Friday, 22 April 2011

From Cathedral to Gethsemane

It's the morning of Good Friday. Unusually for me, I am not celebrating Mass, which I do almost every morning of my life. It feels something is missing - which is appropriate for this precious day. But, to go back to yesterday...
In the morning Tomy and I splashed out on a taxi to go to the Chrism Mass, where Bishop David McGough presided. He had a lovely manner, and spoke very well I thought, to, and about, us priests. There was much clerical chat, of course, about our new Archbishop, George Stack, and people seem happy with the decision, Deo gratias. Then, after sharing a buffet lunch with many of the lads - and Bishop David as it happened - it was back to the ranch and on up to Corpus Christi School to see how preparations for our Mass of the Lord's Supper were going. The answer was - very well. Once again we had the altar in the middle of the hall with tables radiating out from it. Our wonderful parishioners had worked hard to get everything ready. Then, back home for a cup of tea and quiet hour to prepare for the Mass.
Our 3 Churches Masses are one of the biggest events in my year. So many hours go into their planning and also on the day. Involvement runs into many dozens of people, and, because we try to really express the themes that the Church asks us to, then when it works, it really works well. This year, I did a lot more "liturgical MCing" as we went through, enabling the congregation to understand what was happening and why. I think it helped a lot of people, where there was some confusion last year.
After starting with the Exodus reading we had a shared simple meal, leading to the Gloria. Then Fr Tomy read the Gospel of the foot-washing, and I preached, bringing us to the Vision statement, the document encapsulating the process a few weeks ago where we all shared our dreams for the parishes. We have produced one statement, and parishioners will be invited to sign up to it on Pentecost Sunday. Tomy and I then washed the parish councillors' feet, and they in turn washed the hands of the rest of the congregation. We all prayed a commitment to continue our service of one another, and then came what was a highpoint for some, when Tomy and I renewed our priestly commitment, as we had in the morning too. But, instead of the bishop asking us the questions, we had Rebecca, a teenager from St Brigid's. I must say I found it very moving. We then continued on to the Eucharist, where the people's tables become part of the altar, and the place where they receive Holy Communion.
Lastly, we processed out into the school courtyard garden, where the flower ladies had prepared a beautiful shrine for the Blessed Sacrament. All our Eucharistic Ministers made a candlelit path through the school where the lights were turned off, and on out into the candlelit garden. As I carried the Lord through this beautiful passage, I hope He didn't mind the pride I felt as parish priest of all these wonderful people doing their very best for Him on this night. We then stayed with Him for an hour and a half in silence until I led intercessions up to 10.30.
Eventually we all left the Garden, with that unique Maundy Thursday feeling - satisfaction that all had gone well, tinged with the profound unease of knowing what happened next in that first Gethsemane....

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