By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published April 20, 2017 | En Español
Holy Week offers an abundant selection of worship opportunities, with something for just about everyone during this week of prayer. We all have our favorite celebration, music and traditions.
Recently, I spoke with my sister, Claudia, who now lives in Philadelphia, and she told me that her favorite Lenten celebration happens to be the Stations of the Cross. I never knew that! She told me that the music of Easter with its bright images brings her much consolation.
The Stations of the Cross must remind her of our childhood when every Friday we participated in them at the close of the week as a part of our Catholic school education. I also remember the Stations of the Cross as well. I was relieved to know that her recollection of this prayer was not associated with any childhood skirmishes that might have involved me, but rather to the religious dimensions of a prayer that takes us all back to a remembrance of the Lord Jesus’ surrender of his life for our salvation.
I have heard many of you speak fondly of the Holy Thursday tradition of visiting neighboring churches in regions where there are multiple Catholic neighborhood parishes to see the splendor of their decorated altars of repose for the Blessed Sacrament—each church competing to provide an impressive display of its reverence for the Eucharist.
Others have warm memories of the Holy Saturday blessings of food baskets filled with the pleasures that Lent had set aside. Here at our cathedral, we begin Holy Week on Palm Sunday with the “donkey procession” that brings such delight to youngsters who may not have ever been that close to the animal that Scripture identifies with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
More recently, the tradition of the ceremonial washing of the feet of people reminds us of Christ’s humble example of service. Each of these moments throughout Holy Week may touch in a particular way the hearts of people as they participate in this sacred time of year.
My own favorite Holy Week moment comes at the Easter Vigil ceremony, wherein I myself entered the Church 58 years ago. Each time I celebrate that event, I am catapulted back to my childhood entry into our family of faith.
Since becoming the Archbishop of Atlanta, I have met with the candidates for entry into the church at our Cathedral of Christ the King. I spend a few unscripted moments with these wonderful folks as they are about to join us around the Lord’s altar.
This year, one of the candidates asked me what they should do once they become Catholics. It was an insightful question, and as we were posing for a congratulatory photograph after the ceremony, I advised her to find “a Catholic buddy” to help her understand how we Catholics live our faith day in and day out. A Catholic buddy doesn’t necessarily have to be a perfect Catholic—these are hard to find. A Catholic buddy should be someone that she sees regularly and whose history with our Church knows both peaks and valleys, but who remains dedicated to living the faith.
You might suggest that the sponsors and godparents of the newly initiated ought to have that role—and if available they would be perfect choices. But often sponsors and godparents live at some distance and may not be easily accessible. A Catholic buddy walks with a new Catholic as he or she comes to understand better the traditions, rituals and customs of our faith.
I hope that many of you will welcome our newest Catholics to your parishes and assure them of your support and encouragement. In welcoming new members within the circle of a family, it is important to help them feel at home and cherished. If they ask you to help them acclimate to their new faith, I pray that you will say yes and then journey with them into the heart of the Church, which will be a blessing for you both.