I had a history lesson yesterday. If you don’t live in Massachusetts — the third Monday in April is always Patriot’s Day! It was officially made a Massachusetts Holiday in 1894 and marks the beginning of the American Revolution (as well as the Boston Marathon!). I learned about the bells that rang that signaled the minutemen to arms against the British. I always thought that the bells rang in Old North Church in Boston. But…no. The lanterns hung in Old North Church — one if by land, two if by sea! The British were making their approach to Lexington and Concord where large supplies of ammunition were stored. If they could capture those, they would essentially stop the Colonialists in their tracks. Without munitions, the Minutemen would be lost against the British. The two lanterns that hung in the bell tower of Old North Church were only there for 60 seconds, but that was enough to let Paul Revere and thirty others know to expect the British to row across the river and make their way west. After the 19 mile ride to Lexington, the bell was rung in the Old Belfry on Lexington Green, alerting the Minutemen of the approach of the British soldiers. It rang at 5:30 that morning in 1894, and is rung in commemoration each year on Patriot’s Day at that same time! By 6:00 the British had arrived, thinking they would “surprise” these farmers, and instead were routed by the untrained soldiers. They went from there to Concord, and before the day was out, the shot rang out that was heard around the world, and the Revolution was begun.
— Mary Shannon, member of the Community of Jesus Bellringers at the Church of the Transfiguration
The last few weeks have provided ample evidence of God’s power. I’m reminded of how precious life is. The creator of life and the weather can far out-wit and out-muscle even our greatest ambitions. We truly are helpless as to the timing of these events, either death or the weather. Not that there ever isn’t evidence, but it has been more at the forefront of my daily activities and therefore more on my mind. We just celebrated the fourth funeral in our Monastery since the first of 2018. Yes, celebrated, is the purposefully chosen word. Each funeral rite has been a rich celebration of life and a pointed reminder of how uniquely precious all life is.
Over the last six weeks, our neck of the woods has experienced three nor’easters. These destructive storms force trees down, power outages, injuries, and even take lives. Sitting inside during a powerful storm is a helpless feeling. We sit helpless against dangerous rising tides, and wind powerful enough to drop a giant tree flat on its back- helpless to stop it, but in awe of its power.
I hope I can start each day with this helpless feeling so as to be reminded of the gift that life is. To be reminded just how precious, unique and awfully special each day we are given can be.
Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.—Henri J. M. Nouwen
— Excerpted from Icons: The Essential Collection, by Sr. Faith Riccio, CJ
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
be it unto me according to thy word.
And the angel departed from her.
—Luke 1:37–38 KJV
Beginning with hymns and antiphons of light, alleluias and Easter joy, the fifty-day feast of Easter traditionally commences with the chants at Lauds. The entire Eucharistic liturgy that follows reflects the joyful news of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and our salvation. This feast is the pinnacle of the Christian liturgical year and is celebrated with procession, music, art, special liturgy and Gregorian chants that echo our joy that in Christ “death is swallowed up in victory!” By the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we receive new birth, new hope, and the gift of eternal life.
I am surprised by the same thing each year as we approach Easter: Jesus’s statement that “by this all men will know you are my disciples.” If I filled in the blank of what “this” is, I would say it must be serving others—feeding the poor, visiting the sick, remembering the prisoners. Or “this” must be an attitude toward life and death, being willing to jump in the flames (of whatever kind) knowing that God will take care of you. Or surely “this” is loving your enemies. These are the marks of a disciple. But that’s not what Jesus said. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). That’s a revolutionary statement – it’s not the doing, it’s the being. And you will be known as a disciple by how you love those who are closest to you. Jesus is interested in changing hearts, so that everything we do flows from love.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (Corinthians 13:1).
As we approach the ultimate darkness, a day we call Good Friday, I find myself reflecting on why that’s so. Perhaps God’s mystery is revealed in darkness. In Genesis 1:2,3, we’re told the world was void and darkness covered the earth. And God said, “Let there be light. And there was light.” Just like that.
When alone and afraid, I run through darkness. Perhaps I should embrace it. Perhaps. For hidden within its shapeless shape, is a pin point of light that beckons. It twirls like a ballerina, full of grace; etches a sunrise; reveals a presence of goodness that truly never left us. As a fresh canvas waits for its artist or a night sky its stars, we await the risen Christ. He always comes back to us, the essence of love.
I am thinking about Easter coming so soon, and want to make “the most” of Holy Week.
Oddly enough, a sentence of an Advent hymn, “let every heart prepare Him room” keeps running through my head. I realized that it is quite appropriate to prepare my heart for the miracle of Easter joy.
As I pondered how to “prepare Him room” in my heart, I realized that my heart is crowded — with busyness, bitterness, unforgiveness, and selfishness. If I take the time to enlarge my heart and make it ready, I will be ready to accept the full Easter joy.
Last Sunday, when The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ was read from Mark 14, I was struck at the words, “He will show you a large room upstairs that is already set up, furnished, fixed, and ready. That is where you should prepare our meal.
The “large room” is now our heart. We need to have it “already set up, furnished, fixed and ready” so that He can prepare His meal of Communion in us — the full joy of Easter.
Commemorating both Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his passion, this feast begins Holy Week and points us toward the events of Good Friday and Easter. All of these themes can be found in the morning service of Lauds, which includes antiphons of praise, hymns of the passion, and texts that point to our redemption through Christ’s death and resurrection. The liturgy of Holy Eucharist for this day begins with a “triumphant” procession accompanied by hymns of Hosannas, and then moves to a quieter meditation on Christ’s suffering, concluding with solemn reverence as Holy Week begins.
Blessed St. Joseph, enkindle in our cold hearts a spark of your charity. May God be always the first and only object of our affections. Keep our souls always in sanctifying grace and, if we should be so unhappy as to lose it, give us the strength to recover it immediately by a sincere repentance. Help us to such a love of our God as will always keep us united to Him. Amen
— Excerpted from the “Novena to St. Joseph”
Quite ecumenical among the saints, St. Joseph is revered in the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion and among both Lutherans and Methodists.
Joseph accepted the responsibility of protecting Mary and being a father to Jesus in the face of circumstances that would distress even a man of such faith and obedience as he was. He is honored for the nurturing care and protection he provided for the infant Jesus and his mother, in taking them to Egypt to escape Herod, and in raising Jesus as a faithful Jew in Nazareth. He is considered the patron saint of the working man, because he not only worked with his hands but taught his trade to his son.
One of the most well-known saints to Christians and non-Christians alike, St. Patrick’s life, while often associated with shamrocks, beer, corned beef and cabbage included a number of challenges — including imprisonment, slander and other trials.
From St. Patrick’s Confessions
He said through the prophet: “Call on me in the day of your distress, and I will set you free, and you will glorify me. It is a matter of honor to reveal and tell forth the works of God.”
The general details of his life are well known, and we have learned many of these facts from Patrick’s own hand in his Confessions. He was captured by pirates at age sixteen and brought to Ireland where he worked as a slave and shepherd. He was converted during this time and credits these years as crucial to his spiritual journey. After returning home to Britain at age twenty one, he had a vision in which he received a letter from the people of Ireland crying out for him to come and walk among them.
He returned to Ireland as a missionary, but was turned away from the first community he visited. His difficulties did not end there…ancient manuscripts also document a trial where Patrick is accused of keeping gifts from wealthy women, and accepting payment for baptisms and ordinations.
Several other biographies of Patrick mention female converts and specifically royal and noble women who became nuns. Patrick himself writes that some of his converts became monastics in the face of family opposition. It may be that some of those who accused him were parents of nuns or monks who had a different kind of life in mind for their son or daughter.
Patrick’s life is truly a study of perseverance in the face of opposition. As he says in his Confessions “…so I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in time of my temptation… He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties. I can say: Who am I, Lord, or what is my calling, that you have worked with me with such divine presence? This is how I come to praise and magnify your name among all the nations, wherever i am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too. He has shown me that I can put my faith in him without wavering and without end.”