In the coming week, Holy Week, the Church’s year reaches its pinnacle with liturgies and devotions that draw people into the redemptive power of Christ’s passion, crucifixion, death and resurrection.
Holy Week, can “break open the mystery of the Lord’s love for us, so people really get what the Lord gave for us,” said Father Dan Reehill, pastor of St. Edward Church in Nashville.
Although Catholics are only obligated to attend Mass on Easter, Father Davis Chackaleckel, M.S.F.S., pastor of St. Catherine Church in Columbia, encouraged his parishioners to attend as many of the Holy Week liturgies and services as they can.
“We should try to participate because it’s the most important time,” Father Chackaleckel said. It is a time when Catholics “remember the suffering of Christ, which led to our redemption.”
Holy Week is one of the quietest weeks of the year for Father Reehill as a pastor, he said. “I don’t take appointments. The liturgy is scaled back to one a day. That’s all pared down.”
That slower pace helps create a sense of contemplation, Father Reehill said. And as people think about Christ’s crucifixion, it’s an opportunity to think about redemptive suffering, he added. “It brings people a lot of hope when their suffering can help others by uniting it to the cross. They have something they can do with their suffering that brings them a sense of purpose.”
Father Chackaleckel will get an early start on Holy Week when he celebrates Mass and the Anointing of the Sick at 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Catherine. He also will take time that day to visit people in nursing homes and who are homebound to administer the Anointing of the Sick.
“Normally we have a good crowd,” for the Mass, he said. “They want that feeling of healing.”
The priests of the diocese will gather for the Chrism Mass at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. Bishop Terry Steib, the retired Bishop of Memphis, will celebrate the Mass where the chrism oils used in the administration of the sacraments during the coming year are blessed and distributed to pastors to take back to their parishes. Also during the Chrism Mass, the priests of the diocese will renew the promises of their baptism and ordination.
The Triduum begins with the celebration of Mass on Holy Thursday. During the Mass, the priest will follow the example of Jesus at the Last Supper when he washed the feet of the apostles.
Father Chackaleckel asked each of the 12 members of the Parish Council at St. Catherine to invite one person to have their feet washed during the Mass. “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do,” Jesus told the Apostles.
The act is a reminder to people to be servants to others, Father Chackaleckel said. “That’s what we are called to be.”
The Holy Thursday Mass also celebrates the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. At the end of the Mass, the altar is stripped bare and the Eucharist is removed from the tabernacle until it is returned at the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night.
“We’re stripping away everything so it’s just you in the desert waiting for Jesus,” Father Reehill said.
The Good Friday service includes the veneration of the cross and the Stations of the Cross. This year, Father Chackaleckel will use “Mary’s Way of the Cross,” which contemplates the crucifixion through the eyes of Christ’s mother.
At St. Edward, the parish this year will present the Living Stations of the Cross. It’s a practice Father Reehill first experienced as a seminarian. “It was so profoundly impactful on everybody who participated and I never forgot it.”
Planning for the Living Stations has drawn on all the ministries of the parish, Father Reehill said. For example, members of the Spiritual Motherhood Sodality will portray the women of Jerusalem and Karen Courtney, the parish youth director, will portray Veronica.
The cross that will be used was made from a tree cut down from the property of one of the parishioners. It will be 16 feet tall and it will take 16 people to carry, Father Reehill said, “so everybody gets to be Simon the Cyrene.”
The stations will be set up on the parish grounds and people will walk from one station to the next. “You feel like you’re there. It’s literally the Way of the Cross,” Father Reehill said. “It really takes in all the senses.”
The Good Friday service at St. Edward will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the church and will be followed by the Living Stations on the parish grounds at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome. “We’re hoping it’s going to be an amazing event,” Father Reehill said.
The highlight of Holy Saturday is the Easter Vigil Mass, which begins with parishioners carrying candles, signifying the light of Christ, into a darkened church.
“This is the highest liturgy of the year,” Father Reehill said. “If you want to come to something special that is not like any other liturgy in the year,” he recommends attending the Easter Vigil Mass, which also is the time when new members of the Church are baptized and confirmed.
“I feel it is a great joy when people join the Church” at the Easter Vigil, said Father Chackaleckel. At the end of the Mass, all the parishioners will welcome the new members with applause and hugs, he said. “It’s a great feeling of receiving them.”
The Masses on the Easter Vigil and on Easter morning celebrate Christ’s resurrection and His victory over death.
“A Catholic can learn a lot” about the faith at those Masses, Father Chackaleckel said. “It’s very catechizing. … They come to understand the basic Christian faith.”
It’s also a good time to reach out to Catholics who only attend Mass a few times a year, Father Chackaleckel said.
At St. Catherine, they will be handing out copies of a book of Easter homilies by Bishop Robert Barron to those who attend the Easter Vigil and Easter morning Masses. Father Chackaleckel’s hope is that the books and other materials he hands out on special occasions like Easter will help people deepen their faith. “I believe seeds of faith will sprout and people will come back.”