From the Pastor: An Amazing Easter!
This year, once again, Easter and the holy days leading up to it saw an increase in participation at Epiphany. Our Tenebraes must have been well-attended. Although I am inside the confessional during those beautiful candle-lit chanted prayers and so cannot see how many people show up, I can tell you that I spent more time hearing confessions during them than in previous years. I started before the schola entered the church and I left after they did. That is a good sign, for each of these three sessions lasts for hours!
On Holy Thursday there were 800 Hosts consecrated at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, anticipating large numbers of people receiving Holy Communion both that night and the following afternoon after the Veneration of the Cross. I thought, based on previous years’ numbers, that we would have plenty of Hosts left over. I was not expecting a full church (497 people in the 500-person capacity church) on Thursday night and then an overflow crowd (539) on Friday! When we finished the Communion Service on Good Friday there was only one (1) Host left! As a reference point, in 2018 (the first year I thought to take notes like this for Holy Week) we only had 312 people who received Holy Communion between those two days.
Fr. Alexander made his “debut” at the Holy Thursday Mass as he assisted with the distribution of Holy Communion for the first time. Up until then, he had only observed the Mass. He is now starting to memorize prayers and parts of the Mass. For instance, in giving Holy Communion, he had to memorize and say not just, “The Body of Christ” as is done in the Novus Ordo Masses, but rather, “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting. Amen.” In Latin, of course! Then, while at the practice for the Holy Saturday Vigil, he was assigned the task of chanting the Epistle. He had less than an hour to practice and he had not yet been exposed to the old chant notation! He learned how to read the notes and actually chant them as written in what I would have seen as an impossibly short period of time. He did a marvelous job. He chanted at least as well as I currently do and much, much, MUCH better than I did when I first started! It won’t be long before he will be ready to celebrate Mass or take the part of the deacon or subdeacon at a Solemn Mass.
The blessing of the Easter Baskets was also well attended. I can’t tell you how many people say how much they look forward to this simple ceremony. They even enjoy planning for it. They have to find just the perfect basket. They have to find (and some of it is very difficult to find) the objects that they will place in it. If they are cooking and baking and making any or all of it, all of that must be planned ahead of time so that the food is ready on time yet not done too soon so that it isn’t fresh by the time it gets eaten. And many people, after seeing what others put in their baskets and hearing what prayers are available for blessing the food and non-edible items, make it a point to add more things to their own list for next year! We had 6 tables filled with baskets and still had larger baskets on the floor due to lack of room! (We only filled two tables in 2018.) Check out the photos on our fleecebook page and see the variety. Plus, there were nearly 70 people in attendance. That’s not too shabby for a non-Polish parish!
At the Saturday night Easter Vigil and Mass, we had 392 people in attendance. It lasted three and a quarter hours and that is without anyone receiving the sacraments of initiation that night. (I am grateful that Bishop Parkes encourages us to bring converts into the Church throughout the year when they are ready, rather than forcing them to wait for the Easter Vigil to receive their sacraments unless the timing works out.) I am astounded when I hear that other parishes finish in less time even with a group receiving baptism and confirmation, which can easily add on another 45 minutes. In 2018 we had 112 people attend and we started it, as the old ritual says to do, late enough that the Vigil Service is completed and Mass is beginning right around midnight. That year we began at 11:00 pm and ended after 2:00 am. The cleanup from that and the setup for the Easter morning Mass kept many of us there until shortly after 4. I got about an hour of sleep that night and the choir members, not living right here on the property as I do, only got about the same amount of sleep because most have long distances to drive, families to take care of to boot, and had to return for the 10:30 Mass! I think they all threatened to quit if we did it that way again. Or else, I threatened to quit. I was too tired to remember who is to “blame” for us reverting back to a starting time of “the fall of darkness.” This year I was in bed by 1:00 am, although there was still a group celebrating in the social hall when I finally turned in. I think they bring in their blessed Easter Baskets and share the foods they contain and hang out celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus and speaking of Holy things. Their small group is growing as well. Oh, and there were 708 people between the two Easter morning Masses, up nearly 400 from 2018!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka