Holy Week unites faithful, from afar

From Palm Sunday through the celebration of Easter, Catholics around the world celebrated the holiest of weeks united knowing that the celebration of the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the central tenant of the Faith.

There is no denying that Holy Week 2020 was unprecedented, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing the suspension gatherings for Mass across the globe. However, thanks to modern technology, the faithful were able to stay connected to the Church from afar.

The live streaming of Holy Week services – Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter – from parishes to the faithful on their home computer or television was the form of presence this year.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who celebrated the Triduum liturgies from Epiphany Cathedral, said the temporary closure of churches is a bitter affliction that all feel deeply.

“I am painfully aware that this causes you, good Catholics, difficulty as you are troubled and hurt by the loss of the Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the consolation of those Sacraments in your life,” Bishop Dewane said “Our churches are closed, but yet I think we have to think of something else. Christ isn’t quarantined from any of us. Indeed, the Gospel is not in chains. The Word of the Lord, it is out there. It is alive” Bishop Dewane said. “In prayer and in Faith we are people of the Word, the Word of God, the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. With both of these together, whether its online or from a distance, nothing can stand in our way.”

Images of Pope Francis celebrating Mass in an empty St. Peters Basilica, or perhaps it was a priest standing behind the altar with no congregation present, did not diminish the significance of the liturgies. In fact, by tuning in to these celebrations, the faithful of Holy Mother Church were united in a way like never before. Remotely yes, but with a renewed appreciation for the Mass and the power of Holy Week that many may have taken for granted.

“Thank you for the beautiful Mass. The Church is empty,” one person noted on social media after watching Mass on Palm Sunday streamed live from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

While the gathering for Mass had been suspended since mid-March, Palm Sunday, a day marking the triumphant entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, with its traditional distribution of palms and uplifting liturgy, as well as the reading of the Passion of Christ, assist in putting the faithful in the right frame of mind for the significant events of Holy Week.

The physical separation of the faithful from the Church, changed the way one celebrated Holy Week, a week that brings comfort to many as the symbolism and traditions have been celebrated unchanged for centuries.

Parishes encouraged the faithful to proudly display palms – readily found in Florida – or other greenery, either on the doors or windows of their homes. The most imaginative created elaborate palm fans or large palm crosses for display, while others stood by the traditional placing of a palm frond behind a cross in their home or on the door knocker.

As Holy Week progressed, the faithful were comforted by seeing images from the Triduum (Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and the Easter Vigil) as well as the joyous celebration of Easter, the pinnacle of the Church year.

While each liturgy went on as usual, there were some differences that were necessary in light of the ongoing threat of the pandemic and need for social distancing.

On Holy Thursday, which celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the Sacrament of the Priesthood, some things seemed different. For example, omitted because of the pandemic, and optional every year, was the washing of the feet by the Holy Father, Bishops and priests. In addition, following the liturgy, the Blessed Sacrament is traditionally taken to a place of repose, usually with a procession and time for Eucharistic Adoration, as the altar is stripped bare and the tabernacle emptied. Instead, with no congregation present and social distancing needed, the Blessed Sacrament was returned to the tabernacle and no Adoration took place.

On Good Friday, the most notable change was that there was no veneration of the cross, a time when the faithful would come forward to either kneel, touch, or kiss a cross with the corpus. At Epiphany Cathedral, Bishop Dewane and the concelebrating priests for the liturgy, did venerate the cross from a kneeler placed before the cross in front of the altar. The faithful, watching from the safety of their home, were in fact encouraged to venerate a cross at home, or even the cross on a rosary when no cross was present. This symbolic gesture is a show of gratitude to Christ for enduring suffering and death for the forgiveness of our sins.

The Easter Vigil, a Mass held after sunset on Saturday, April 11, 2020, is one of the most powerful liturgies of the year. The celebration is to start in darkness, usually with the Easter fire lit and the Easter Candle brought forward. This year, the Easter Candle was lit and there was no Easter fire. This needed change removed the opportunity for the congregation to each have lit candles, providing a soft glow inside the church. In addition, the church was not darkened for the first part of the liturgy, when a series of readings, beginning with Genesis, were read.

The portion of the liturgy unable to take place this year was when catechumens and candidates, those entering into full Communion with the Church, receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion. A new date for the opportunity for the entry into the Church for catechumens and candidates has not been determined.

The rest of the Easter Vigil and the Easter Sunday liturgies were unaltered. The Renewal of Baptismal Promises was made at both but from afar for those watching at home.

Bishop Dewane remarked during the televised Mass on Easter, how “this Holy Day is the basis of our Faith. This year we celebrated the Resurrection differently… and maybe this was the Easter Season that changed how each grows to believe and view the Resurrection. May this renewed belief and Faith continue to grow from this experience as we go forward from Easter into the Easter Season.”

Seton faithful back – HOME

Church destroyed by Irma reopens

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic


Alleluia! Alleluia! were the words which adorned the altar at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples on Easter Sunday. The words reflect the celebration that Christ Our Lord is Risen. However, on this holiest of days, the meaning was even more profound as Sunday Mass was celebrated in the Church for the first time since Hurricane Irma struck more than six months previous.

“Wonderful!” “It’s true, we are home!” “Our prayers have been answered!” “What a glorious moment!” These are just some of the comments made as people entered the Church for the first time on Easter Sunday. Most looked up, knowing that on Sept. 10, 2017, when the fierce winds of Irma struck, a large section of the roof was blown off allowing water to flow in and severely damage the sanctuary.

Ann and Brian Morris evacuated when Hurricane Irma threatened but never could have imagined the damage the storm would cause to the Parish Church. “This is the center of our lives,” Brian explained. “Our condo was okay, but our Church, where we go every week to pray to Our Lord, was badly damaged. It was so sad and really hard to deal with. This is a great day for us and for everyone at St. Elizabeth Seton. We are where we are supposed to be: Home!”

Martie Granieri sings in the Parish Choir and was overjoyed that the Church opened in time for Easter. “Christ is where you find Him. He was in our gymnasium (which served as a temporary Church while repairs were made), He is where we gather in His name,” Granieri said. “But this place; the Church, is where we know Him best. We are so happy to be back.”

In addition to a roof repair, the ceiling and floor had extensive water damage. Water and debris also damaged the pews. While the work was being done, some changes were made to the layout of the Church including making the interior brighter. Most significantly, the tabernacle was placed directly behind the altar, and a crucifix with a corpus was placed above. The previous crucifix was relocated to the opposite wall, while a Last Supper painting was moved to one of the niches along the south wall. Statues of saints were also added around the perimeter of the Church to complement to extensive stained-glass windows which were undamaged.

The Church reopened on Holy Thursday, exactly 200 days after the last Mass was celebrated on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, the day before the hurricane blasted ashore.

“We are very Blessed by Almighty God to be here,” said Father Russell Ruggiero, Parish Administrator, prior to Easter Sunday Mass to a standing room only crowd. “It is as people said, it is a Resurrection.”

Eschewing any recognition for getting the Church repaired, Father Ruggiero said the “congratulations are to you, not to me. I did nothing. I just tell other people what needs to be done.” He noted that the patience of the parishioners of St. Elizabeth Seton was only exceeded by the outpouring of support in the recovery effort through the sharing of time, talent and treasure.

Gesturing to the crowd and to Church itself, Father concluded by saying: “This is for you. This is your Parish. I am only here temporarily. My joy is that you are all happy and that you are back home.”

EASTER: The Summit of the Catholic Faith

For the Easter Season Spread the Good News

By Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic


Throughout the Universal Church the faithful gathered for a joyous celebration on Easter; that is the Resurrection of Our Lord, the Summit of the Catholic Faith. Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the “Feast of feasts,” the “Solemnity of solemnities.”

   This celebration comes after the holiest of weeks which began with the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and included the institution of the Eucharist (Communion) during the Last Supper, Institution of the Sacrament of Holy Orders as well as the betrayal by Judas on Holy Thursday and the suffering and death of Our Lord on Good Friday. The Resurrection on Easter completes the journey for Jesus but it is just the beginning of a new journey of belief and hope for the Faithful, Bishop Frank J. Dewane explained during an Easter Vigil Mass on April 15 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

“Tonight, represents a great night. When the power of death is conquered by Jesus Christ. When we have been given that promise of eternal life,” Bishop Dewane said.

The Bishop noted the Gospel reading from the Vigil provides guidance to carry the message of Easter forward. The Gospel of Mark (16:1-7) tells the story of the women who were going to treat the body of Jesus in the Jewish custom and wondered along the way about how to remove the stone over the tomb. Determined to go on despite their own doubts, they found the stone rolled to the side and the Gospel then reads: “On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.'”

Bishop Dewane said we all need to look back to Scripture and recall those words, at that moment. “It is not just a story from the past. These words, from Jesus Christ, are for you, and for me. We have to read them anew and understand it is what Christ has told us.”

By listening to the what the Lord teaches, we let the love of Christ into your hearts. Therefore, we can approach the tomb ourselves, “with the same determination as the women who came to the tomb did,” the Bishop continued. “Don’t be afraid. Go forward. If we move forward with that same determination, the Lord will provide an angel to help you remove that stone. Remember to do what he told you. It’s in Scripture. Let it be in our hearts and let us live those words we have been told.”

The Easter Vigil began in darkness before the Easter fire is kindled and the Paschal (Passover) Candle lit which was brought into the darkened church with the proclamation that Christ is our Light.

During this Mass, the faithful hear the story of Salvation proclaimed in numerous Scripture readings. It is also at this time that the priests baptize and confirm any Catechumens and Candidates. There were 398 women and men who entered fully into the Catholic Church at parishes throughout the Diocese.

One of these candidates was Carlee Smith who received the Sacraments of Baptist, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion from Bishop Dewane at Epiphany Cathedral. Smith was overwhelmed with tears of joy at becoming fully Catholic. “It is happiness that this special day has arrived,” Smith said as she held her daughter afterwards.

The celebration of Easter is not confined to a single day, in fact, throughout the next 50 days the Easter Season is celebrated “in joyful exultation as one Feast Day, or better as one ‘great Sunday.’”

The first eight days after Easter make up what is called the Octave of Easter, and is a festive time. On the 40th day of the Easter Season, Catholics celebrate the Ascension of the Lord (May 8, which this year is moved to the following Sunday, May 13). The days that follow are a time to prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday (May 20).

Paschal Triduum is the center and summit of our liturgical year

By Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

As the Lenten Season comes to a close we must now prepare for The Easter Triduum which bespeaks of mercy, because it renders visible the point that God’s love can reach.

Pope Francis describes Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday as enabling us to enter increasingly in the great mystery of our faith: the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Father said the “Mystery we adore in this Holy Week is a great story of love that knows no obstacles. Jesus’ Passion lasts until the end of the world, because it is a story of sharing with the sufferings of the whole of humanity and a permanent presence in the events of the personal life of each one of us. In sum, the Easter Triduum is the memorial of a drama of love that gives us the certainty that we will never be abandoned in life’s trials.”

Pope Francis also noted how each day of the Triduum represents God’s service, love, and silence, respectively, and that we, as His disciples, are called to live out these characteristics in our lives.

The Paschal Triduum begins at the conclusion of Lent, which ends at sunset on Holy Thursday. Triduum means “three days.” The Paschal Triduum is the three-day season counted sunset to sunset from Holy Thursday night to Easter Sunday evening. During these three days, we keep one festival – our Passover, our Easter. We join with all the people of faith and, in spirit, with all Christians in every time and place to fast, pray and keep watch. It is the Passover of the Lord!

The Church keeps the Paschal Fast from Good Friday through the Easter Vigil. Unlike the penitential fasting of Lent (now over), it is the fasting of joyful anticipation and anxious yearning for the Easter sacraments.

A very large part of being a Catholic Christian involves observing the Triduum each year. The Triduum is the center and summit of our liturgical year.

Holy Thursday is March 29 and celebrated as an evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. One component often present in the liturgy is the Washing of the Feet, a profound sign of service to one another given to us by Jesus at the Last Supper. After hearing John’s Gospel, we reflect on Jesus’ call to all the faithful for service as we witness this ritual.

Traditionally, following the Holy Thursday liturgy, the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Church to a place of repose and will remain there until the Easter Vigil. The faithful are invited to participate in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to a place where the Blessed Sacrament has been reposed.

Good Friday is March 30 and includes the celebration of the Lord’s Passion (with Veneration of the Cross and Communion). Many parishes in the Diocese will also hold Stations of the Cross and a prayer service with the “Seven Last Words.”

The Good Friday Liturgy, is not a Mass, but is comprised of the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Veneration of the Cross and reception of Eucharist. All are invited to come forward for the Veneration of the Cross. Veneration of the Cross is the climax of our response to the Passion. The faithful are called to behold Christ in his great act of love and we respond with loving veneration. For Christians, veneration of one cross, with the Body of Christ on it, means loving service to the cross and taking up one’s cross and following Christ crucified. Everyone is asked to leave this liturgy in silence.

On Holy Saturday, March 31, there are no Masses in the morning, however, Liturgy of the Hours and morning prayer are encouraged. In addition, many parishes will have a traditional blessing of Easter Baskets.

The Great Easter Vigil, the night before Easter Sunday, observes the most ancient tradition of the Church. The liturgy is begun in darkness, the Easter fire is kindled, the Paschal (Passover) Candle is lit and brought into the darkened church with the proclamation that Christ is our Light. During the liturgy, the faithful hear the story of our salvation proclaimed in numerous Scripture readings. Catechumens who have gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults will be baptized and confirmed, and everyone is asked to recall their own Baptismal commitments. The Mass is a celebration of the Risen Christ who is really and substantially present in the celebration of the Eucharist. This Great Vigil opens the Easter Season which will continue for 50 days and finds its conclusion on the Solemnity of Pentecost on May 20.

The conclusion of the Easter Triduum and the celebration of Easter is not confined to a single day, in fact, throughout the next 50 days the Easter Season is celebrated “in joyful exultation as one Feast Day, or better as one ‘great Sunday.’”

The first eight days after Easter make up, what is called the Octave of Easter, and is a festive time. On the 40th day of the Easter Season, Catholics celebrate the Ascension of the Lord (May 8, which this year is moved to the following Sunday on May 13), and in the days which follow, prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday (May 20).