Holy Week Info from Fr. Mike

Dearest Liturgical Ministers, Teachers, Catechists, and Ministries

While I wrote a short blurb for this weekend’s bulletin about Holy Week, Fr. Elmer and I thought it would a good idea to give a bit of a summary of what is happening at each of our major Holy Week liturgies.

We begin with Palm Sunday weekend, and something that I hope anyone who might be available to help Kris and Clara Santin on Saturday with getting the church ready in terms of environment, I know helping Kris’ vision come to life would be appreciated. However, environment isn’t the only thing that needs to be done by the time 5pm Mass rolls around. Preparing the palms for each Mass of the weekend will need to be done, i.e., stripping them from bigger bundles so that we will not run short for our regular Mass schedule on a unique weekend. This is one of the weekends that Catholics will make every effort to attend Mass. There will be literally thousands of people.

I would hope that all who are ministering at the Palm Sunday weekend Masses will make an extra effort to be at least 10 minutes early if possible. With so many people coming to visit us, every minister is a “gusher” by default especially at the before each Mass – lectors, servers, Eucharistic Ministers, and gushers alike. The more gushers in attendance, the more lives that will be welcomed, even manning the side entrances. Also, the palms will need to be handed out (trying to keep it from one to two per person – we can invite people to take extras at the end of Mass if there are any left by that time).

There will be a small amount of palms at the gift table along with the bread and wine. The blessing of the palms and the gospel of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem take place at the very beginning of Mass. Once the gospel is ended, the priest and/or deacon will process around the church to sprinkle holy water. The procession ends with the priest and/or deacon arriving at their chairs in the sanctuary. There is an opening prayer, followed by the Liturgy of the Word.

The Passion will be read with the help of the lectors and the crowd (having been instructed to be seated) will be invited to participate as well. After the homily, Mass will continue as any other Sunday – the collection, gift procession, … The only other important piece that is different is that the people are being invited to leave in silence as some people will inevitably stay to pray. This will come up again on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Of course, a reminder will come at the end of each of those summaries.

Holy Thursday, as I am sure you are well aware, is not only the beginning of the Triduum, but one of the most profound evenings for the church as she celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Gathered in the narthex to begin, there will be incense to lead the procession, the Cross-bearer, processional candles, concelebrating priests, the deacon (if present), and the celebrant. The Mass will be bi-lingual too.

Mass begins as per usual with the procession, penitential rite, the Gloria returns, and opening prayer. When the readings and gospel are complete and the homily is finished, one of the most special rituals takes place – the Mandatum (the Washing of Feet). It would be appreciated if we could have a few of the gushers to help in setting up the 12 chairs for those who have been chosen to be washed (and also to take the chairs away after the ritual). Those helping can simply step to the side so that the congregation may watch.

After the Universal Prayers, there is another ritual that has great meaning – the procession of the Holy Oils which will have been blessed on Tuesday, April 4th at Holy Name Cathedral by Cardinal Cupich. Each oil will be introduced and brought forward by members of the community, followed eventually by the other regular offertory gifts including a collection, bread, and wine. Again, Mass will continue as usual through the distribution of communion. Eucharistic Ministers please note that you will not bring your ciboria back to the tabernacle. Please bring them to ____. There will be a solemn procession of the Holy Sacrament through the church to the altar of reposition. It will be led by the Cross-bearer, processional candles, incense, the deacon (if present), and the priest carrying the Sacrament. After incensing the Sacrament, the ministers leave to the sacristy.

People again will be invited to stay for adoration of the blessed Sacrament which will take place throughout the night. Those who are not staying will be instructed to leave the church in silence. If anyone can remain to help strip the altar with the obvious exception of the altar of repose, please do. It’s a lot. Again, that will also take place in silence.

Good Friday (in “real time”) took place only about 2 hours after the Lord’s Supper. Getting Jesus betrayed, arrested, brought to the authorities, being given His “crown,” scourging, and ultimate sentencing took place within a 4-hour period as we think about all of these events happening before dawn. Once Jesus takes the Cross and carries it through the streets to Golgotha, it’s about another 6 hours, but in daytime. Jesus is still the light of the world. To accomplish such a great task, it takes someone who is very strong and “other-worldly.” Over and over again, Jesus tells us that is in fact “other-worldly” as are those who follow Him because the Holy Spirit dwells in them.

Again, gushers and any other ministers present, please help in welcoming people as you did on Palm Sunday. All entrances need to be manned. The main reason besides welcoming people is that we want to remind people to keep silence before the service begins. I also ask that those helping with gusher duties, please keep silence in the narthex as is proper to the solemn nature of the celebration.

The service begins with the priests prostrating themselves before the altar while the community kneels for about a minute. The celebrant stands and proceeds to the presider’s chair and prays the opening prayer. At the conclusion of the prayer, all are invited to be seated. The Liturgy of the Word begins as normal until the reading of the Passion. As on Palm Sunday, the lectors will assist and the crowd is invited to participate, beginning on page ___. There will be a homily followed by the Solemn Intercessions. Next there is the unveiling and showing of the Cross which will be in the narthex. The priest or deacon will go to the narthex to process with the Cross to the front of the sanctuary where it will be placed for people to venerate. After that is completed, the altar will be set for communion, during which there will be a collection for the Holy Land. Again, Eucharistic Ministers are asked to bring their ciboria back to the sacristy. The service ends with a prayer, and once again, we leave in silence.

Holy Saturday is meant to be the day of waiting; however, once the Easter Vigil begins, it becomes the most holy night of the whole liturgical calendar. As I mentioned in my recent bulletin article, it’s the night when people who have been formed in the Catholic faith are received as full members of the faith. Unfortunately for this year, St. Cletus doesn’t have anyone to baptize or confirm. It’s a shame because the rituals are so powerful. But let’s start at the beginning of the evening.

Once again, I ask that everyone in the various liturgical ministries help out with any set-up that might be happening, but especially helping the gushers to not only welcome people but to help guide as there is a lot of movement that will be happening.

The evening begins outside of the church with the blessing of the new Easter fire and the new Easter candle. Everyone who wishes to join us at the fire may. Everyone should have a taper candle with them whether inside or outside of the church. Some people may need assistance getting outside if they’ve already entered the church. Please be mindful of those members of the community.

After the new Candle is blessed and lit (preferably FROM the new fire), the deacon should be carrying the candle LEADING people into the church. There will be three stops inside the church proclaiming the Light of Christ. After the first stop is proclaimed, the celebrant should light one of the tapers from the Easter candle. After the second stop, the celebrant begins the light of the everyone’s candles behind him. After the third stop, the rest of the people in the church should have their candles lit. So please help with very powerful ritual.

While the new Paschal candle is being incensed, the community keeps their candles lit, and they remain lit until the end of the first Genesis reading. This year, St. Cletus will be having the maximum number of readings and psalms – 7 from the Old Testament, 1 reading from St. Paul, and the Gospel. It’s a lot, but we need to be the best of examples for people who might not be familiar with attending the vigil. When it’s done well and with love, people will not be looking at their watches nor thinking about how much time it’s taking. Trust us.

After the homily, normally there would be the baptisms for adult catechumens to take place and others to be received as new fully-initiated members of the Catholic Church. As I already stated, St. Cletus will not have anyone this year. Therefore, we will bless water which will be used in sprinkling the community; however, after the water is blessed and before it is sprinkled, the all of the community’s candles should be re-lit shared from the Paschal candle. The baptismal promises are renewed and the people are sprinkled to be reminded of their call to holiness through baptism.

Once that piece is complete, there are the Universal Prayers, and the rest of the Mass as normal. The only addition to the Easter Vigil and throughout the Easter season is the double Alleluia in the final blessing and the people’s response.

As I’ve said, it’s a lot. That is why it is SO important to be as available as possible for any or all of the services. If we work together as a team, then it won’t feel like work. It’ll feel like EASTER.

On behalf of Fr. Elmer and I, thank you for everything you do to make St. Cletus uniquely gifted in serving God’s people.

Happy Easter,
Fr. Mike

(c) 2023 | St. Cletus Parish

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