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Holy Week Message from Fr. Kirk Slattery

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As our Holy week continues, we are approaching the days that have the deepest of meaning in our spiritual lives. While we cannot be together as a parish family, I pray that you will continue to be deliberate, in your own ways, in participating in this journey to Easter. I’ve been sent many photos of your home altars, the preparations you have made to experience Mass more meaningfully, and more recently your palm displays. As your pastor, each photo has brought great joy to my heart, and I look forward to seeing how you will live out the rest of the week!

As you can imagine, how we will celebrate the events of this week has been weighing heavily on my mind since I first realized we would not be able to gather together. That single consideration has consumed more of my prayer time than anything else. It is especially difficult because so much of what makes these liturgies special, is how they draw us into the Passion through experiences that are unique in the Church’s liturgy. We process and wave palms, gather at the Last Supper, and experience the Easter light cast darkness away. When we come together for these experiences it helps unite us as a Church. And as your pastor, I will certainly miss that poignant moment when I kneel and wash your feet. Every year since I have been ordained, I have quietly and joyfully wept, holding back my tears as best as I could, as this moment of humility and service, that Jesus witnesses for us, represents for me the essence of the priesthood.

Today is also somewhat difficult for me, as today is the day that we traditionally celebrate the Chrism Mass with Bishop Sheridan at the Cathedral. This Mass, for most people, is significant because of the blessing of the Sacred Oils, which are then brought back to our parishes to be used throughout the year. But for priests it is one of the few times during the year when we gather and spend a day in reflection and prayer, and then celebrate the liturgy with our Bishop. It is also the celebration during which we renew our priestly promises. It will be rescheduled when things return to normal. However, celebrating it during Holy Week is significant because of its relationship to Holy Thursday and the institution of the Eucharist.

Since most Catholics, unfortunately, may never experience a Chrism Mass, I’d like to share with you the priestly promises that I and my brother priests renew each year. Guided by the liturgical text, Bishop Sheridan questions us in this way:

(After the homily speaking with the Priests)

Beloved Sons,

On the anniversary of that day
when Christ our Lord conferred his priesthood
on his Apostles and on us,
are you resolved to renew,
in the presence of your Bishop and God’s holy people,
the promises you once made?


Priests: I am.
 

Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus
and more closely conformed to him,
denying yourselves and confirming those promises
about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church
which, prompted by love of him,
you willingly and joyfully pledged
on the day of your priestly ordination?


Priests:  I am.
 

Are you resolved to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God
in the Holy Eucharist and the other liturgical rites
and to discharge faithfully the sacred office of teaching,
following Christ the Head and Shepherd,
not seeking any gain,
but moved only by zeal for souls?


Priests:  I am.


(Addressing the people)

As for you, dearest sons and daughters,
pray for your Priests,
that the Lord may pour out his gifts abundantly upon them,
and keep them faithful as ministers of Christ, the High Priest,
so that they may lead you to him,
who is the source of salvation.
 

People:  Christ, hear us.  Christ, graciously hear us.
 

And pray also for me,
that I may be faithful to the apostolic office
entrusted to me in my lowliness
and that in your midst I may be made day by day
a living and more perfect image of Christ,
the Priest, the Good Shepherd,
the Teacher and the Servant of all.


People:  Christ, hear us.  Christ, graciously hear us.


May the Lord keep us all in his charity
and lead all of us,
shepherds and flock,
to eternal life.
 

All:  Amen.

 

I hope you find these words as moving as I do.  And the celebration itself is perhaps the most perfect representation of the local Church, as the Faithful and Priests gather around our Bishop, united in purpose, rededicated, and renewed in our mission to face the year ahead.

Over the past few weeks, as I have reflected on and prayed with these priestly promises, I have been inspired and renewed as we navigate the unexpected scenario we are now experiencing.  And through prayer, I’ve come to believe that they also hold the answer to the question that I have been struggling with: how do we celebrate the profound liturgies ahead, without those actual experiences of gathering together?  We do it by gathering around Christ, our Priest, our Good Shepherd, our Teacher and our Servant.  All of these, as the Church teaches, are made most fully present to us through our Bishops.  So, even though I will be celebrating Holy Week and Easter liturgies by myself and with some of our deacons, I will not stream or record these celebrations.  Instead, I will be turning my attention toward Bishop Sheridan and his online celebrations.  And I am asking, as your Pastor, that instead of watching the many other options you will certainly have, please join me in gathering around our Bishop during his live streams.  There are other parishes that will be joining us in this effort to be united in an extraordinary way as a diocese.

Our normal Sunday online Masses will return beginning on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 19th.  Until then, may God bless all of you in the week ahead with renewed faith, peace, and hope in Christ’s Resurrection!

Your servant in Christ,

Fr. Kirk Slattery