Friday, April 10, 2009
Pilgrimages and Holy Week
Today is Good Friday when we Christians commemorate Christ's saving death on a cross. Jesus' death gives us courage and hope, especially when we see sorrow around us, or view scenes of the earthquake in Italy. On Monday I attended a funeral Mass for a relative of one of our Sisters. It was impressive to see how many people filled the parish church. Even though the family and friends mourned the loss of their husband, brother, father, and friend, no one seemed desperate or bitter. Tony had lived a good life, he was truly a devout Catholic who professed his faith openly and courageously.
On Wednesday Pauline Cooperators Ann and Pat D'Cruz welcomed me on their bus pilgrimage throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Ann and Pat had asked me to be the spiritual guide for what we billed as a "Pilgrimage/Mini-Retreat." I was able to prepare some hand-outs with prayers to St. Paul, and some of his own prayers from his letters, and songs. The weather at first was cold and gloomy looking. When we emerged from the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Mississauga--a sprawling suburb of Toronto--the sun came out. The Mississauga church has a contemporary painting of St. Paul, a large mural depicting his life and travels; still another picture of his call at Damascus, and a separate painting of the shipwreck off of Malta.
The priests at each parish were very welcoming. At. St. Paul Church in Burlington, Ontario we were greeted by the assistant pastor who was very welcoming and enthusiastic. One of the pilgrims mentioned to me that he resembled the young St. Paul in the statue in the church foyer. All four churches which we visited had different architecture and styles inside. The Burlington church was built in 1990. It is home to over 5,000 families and growing.
Our third stop was at St. Paul the Apostle Maltese church in Toronto. Although I had been there twice before I did not notice the particularly Maltese aspect of their large St. Paul statue. As I observed it closely I could see the figure of a snake rising from a bonfire. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that after the Maltese people saved St. Paul and his companions from their shipwreck, a viper rose from the fire which was lit to warm the people. It bit St. Paul, but he simply shook it off his hand and threw it back into the fire. The Maltese expected him to keel over dead from the poison. Instead he was as healthy as ever. It was a sign to them that God favored Paul. The parish also had a Holy Week display which showed images of Christ's Last Supper and his Passion.
Our last stop was at St. Paul's Basilica in downtown Toronto, site of the first Catholic parish in Toronto. The parish grounds also serve as the resting place of the mortal remains of many of the Irish who died of typhus during the massive immigration in 1847 during the great Famine. The Basilica is full of art work expressing Paul's life. There we found a statue of Paul "The Elderly." We ended our pilgrimage with a Mass celebrated by Father Vic, a good friend of the Cruz's. The bus trip was truly a prayerful journey, since we prayed at each place for Pope Benedict, and for many other intentions. It was a chance for many of the 55 people to learn more about St. Paul. The Mass was made even more special by an impromptu choir of pilgrims who joined Pat in providing good music.
Yesterday, Holy Thursday, I was a guest on Radio Maria. My host, Sharon Di Cecco, had prepared a wonderful program on the Holy Eucharist. Sharon makes a lovely hostess for her program "Community in Concert." What we said and the music we heard prepared us to celebrate the Eucharist last night in a more prayerful way.
Sharon also had some of the ingredients for a Passover meal, since yesterday was the start of the greatest of all Jewish feasts.
During the radio program, listeners were able to hear the newest CD of the Daughters of St. Paul, In Paradisum. It is truly uplifting and relaxing.
Tomorrow we will end our day with the celebration of the Easter Vigil. I love the many readings of this special Mass because they recall the whole story of salvation from the Bible. And, the "Alleluia" is resurrected at the Easter Vigil. There is a triple Alleluia and then at the end of the Mass, when the priest dismisses the people He says or sings, Go in peace, alleluia, alleluia. St. Augustine says that "We are Easter people and alleluia is our song." May you enjoy an Easter filled with promise, with hope, with deep joy and cheerful song.