On the Road Again

When I visit elementary school classrooms, a question frequently posed, especially by the younger students, is “What is your favorite Bible story.” My stock response is that I have many favorites but Luke 24, “The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus,” is pretty close to the top. On the Third Easter Sunday we were treated to that very narrative.

I’m sure that you’ve noticed that the actual framework of the story is that of our Mass. It begins with the Word of God. The stranger walking along with the disciples quotes and interprets the Scriptures, explaining how it all pointed to the recent events that had taken place in Jerusalem. Then, at table using the words and gestures of the Last Supper, He breaks the Bread and their eyes are opened. They recognize that this is no stranger but the Risen Christ. With this realization He immediately disappears from their physical eyesight. They immediately hightail it back to the place of their disappointment to announce to the apostles the grace they had experienced.

The Paschal Candle

One of the great and beautiful symbols of the Risen Christ is the Paschal Candle. Lit from the Great Fire in the first movement of the Easter Vigil, the candle bears the five wounds of the Lord’s passion and reminds us that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega and that all time belongs to him. The candle is prominently situated in the sanctuary throughout the Easter Season. On Pentecost Sunday it can be carried in procession out of the sanctuary to make its return for the celebration of baptismal and funeral liturgies.

I got to wondering where this great symbol of our Risen Lord originated. I should have asked one of my seminary liturgy professors. Apparently it was not a question weighing heavily on my mind in those days.

Easter Laughing

Professors and authors in the field of Homiletics seem to be divided in their opinions whether preachers should tell jokes within a homily. In my own experience when I do tell a funny story, I’m fairly convinced that it might be the only thing most listeners will remember from the homily.

In his book, Images of Hope, Pope Benedict XVI refers to a practice that originated in his native Bavaria and made its way throughout Germany in the 15th century. It’s called “Easter Laughing” –  Risus Paschalis in Latin. The Easter homily and homilies throughout the Easter Season had to contain a story that made people laugh. The church resounded with joyful laughter as a symbol of the joy Christians know in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It was reasoned that Isaac – an Old Testament image of Christ – came down from the sacrifice on Mount Moriah with laughter on his face – the laughter of redemption because his life was spared. That act of redemption pointed to the perfect redemption accomplished by the Paschal Mystery which should put a big smile on the faces of the faithful.

A Great Earthquake

This Easter, Matthew’s story of the empty tomb was the Gospel for the Vigil and an option for Easter Sunday Masses. We learn that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the first to hear the good news of the Resurrection and to encounter the person of the Risen Lord. There is a detail that Matthew alone includes in his resurrection narrative – a detail that is easily overlooked as our attention is riveted on the Risen One. Only Matthew mentions that the two Mary’s witnessed a “great earthquake” at the moment when the stone was rolled back and the angel descended with the good news of Easter.

In the previous chapter Matthew states that the moment of our Lord’s death on the cross was accompanied by an earthquake – a sign that led the centurion to admit: “Truly, this was the Son of God.” Earthquakes occur elsewhere in the New Testament. While Paul and Silas are doing jail time in Philippi, there was an earthquake at midnight and the prison doors opened and their chains loosened. In Revelation earthquakes are mentioned five times, always as apocalyptic signs of the end times.

Prayer, Connection Occur in Creative Ways as Schools Continue Mission

In Catholic schools, education is more than academics. It’s about caring for the whole person: emotionally, socially, physically and spiritually.

In the days since Pennsylvania schools were ordered to close on March 13 from coronavirus concerns, Catholic schools throughout the Diocese have risen to the occasion, discovering and implementing ways to carry on their mission in uncertain and challenging times.

Bishop Gainer to Celebrate Digital Holy Week and Easter with the Faithful

Using technology to stay connected to the faithful during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, Bishop Ronald Gainer will celebrate the Diocese’s first ever digital Holy Week and Easter. The difficult decision to extend the suspension of Masses through Easter was made after careful consideration of the decree (In time of Covid-19 (II)) issued by Pope Francis, and in following the recommendations of state and local governments and, most especially, out of continued concern for the health and wellbeing of the faithful.

“Our Diocese, our nation and our world are experiencing the unthinkable with the coronavirus. With this global pandemic in mind, the Holy See, Pope Francis, has decreed that all Holy Week and Easter Masses will be celebrated, but that countries impacted by coronavirus and in cases where restrictions regarding the assembly and movement of people are in place, the bishop and priests may celebrate without the presence of the faithful.

Parishes Concoct Assortment of Tasty Treats in Lenten Traditions

The sugary-sweet aroma is unmistakable around parish kitchens and social halls this time of year. From warm and sticky fastnatchts to luscious chocolate eggs, the sugary treats are staples in several parish communities, drawing thousands of customers to the longstanding saccharine traditions.

A “foodie” road trip ahead of Shrove Tuesday served up a glimpse of the confectionary customs and the volunteers that make the Lenten treats possible at several parishes in the Diocese.

Rite of Election Welcomes New Members Preparing to Enter Church

Lent is a time of repentance, preparation and renewal leading up to Easter. For more than 90 men, women and children in the Diocese of Harrisburg, it is also their last phase of preparation before they enter into full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil.

On Sunday, March 1 at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg, these catechumens were presented to Bishop Ronald Gainer during the Rite of Election. Annually celebrated throughout the Church on the first Sunday of Lent, those who will receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil have their names written into the Book of the Elect during this ceremony. These catechumens are joined by their sponsors, catechists and godparents as a sign of support and preparedness.

The Sacredness of Listening

Father Jonathan Sawicki is the Diocese’s Vocations Director. Not too long ago, I had the privilege of accompanying him to a vocations awareness day in the southwestern part of our Diocese.

I truly LOVE talking vocations: the unique call of God to be holy! The journey to be holy is a life-long experience and is as unique and individual as each of us are!

The Just Man is a Light in Darkness

Woven in the collective memory of this nation is the tragic terror African Americans have long endured. One hundred and sixty years ago, more than four million blacks were slaves in America. One hundred and twenty years ago, more than a thousand blacks were lynched, hanged from a tree for daring to vote or speak to racial injustice. Fifty-five years ago, black leaders were assassinated in cold blood with their killers never facing justice, as witnesses did not dare speak the truth for fear of retribution. To be a just man, it would seem fitting that truthfully remembering history means not just celebrating the light, but also not forgetting the darkness.