Unfortunately, for many of us Catholics, First Holy Communion has become simply a right of passage. The essence of the celebration is lost among the parties and gifts. “Parties and gifts are fine,” says one priest, “as long as the focus never strays from what the celebration is truly about.”
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, a simple, uneducated, young Polish nun received a special calling. On the night of Sunday, 22 February 1931, while she was in her cell, Jesus appeared to Sr. Faustina for the first time as the “King of Divine Mercy” wearing a white garment with red and pale rays emanating from his heart. For four years she recorded Jesus’ words, her visions, and her own thoughts and prayers in a personal diary.
For Catholics, Easter isn’t just a single day of celebration—it’s an entire season where we celebrate our new life in Christ. Just like Christmas, Easter is celebrated for an extended period of time—50 days to be exact! The feast proper is celebrated for the full octave (Easter Sunday through Easter Saturday). Then we enter Eastertide, the longer Easter season which ends on Pentecost Sunday. During this fifty days of Easter we relive the joyous events of the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary—the Resurrection, Ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost.
Though often associated with healing, St. Bernadette has an important lesson to teach us about suffering. She endured sickness throughout her life. As a child she suffered from severe asthma and was weak and sickly. Added to that was the pain that being a visionary caused her—the jealousy, suspicion, and rejection of others. Throughout much of her time living with the Sisters of Nevers she struggled with a very painful tubercular tumor in the bone of her right knee.
The Divine Mercy devotion has spread throughout the Church since it was given near the beginning of the 20th century to the Polish nun and visionary St. Faustina Kowalska. The devotion includes many components, including a special image of Jesus to be venerated, a chaplet to be prayed on the beads of a rosary, a novena, […]
Since we live in an era when customs and traditions have faded and tend to lose their meaning, it’s good to remind ourselves that, concluding the spiritual preparation of Lent, Holy Week is the annual commemoration of the Passion of Christ. It’s not just another religious tradition. We aren’t celebrating the fact that the Son of God suffered and died, but Catholics are recognizing and honoring His sacrifice, accompanying Him spiritually and physically, as if we had been there with Him, two thousand years ago.
Painting Easter eggs is a beloved ancient tradition for Eastern Catholic churches as well as Orthodox. The eggs are often dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross. The Easter eggs are then carried to the church in baskets to be blessed by the priest at the end of the Easter vigil before being distributed to the faithful. Historically, Christians would abstain from eating eggs during a strict Lent, so Easter was the first chance to eat eggs again after a long period of abstinence. The egg represented the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represented Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Sundown on Holy Thursday to sundown on Easter Sunday is considered the most solemn part of Holy Week. This three-day period is referred to as the Easter Triduum, also known as the Sacred Triduum, or Paschal Triduum. Basically, the Sacred Triduum is one great festival recounting the last three days of Jesus’ life on earth, the events of his Passion and Resurrection. “Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery” (USCCB).
Few Christians can recall all seven of Our Lord’s last words on the Cross. As you contemplate His Passion and Death this season, remember that these words, although spoken nearly 2,000 years ago at Calvary, were meant for every generation. Nothing our Lord said or did was without meaning. Prepare your hearts for Lent by reflecting on the Seven Last Words of Christ and consider incorporating this reflection into your Lenten practices.
Towards the end of Lent you may notice purple cloths draped over crucifixes, statues, and images of saints in your church. In some churches, these items are actually removed from the sanctuary altogether.
This old custom of veiling religious images is a way of focusing on the penitential aspect of this liturgical season. It reminds us in a visual way that our faith is made possible only through the work of Christ in his suffering and death on the cross.