Fr. James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
My mother grew up on a farm near Dotyville, Wisconsin. Now Dotyville is just a small country town. However, it proudly sported three taverns, one church which was Catholic, one general store and an electrical appliance store. Even though the town was small the people hosted a parade each year. People came in from the farms with their tractors pulling hay wagons decorated as floats. Others would show off their new combines or their restored John Deere tractors.
People came from miles around to watch the parade. One year, as the people were watching the floats pass by, they noticed an unusual float. A man driving a John Deere tractor was pulling a simple flat-bed hay wagon. Three men were riding on the wagon loaded down with lumber. One man was measuring the two by fours. Another was sawing the wood. The other was pounding nails. No one understood the significance of the float.
But then, it all became clear as the wagon passed by. The puzzled expressions on the spectators’ faces vanished. On the back side of the hay-wagon there hung a large sign which said, “We thought the parade was next week!”
In a few weeks our city will be humming with parades – Fiesta parades. The Catholic Church is getting a head-start with parades. This Sunday we are having our own St. Gerard parade. However we call our event a procession, a Palm Sunday procession.
At all the Masses we will bless the palms on the church veranda. Then we will process into the church. At the 10:30 Mass we will process through the parking lot before entering into the church. Our procession into the church reminds us of Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey to the cheers of the people.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week – Holy Week – is known as the ‘Triduum.’ These are sacred days in which we commemorate the Lord’s last supper, his crucifixion and his death. Then, on Easter Sunday, we rise in triumph with his resurrection. Lent is officially over as we begin the Holy Thursday Mass of the Last Supper. However, Lent moves into the Triduum within a heartbeat. So – fasting and abstinence carries on until the Vigil Mass on Saturday.
Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. I will lead us in the Mass of the Last Supper. This Mass commemorates the Lord’s Last Supper. On Friday, at 3:00 p.m. Father Lindsey will conduct the Stations of the Cross. At 7:00 p.m. Father Lindsey will lead us in the Good Friday service. On Good Friday there will be a special collection for the sacred shrines in the Holy Land, which the Franciscan Missioners are maintaining and preserving. Father Lindsey will preside at the Easter Vigil on Saturday, beginning at 8:00 p.m. During this Easter Vigil the people studying in our catechumate program during this past year will be received in the Catholic Church. on Easter Sunday I will celebrate the 8:00 and 10:30 Masses.
In addition to the Masses at St. Gerard, Father Lindsey and I have been alternating in the celebration of daily Masses at Our Lady of Czetochowa Shrine & Divine Mercy Chapel on Beethoven Street. Father Lindsey will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass of the Last Supper at 7:00 p.m. in the Divine Mercy Chapel. I will lead the Stations of the Cross at 12:00 p.m. on Friday. If the weather permits we will pray the Stations of the Cross outdoors on the beautiful grounds of the Shrine. Then, at 3:00 p.m. I will lead the Good Friday services. On Saturday evening, at 7:00 p.m., I will celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass in the Divine Mercy Chapel. On Easter Sunday Father Lindsey will celebrate the 10:00 Mass in the Divine Mercy Chapel. In the name of the Seraphic Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, who staff the shrine, I welcome you to join us as we offer our praises to God.
How often people want to celebrate the Risen Christ only. We must remember. Before Christ rose from the dead He carried His cross to Calvary where he was crucified. We too must accompany the crucified Christ as we carry our crosses. Only then can we truly experience the rising with Christ on Easter Sunday.
There is a story told about an immigrant name Ole. He lived in Sweden and decided to come to America. His boat left Sweden in 1876. They were at sea for four days when a gigantic storm came up. The wind was blowing. The sails were shaking. People were scared. The captain was scared. So finally, Ole went up to the captain and said, “Captain, we have to do something about this.”
The captain said, “The only thing I can think of is that we hold a prayer meeting up on deck.” So, Ole got everybody on deck. The wind was whistling through the torn sails. The water was flowing over the deck. Everyone was holding onto the rails. The captain took the good book out and he turned to the heavens saying, “Oh Father, send thy Son to save us.” At that point Ole himself got up and hollered through the wind, “Father you’d better come yourself. This is no job for a kid.”
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.