Yesterday’s Ash Wednesday Liturgy at Presentation High School was a beautiful thing. Eight hundred young women in formal dress uniform exuberantly singing an old Protestant hymn, Amazing Grace. The gym was filled to capacity- standing room only. The homily was delivered by a woman- our own resident bible scholar, Claire Foley. Peer ministers doused their fellow students with ashes. A slide show highlighted one of our Sisters of Presentation, Sr. Rachel Pinal, who works as a missionary in Somotillo, Nicaragua. The liturgy kicked off our Mission Drive month, raising money to support our Sisters of Presentation working for peace and justice in South America.
No wonder Pope Benedict is resigning. This old church ain’t what it used to be!
However, in the faculty room over lunch one would never have known that we have progressed this far as Catholics. People were still talking about “giving something up” for Lent. I assumed we were a more enlightened and progressive Catholic faculty. Is it really that simple?
During Lent, the forty days and forty nights culminating in the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, we are called to conversion, reconciliation, mercy, grace, self reflection and humility. How do you get there by giving up candy?
I’m just sayin’….
But the most amusing thing for me as the Senior Class Counselor was one of my naughtiest students carefully tracing a cross of ashes on my forehead and advising me to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel”.
My life is plaid.
I’ve had at least two people ask me in the past two days why it’s called Good Friday. Funny… in all the years of being Catholic I’ve never asked that question. It just goes to show how much we Catholics take in and accept as truth in faith.
I guess I could google it. But I’d rather think that it’s “Good” because Jesus died and paid the price for our sins so that we can have eternal life. Granted… I have never questioned that either!
Yesterday I attended Good Friday services at the Santa Clara Mission. The lights were dimmed, the incense plentiful and the music was prayerful. It was a solemn liturgy and I had some heavy things on my heart. A good friend from high school recently died of a heart attack. Another family’s 21 year old son was killed in an accident by a drunk driver. A young teen has disappeared from Morgan Hill and has not been found.
I felt such solidarity with the congregation as we marched forward to venerate the cross singing “Were you there when they crucified my Lord”. People knelt to kiss the cross. Others bowed. Ok.. I get emotional at these things. I’m an N and an F on the Myers Briggs. It doesn’t take much to make me weepy.
But just as I began to search for yet another tissue in my purse, the presiding priest asked us to join him in the Lord’s Prayer. The somewhat feeble and elderly man standing next to me grabbed my hand firmly and raised it up in his and began to pray in earnest! His strength and conviction shot through his hand into mine and straight to my heart. I felt suddenly transformed by his faith and a presence of love.
Maybe it’s all hocus pocus. Catholics were New Age before the New Agers were! Beads and incense and smoke and mystery. Death and resurrection. I’ve bought it hook line and sinker my whole life.
I don’t need to explain it or google it. I experienced it yesterday. And it was certainly a “Good” Friday.