was both precious but plentiful at the time of our Lord and when mention was made yesterday in the Gospel for Monday of Holy Week of Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus breaking out a precious alabaster jar and anointing the feet of Jesus, one senses its intrinsic value in Jewish life two thousand years ago. Sacred Chrism is the same olive oil to which is added a perfume, making it even richer. Used in ancient times to anoint kings, chrism has a special place in the life of our Church today. It is an integral part of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and ordination to the priesthood and to the episcopacy (in the former the ordaining bishop anoints the palms of the hands of the one just ordained as a priest and in the latter, the ordaining bishop pours the oil over the head of the man being ordained as a bishop). There is only one other moment in Church life when the oil of Sacred Chrism is used for something other than the administration of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders and that  is when an altar is consecrated in a new Church or a remodeled Church and in the case of the former, it is also used on the walls of a totally new Church. The Cathedral asks for a small stipend of each parish to cover the cost of the oils/perfume and that has remained the same ever since I arrived (making me perhaps the only oil producing leader who has not raised oil prices in sixteen years).

Breathing into the urns holding the oil. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Finally, at one point during the consecration of the Sacred Chrism, the bishop breathes into the urns holding the oil. Approaching seventy one years of age, I notice that the length of time I am able to breathe is becoming less and less with each passing year. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Chrism Mass (and it still is in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica) was celebrated on Holy Thursday morning and the priests had to rush out immediately for their parishes to prepare for the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper later that night. After the Council it began to be moved from that date to another day either in Holy Week or the week just prior because of distances to be travelled. Think of this for a moment. The Diocese of St. Petersburg and its five counties (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus) is only 4,500 square miles roughly. My friend Bishop Paul Etienne who  is the bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming has the whole state or 100,000 square miles. Some parishes drive six hours to attend the Chrism Mass there. I am so lucky in so many ways, including and especially the priests and deacons who share the mantle of pastoral ministry and leadership with me. If you are in search of cheap oil but rich in symbol, cast a glance at the ambery in your parish where the oils are displayed and thank the Lord for this great sign of blessing and consecration.

Finally, click here if you wish to read my homily at today’s Mass of the Chrism. You can click here to watch the video of it. To see more photos taken during the Chrism Mass, click here. More Thursday on the first night of the Triduum.

+RNL

LAY DAY

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

The term “lay day” has nautical origins and refers to those days when a ship/boat/vessel is neither racing, working, loading, etc. The boat simply lays on its anchor, attached to its mooring, or simply secure to its dock and the crew gets a day off from their usual routine, an opportunity to sleep late, work on personal projects like laundry, write letters, etc. In highly competitive sailboat racing, these days are pre-built into the schedule. For bishops Holy Saturday is a “lay day” – a day without Mass and mostly without appointments or expectations. Pastors and priests in parishes are hard at work preparing and rehearsing for the Easter Vigil (no rest for them) and sacristans, trainers of altar servers, etc. also seldom get the day off. But I do have it off until 830pm tonight and the glorious Easter Vigil.

Here are some thoughts about Holy Week this far. I have witnessed a steady diminution of people coming to Holy Thursday and Good Friday liturgies over the last fifteen years. From standing room only in 1996 to at best two-thirds full this year. A part is due to the shifting demographics of the Cathedral parish over this period of time with many older Catholics for whom Easter meant the entire Triduum either moving or dying. A part is also generational with young parents not having has the experience of accompanying their parents to the Holy Thursday and Good Friday services. Yesterday from the altar I thought that if something is not done to reverse this trend, my successor will be celebrating in front of an empty house in ten years, or almost empty. Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday are just names for days for many younger practicing Catholics and are largely devoid of any real religious need to be present.

Those who do come worship with great reverence and dignity. On Holy Thursday the procession to the altar of reservation was long, prayerful, and richly spiritual for the several hundred who remained to pray. We wash a good number of feet at our Cathedral representative of all age groups and that helps swell attendance slightly. Since we reverence one huge cross at our Cathedral which I hold for an excruciating approximately fifteen minutes or so, I can see two categories of those approaching to kiss the wood of the cross – grandparents and their grandchildren. Maybe the latter is a good sign. I would estimate we had about 500 for Holy Thursday Mass and 650-700 for Good Friday but this is in a Church which comfortably can seat 1,200. There is some “heavy weather sailing” catechesis which needs to be done and soon on the services of Holy Week.

The Easter Vigil begins with sunset at 830pm tonight at our Cathedral and will end about three hours later. Working from an aging memory I think there are about five to be baptized and another twelve to be received into full communion. If history runs it course, there will be about 400 people in the Church for this most beautiful and joyous of all liturgies, save ordination. Time flies for me at the Vigil and it is over before I even begin to fidgit about how long it is lasting. It is simply wonderful.

Holy Week is a lot of work for our priests, deacons  and parish staffs but they joyfully embrace it to hear that welcome news, “He is not here, he has risen!” which comes tonight. The Churches will be jammed tomorrow and at the end of the day, we will settle back and count our many blessings: that we are Catholic, that we journeyed through all of Holy Week with Christ, and that He is Risen. More tomorrow.

+RNL

PALM SUNDAY 2011

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

In one of the Gospel accounts of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem for the final time, Jesus tells his disciples to go into Jerusalem, secure a room and prepare for the Passover Meal. His instructions are quite specific, as specific as today’s Gospel account of the securing of donkeys for the triumphal entry. I like the other account because it helps us understand the context and content of this very special week, which we are beginning today. Jesus specifies the place, the Upper Room, the occasion or context which is the remembrance of the Passover, and the reason, “celebrate.”

As we begin this Holy Week, the Lord invites us to enter into the context and content of what might arguable be called the most important week in human history – the week he bought with his own suffering and death our ransom from sin and our ticket, as it were, into eternal life. To do this properly and to experience it most deeply, we too must journey to Jerusalem, prepare a place in our hearts to recall these moments of our salvation, and celebrate even the most tragic of deaths, albeit with a great ending.

Jesus calls us to gather here, in our parish, on Thursday night to recall the moment of the twin institutions of Eucharist and Priesthood. He calls us to gather here, in this Cathedral on Good Friday to listen once again to the price he paid to redeem us and how he loved us to death, and to return on Easter to hear the angel’s news that he has risen from the dead, just as he said he would and that by that fact alone, if we live our life according to the commandments we shall reap the benefits of both his death and rising.

To me it is difficult to envision spiritually experiencing the joy of Easter without in some way experiencing the moments which led up to it. If you have time only for Good Friday, come and listen again to the passion account of the Evangelist John, reverence the cross on which hung the salvation of the world, and receive the bread of life which your Church does not wish to be long without. He is begging us to prepare a room for him in our lives this week, to recall, reenact, renew the three most important moments of Christianity. There can be no Easter without Good Friday preceding it.

This Cathedral or your parish Church is the place to which He is sending you to prepare to celebrate the true Passover from death into life, from evil into virtue, from failure into the greatest success in history. Don’t leave here this morning without planning to return, for part or all is the three most important occasions of our life.

+RNL

CHRISM MASS – 2010

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Here are some pictures from today’s Chrism Mass at St. Jude Cathedral. My homily can be read by clicking here.

Update: You can listen to my homily on our diocesan podcast.

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ET ALIA

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Theology on Tap is a program for interested Catholics who wish to know more about their faith. While it was begun for and principally attracts twenty and thirty somethings, it is open to any interested Church member. They are held in bars and restaurants so that those attending can combine post-wok relaxation and dining with learning more about their Church. This Spring’s four weeks of Theology on Tap are ended and since most of us missed the occasion of hearing the presentations, I wish to draw your attention to the podcasts of the speakers which can be accessed by going to our diocesan podcast http://blogs.dosp.org/podcast or to the iTunes store where you can download or subscribe for no charge. Apropos of this week, you might especially like to listen to Father John Tapp’s presentation on the Sacred Triduum.

Tomorrow at St. Jude’s Cathedral at 1130am is the annual Chrism Mass, a liturgy which takes it name from the fact that the Sacred Oils of the Sick, the Catechumens, and Chrism are blessed and consecrated during the ceremony. However, it is also the annual occasion for the priests to renew the promises and commitments which they made on the day of their ordination and they turn out in great number for this lovely liturgy. Delegations from all the parishes and missions in the diocese accompany the oils so the Cathedral is fairly full but there is always room for some more so if you have nothing to do and would like to experience the Church at its best, please join us. If, however, you are unable to be physically present, you can join us by tuning into Spirit FM 90.5 [WBVM] for a live broadcast.

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II (on Good Friday, April 2nd) and last week was the 30th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador who was wantonly murdered in his own Cathedral. We should pray for them both. The Holy Father is well along in the process of beatification prior to canonization as a recognized saint by the  Church and the latter should be further along than he is but that will come in time.

Finally, this is the last blog posting of Holy Week although my homilies throughout the week will be posted here. Easter week I am retreating “into my shell” for some R&R but will be back on the blog on or around the First Sunday of Easter (April 11th). I take this moment to extend to all my readers my prayers for a most blessed Triduum and Easter joy. Welcome to our near 1500 catechumens and candidates who will be entering the Church at the Easter Vigil and the love of Christ and my own to all of you.

Bishop Robert N. Lynch (aka “+RNL”)

FROM TRIUMPH TO TRAGEDY IN TEN MINUTES – PALM SUNDAY

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Homily for Palm Sunday Mass

“He was like us in all things save sin.” This brief description of Jesus found in St. Paul and in the writings of the early Church is nowhere more aptly applied than in today’s Palm Sunday liturgy. For Jesus, not unlike for ourselves, life was a roller coaster running between triumph and tragedy, joy and sorrow, exhilaration and pain. Our Liturgy of the Word today began even before we entered the Church, at the blessing of the palms. The deacon read the Gospel account of the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He hear the “hosannas”, we can almost sense the crowd pressing in on the now well-known teacher from Galilee, full of adulation, desirous of touching him or being touched by him. It was a moment of seeming triumph, a penultimate moment of huge success or, in other words, a moment of triumph.

Within minutes, however, we hear the passion account of St. Luke. The cheering crowds have been replaced by jeering crowds. The cloaks spread on the road before him now wrap him as a mockery. Chants of “hosanna” are replaced by chants of “crucify him.” His closest friends who prepared the way for his Palm Sunday moment of triumph are now nowhere to found during his moment of tragedy. One has betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver coin and another has denied him to save his own skin. Beaten, scourged, humiliated, he stands before Jerusalem not as Christ the King but rather as the dangerous “carpenter’s son from Nazareth who needs not to be welcome but to be eliminated.

Cannot life be like that for us at times, albeit without the high drama? Do we not move through life experiencing and balancing moments of joy and happiness with moments of sorrow and uncertainty? Can it not be said that we have had our share of Palm Sundays and Good Fridays? Jesus experienced in his life all the highs and lows that are ours in this life. The question for ourselves, however, is how do we cope with, how do we deal with, how do we make use of the inevitable moments of pain that blot out the bright light of our joys?

We would do well, today and throughout this week, to look to Jesus for a “hint of an explanation” in the words of the British author, Graham Greene. Today it is to be found in the example of the Lord’s life. He knew he was never alone. Abandoned, denied, sold out, yes, but that was all by weak humanity. Jesus knew that his Father, our Father, was always with him and would in the end turn this passing theatre of tragedy into an eternity of triumph. That insight, that belief, is called faith. And when he felt that by sacrificing at least his life, our own might someday be spared as well, that belief is called hope. And when he laid down his life for his friends (Peter, Paul, Andrew, James, John, Mary Magdalene, Mary, his own mother, Martha and Mary and for ourselves), that belief is called love. What he did by enduring the worst moment of tragic pain and suffering was to make us sharers in his triumph. But do we truly believe this or do we always want more from God? Can we take what has been promised or do we wish more of our Lord?

On Palm Sunday he entered Jerusalem knowing full well that the human folly of the entry would soon give way to the realities of life – jealousy, anger, resentments. Where do we fit in this collage of human conditions? Are we lining the street yelling “Hosanna” today only to be found in the modern courtyards of Pilate yelling, “crucify him” tomorrow? Are we fair weather friends of God like Peter or are we in it for the long haul with God like Mary Magdalene? In our lives of faith do we wallow in triumph, ascribing everything  to our own initiative, or to ourselves or do we wallow in tragedy, blaming it all on God or others?

During this Holy Week and in this Cathedral I will attempt to reflect on life’s triumphs and tragedies based on the life and teaching of Jesus in his final hours as a “man like us in all things save sin.” I invite you to walk with me through his week, using the most beautiful liturgies of our Church to gain perhaps a new perspective in what it all meant and what it all means. Come to the Upper Room Thursday night for the institution of the Eucharist, to Golgotha on Friday for the best lesson of how only God can make something good come from something awful and to the tomb at the Easter Vigil to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, life over death. Experience perhaps in a new and different manner the tragedies and triumphs of Holy Week.

PDF of Homily Text