Saturday, April 08, 2006

Preparing for Holy Week

Many say to me, "I know you're busy during Holy Week!" That's only half-true.

What keeps me busy is gearing up for Holy Week, and -- while I'm still new here -- trying to anticipate everything so nothing important gets forgotten.

So today, a bunch of parishioners showed up for a "spring cleaning" of the church, which was great. I'm nursing a cold, which isn't that big a deal, except I really don't want to get any sicker or lose my voice tomorrow or later this week. So I took it easy yesterday and today.

But I did spend an hour at church, helping get things set up. I went looking for a red altar cloth; the only thing I found was kind of minimal, but it'll do. Then I found some other cloths to put on the side altars, and they looked nice. One of the men of the parish was moving a ladder, and I got an idea -- could he help me drape a cloth on the crucifix? Sure -- so we draped a red cloth around the shoulders of the Lord, which is an option for Palm Sunday.

Back home, I resume my phone calls. I'm still lining up men to have their feet washed for Thursday. I had two turn me down; I didn't ask why. I have several who I'm waiting to call me back.

One of my calls was to a mother and daughter who help with RCIA. The mother volunteered to be sacristan for Holy Thursday, Good Friday evening, and the Vigil (God bless her!). So we talked about what's special, that the sacristan has to attend to. I told her she wouldn't have too many extra things to worry about; the servers might, however! I'm meeting with the servers tomorrow immediately following 11:30 Mass, to prepare for Holy Thursday. But I already know they can't all be there, so this practice is almost irrelevant, as I'll have to go over it again on Thursday evening.

There are many details -- and since these liturgies come up only once a year, this is only my third Triduum as a priest, and my first as a pastor, and in this parish. So I'm still on the shallow part of the learning curve.

I still need to talk to the guys who usually build the Easter Fire -- I will call one of them shortly -- and I was hoping to have some folks bring the new oils forward on Holy Thursday evening, and I haven't figured out who will ring the church bells during the gloria then and on the Vigil.

And, I'm going to try something a little ambitious for the Vigil: having the servers light the candles at various points. You see, the liturgy calls for the candles at the altar to be lit during the Gloria. Well, we have six there; that'll take a bit for the servers to do. But we also have two candles at the ambo, and we have six tall candles on the high altar, on either side of the tabernacle. When should they (as well as the candles on the side altars) be lit?

I was thinking of doing it this way:

1. After the Exsultet, the candles in front of the ambo are lit, in anticipation of the Liturgy of the Word.

2. During the Gloria, the candles at the altar are lit.

3. During the Litany of the Saints, the candles on the side altars, and any other candles I put around the sanctuary, are lit.

4. During communion, the candles on the high altar are lit.

5. When the Eucharist is reposed in the tabernacle, the sanctuary lamp is lit.

I'll let you know if this works!

Of course, we will have incense for Palm Sunday, for Holy Thursday and for Easter; that can be a challenge for servers. I hope to have the servers do the incense throughout -- i.e., including for the Gospel and during the elevation of the Body and Blood.

One question remains -- shall I wear a cope in the Palm Sunday procession? The thing is, if I do that, I have to change into a chasuble when I get to the sanctuary, and I haven't decided if I want to do that.


Mark Anthony said...

The progressive lighting of the candles sounds very effective and dramatic. I would think it will work well.

Incense throughout...excellent! Nice to be your own boss at times, huh? You know, of course, that there will be complaints. But, if you can't take the smoke, sit in the back like all good Catholics.

Men? I know you have the rules on your side and I know you do not do this out of a lack of appreciation for women, but really. Is there not a time to say, "Enough already. Now you're just being silly."

Limiting the washing of the feet to men is to focus on the Twelve and emphasize their priestly identity, which is precisely what Jesus was not meaning to do. He did not wash their feet to encourage their presumptions of superiority or exclusivity, but to break it down. The Twelve, and John never limits his account to them but simply speaks of the "disciples", were full of self-importance and keenly aware of their unique status. Jesus undressed, wrapped a towel around his waist, and scrubbed their dirty feet to shame them, not honor them.

The irony of Rome using this symbol to perpetuate the Twelve's mistaken notion of their own importance would be deliciously funny, if it wasn't such a damn embarrasment and obvious disregard for the Lord's intention.

Sometimes, the only proper response to hypocrisy is to shame it. Jesus knew that, and so do those who bend down and pour water over the feet of women as well as men on Holy Thursday. It seems to me that if I am to err, I want to do it for following the intention of Jesus, even if Peter still doesn't seem to get it at times.

Nonetheless, I pray that you and the people of St. Boniface have a glorious Triduum and Easter season. They are blessed to have you there.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mark Anthony,

I completely agree with you that St. Boniface is blessed to have Fr. Martin as its pastor - a real man who takes seriously his following Christ as a priest - in His Church - Our Mother.

I would like to point that the Church is not just an earthly organization with rules - but the Mystical Body of Christ, instituted by Christ to be the visible means by which we are to know Christ, be drawn to Him, to know Him and to be saved by Him through the grace of the Sacraments. (Yes, I know - you can get to heaven and not be a card carrying member - but this is the 'ordinary' way.)

So - when you mention presumption in connection with your interpretation of what Christ meant when He washed the feet of the Apostles and that you disagree with the Church's understanding and teaching and her 'rules' - I must say - I find that a rather humorous (and sad) juxtaposition.

I hope you have a Blessed Holy Week.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Thanks for all your comments.

About the foot-washing.

You may not be surprised to hear that I gave that a lot of thought. Here's the "back story" . . .

This parish has had a lot of changes the last few years; several pastors, some period of vacancy and uncertainty, and each pastor has had his own way of doing things.

In addition, this will be the last Triduum we have as a parish with its own pastor; next year, I'll be pastor of two parishes, and we'll be doing the Triduum together. What that will look like I don't know yet.

So . . . I wanted to avoid any precedents or too much change.

Last year, the parish did something involving folks washing each other's hands or feet (I wasn't here, I'm not sure); in prior years, it was foot-washing of men.

So the question for me was, what is most consistent both with the liturgy and with the local custom?

That's how I arrived at what we're doing.

In addition, whatever I think of the rule, and realizing it is widely not applied, I think someone above me ought to blaze that trail.

I feel more strongly about the priest doing the washing, than I do about the sex of the feet being washed. I think it's important the people see their priest get on his knees before them, just as our Lord did.

About the incense; I haven't heard many complaints; our church is so designed that it accommodates incense well.

Mark Anthony said...


You are right, of course, in your definition of the Church. We are the Body of Christ, and it is through the Church that we, and the whole world, finds union with God. Within the Church, the bishops, in union with the Pope, form the Magisterium. This college of the Apostles' successors is the mechanism by which the Holy Spirit keeps the Church from error in matters of faith and morals. Even in matters that are not infallibly defined, the Magisterium performs its unique ministry with an authoritative voice that cannot be considered by Catholics as just "one more opinion." While dissent as to such authoritative positions can be voiced in certain matters, simply ignoring what is taught because you think there is a better way is not faithful dissent.

In matters of discipline and liturgical practice, though, there is much more leeway. Changes in actions, rituals, etc. occur all the time; there is nothing "infallible" in deciding if the Sign of Peace should be after the Lord's Prayer or at the beginning of Mass. disagreement with the way something on this level is done is not disloyalty.

Personally,I agree that in most cases individual priests and parishes should not alter liturgical rules. Such a position is fraught with danger, I know. It can be taken by some as a blank check to do whatever they wish, which would be wrong. But the answer cannot be to simply do everything as told, ask no questions, raise no objections, and subsume every aspect of the Faith and its practice under the umbrella of "Obey."

Paul rebuked Peter to his face over hypocritical actions. Catherine of Siena did the same in an effort to end the disgraceful Avignon papacies. John Courtney Murray went from a silenced priest to a major voice at the Second Vatican Council. Should they have sat quietly on their hands because Rome had spoken?

The prohibition of washing women's feet is not a doctrinal matter. It is based on poor Scripture interpretation and patently silly. I am sorry that you find my position sad; I find it sad that this is even an issue. But I will not abdicate the right to say that a decision of this type is wrong, and no one should bow to the hyperinflated claims of Papal authority invoked by the neo-trads to enforce a misguided and theologically-warped sense of the Church.

But neither the Pope, nor the bishops,

Mark Anthony said...


I had no doubt that you gave this great thought, and your decision was not really the issue of my comments. It is the very fact that we have such a rule that galls me. Any good parent knows that if you try to regulate everything, and impose too many rules on your children, you do not enhance obedience and respect. The opposite happens; all the rules, important and minor, get ignored and you become tuned out. The right to make a rule does not make it wise to do so.

May I say, as humbly as I can, that our leaders in Rome might learn from such lessons.

Ok, I'm done. If we were not going to be out of town, I'd have loved to celebrate the Easter Vigil with you.

Anonymous said...

Mark Anthony,

No where did I say you didn't have a 'right' to voice your opinion (although from the last paragraph - it could seem that you may not like my opinion.) Nor do I disagree that there is a difference between Dogma and Discipline. Yes - in matters of discipline - the Church (Pope) can choose to change it. And in fact, I think they blow it periodically.

But you said it yourself - that parishes and priests "should not alter liturgical rules' because it 'is fraught with danger'. But then you say 'But the answer cannot be to simply do everything as told...' So how does one decide?

If the rule or direction was immoral - go murder - clearly we don't obey. But something like only washing men's feet on Holy Thursday - isn't a that sort of rule. So - we obey.

Does that mean we don't discuss, question, ask, even disagree. No -Go for it! with love and charity -but since it's a discipline - we obey. Maybe it will change - maybe not. But until then - we obey. Obedience doesn't have to be blind - but can and ought be a choice.

Have a Blessed Holy Week.