Summary of today’s show: Cardinal Seán O’Malley started Holy Week with Palm Sunday Mass in which he declared we are all “Ashes and Palms Catholics”. Scot Landry, Fr. Mark O’Connell, and Michael Lavigne reflect on Cardinal Seán’s homily and what it means to live the ashes of sacrifice and the palms of victory from Ash Wednesday to Easter and beyond. Cardinal Seán also reflects on the 30th anniversary of the murder of his friend, Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador and the significance of his sacrifice for today.
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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell
Today’s guest(s): Michael Lavigne
Today’s topics: Palm Sunday reflection on Cardinal Seán’s homily
1st segment: Scot welcomed everyone to the show and noted that today begins Holy Week, which is the biggest week of the year. He said to imagine you have one week to live and how would you prepare and live that week?
Today we will begin with hearing what Cardinal Seán at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for Palm Sunday Mass. First, he welcomed Fr. Mark O’Connell to the show, who noted that he celebrated Mass with the cloistered Carmelite sisters in West Roxbury for a nearly two hour Mass. Fr. Mark said he preached two homilies in the Mass, the first on Christ riding into Jerusalem on a colt and the second on the image of Benedict and Francis praying before an icon that evokes John Paul II. He said that he said that John Paul showed us how to die, Benedict showed us how to let go and Francis shows us how to live.
He also welcomed Michael Lavigne to the show and asked him what tonight’s Catholic Faith Essentials at http://www.bostoncatholiclive.com will be about at 7pm and Michael said it will be about the Easter Vigil and its place in our life of faith.
Scot introduced Cardinal Seán’s Palm Sunday homily. He started by referencing “A&P Catholics”, i.e. Ashes and Palm Catholics. He encouraged people to become frequent flyers at Sunday Mass because the rewards are out of this world. He noted the importance of the signs of ashes and palms to be signs of conversion and our mortality. He said that St. Luke organizes his whole gospel around a journey, of Jesus to Jerusalem.
Scot stopped and spoke to any “A&P Catholics” who are listening to invite them to come home, no matter how long it’s been. Fr. Mark said this is an opportunity for those who do go to Mass to practice our faith by evangelizing our neighbor. If we see someone in the church we haven’t seen in a while, then say hello. Greet them. How much more likely are they to come back to Mass if they are treated with a smile. Scot compared it to a family reuniting over Easter dinner for the first time in many years.
We shouldn’t be like the jealous brother of the Prodigal Son if someone takes “our” seat in the pew on Sunday. Michael said people are going to looking for seats on Sunday. The churches will be jam-packed with people who haven’t come for a while. He noted how difficult it is for people to find a seat. He encouraged people to slide in their pews, let people know there are seats available and welcome them in.
Scot said Cardinal Seán talks of stones in the next section: He talks about the phrase: “The stones would cry out” Hosanna if the disciples did not. This occurred near the Mount of Olives where many Jews are buried and it is Jewish custom to place stones on a grave when visiting them. He talked about stones in the Scripture, like the stones used to kill St. Stephen. The stones might cry out for Jesus or be used to attack. Likewise, the people who were crying Hosanna on Palm Sunday would later either abandon Jesus or themselves be crying out for his death.
Scot said as a church of living stones, where called to cry out Hosanna to Jesus as a witness to the world. Fr. Mark said the road of the Christian life is full of joy, but the cross is always at the end of it. He said so many like the triumphal entrance, but a lot of living the life of a Catholic is sacrificial and living the cross that leads to the ultimate joy of heaven.
Michael said Pope Francis yesterday offered the three words of joy, the cross, and youth. We need to be people of joy who embrace the cross in our lives and thus we can be a source of hope for people struggling to pick up the cross in their lives. The New Evangelization is one person at a time or one little stone at a time.
Scot noted that Cardinal Seán spoke of fair-weather friends of Jesus and we are often fair weather friends, especially when we have other things we’d rather do than be with Christ. Fr. Mark said we’ve been impressed by the faith and humility of Pope Francis and we have learned that he has not had an easy life in Argentina: politics, struggles within the Church, economics, and more. God calls us to be tested and the reward is peace.
The next section of Cardinal Seán’s homily concerns St. Peter and his denial of Christ. He said one of the principal tasks of the Petrine ministry is to unite us in faith. Jesus chooses Peter, a simple man, to lead his Church. He chronicles all of Peter’s failings and then how he redeemed himself later in life.
Scot said if we think we’re unworthy or should be unwelcome in the church, all we have to do is think of St. Peter. If Jesus can build the Church on Peter, then there is so much than Jesus can do with us. Fr. Mark recalls Peter walking on water to Christ and how he began to sink when he took his eyes off of Jesus. We start on our faith life full of joy and hope, but then we realize that the life of faith is difficult and a struggle and that’s when we could take our eyes off of Jesus.
Michael said our faith is a real faith and gritty. God gets in the middle of the muddiness of the world. We often start Lent with great plans, but we can fall off of that plan. The beauty of Lent is getting back up and trying again. Fr. Mark took the opportunity to plug the Scavi tour in Rome. If you visit Rome, make a reservation ahead of time for a tour of the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica, which is an ancient cemetery in which St. Peter was buried. Scot said to go on the on the North American College’s website and look for information there.
Cardinal Seán then continued in talking about the election of Pope Francis. He talked about St. Francis of Assisi as a man of peace and a man who loved the poor. Scot said Cardinal Seán is moved by the choice of the name of Francis and how he has focused on calling us to serve the poor and live as brothers and sisters in Christ. Scot has been thinking more about how he should be doing more to serve the poor.
Fr. Mark talked about Pope Francis celebrating Mass for the cleaners and gardeners in the Vatican in the other day and one of them said, “We are invisible, but he saw us.” We are called to seek out the invisible.
Michael said we have to stop every once in a while, turn everything else, allow God to transform and convert us, in order to see the invisible around us.
Scot said Cardinal Seán reflects on how the Spanish-speaking New World is giving the world its new pope. Scot noted that more than 50 percent of Catholics under the age of 25 in the US comes from a Spanish-speaking household or from a Spanish-speaking country. That indicates that God has a plan related to this fact.
Cardinal Seán continued by speaking of ashes and palms. Ashes of repentance and palms of victory. Martyrs are depicted as carrying palms. Martyrs are witnesses to Jesus. He noted that yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador, for opposing violence. His funeral was celebrated on Palm Sunday in the largest gathering ever in that country’s history. The army opened fire on the crowd and people ran and all that was left behind in the plaza were shoes, sandals, and palm branches.
Cardinal Seán also noted that today’s palms will be burned for next year’s ashes. We are on a journey always returning to the beginning. We can always start again. We relive the sacrifice of Calvary and we relive the joy of Easter, Jesus’ victory over death.
Scot talked about Cardinal Seán’s emotion over the death of his friend, Romero. Fr. Mark said the movie “Romero” is incredibly powerful and especially at this time of year. Scot said Cardinal Seán tied that into Holy Week as we read of betrayal and faithfulness and as we come forward to venerate the cross. We call it Good Friday because, despite the death of Christ, Jesus proved how much He loves us and saved us. We may not be called to “red” martyrdom of death, but always to the “white” martyrdom of ridicule and rejection. Michael said he has distinct memories from childhood of the house on Good Friday to be completely silent. They would be called to reflect upon the gift of Christ on the cross out of love for all of us.
Scot reflected on the many Christians around the world who today suffer red martyrdom for their faith. Fr. Mark said in his office there is a picture of a woman holding a palm branch and while he doesn’t know her name, he knows she’s a martyr because of that symbol. He added that Peter denied Christ, but that was before Pentecost, while after Pentecost, he did not deny Christ. We are all Pentecost Catholics.
Scot noted Cardinal Seán said we should be recommitted to knowing our faith so we can be witnesses and evangelizers joyfully sharing our faith with those who do not know it. It’s up to all of us to be the inviters, evangelizers, witnesses, those who joyfully welcome our brothers and sisters back to the Sunday liturgy. Michael said we must bring the Good News joyfully to others and preach truth with charity. He thinks of those in our lives who don’t engage Holy Week at all, to pray for them to take advantage of that grace and to reach out to them. For many people it will be difficult to attend all the Holy Week services, so he went through the services of the week. On Tuesday, Cardinal Seán will celebrate the Chrism Mass. He said it’s always one of Cardinal Seán’s three best homilies of the year. It will be 11am at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
Thursday night will be the Mass of the Lord’s Supper which is where Christ instituted the Eucharist and He taught us to serve one another through the washing of the feet. Afterward, the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a separate chapel where people can spend time in prayer and adoration. On Friday is the Passion of the Lord in which we venerate the Christ and then have prayers for all of creation by name. Fr. Mark talked about the starkness of the church on that day which shows the profundity of the tomb. We enter with an emptiness and a craving for Jesus. Many parishes have services at 3pm and 7pm.
Then on Saturday night is the Easter vigil with the liturgy of light in the beginning, the chanting of the Exsultet, readings, baptisms, and all the other joys of Easter. Michael said the Easter vigil is a pilgrimage through our faith in one Mass. Scot said it is his favorite liturgy of the year. They all encouraged everyone to get to that Mass if you can.