It was a wonderful and beautiful Lent that quickly gave way to Holy Week and subsequently Easter! Palm Sunday ushered in Holy Week and for me, I had two liturgies complete with the reading of the beginning Gospel recalling the entrance to Jerusalem and the long reading of the Passion. Somewhere between the two Palm Sunday liturgies I was called upon to meet with the engaged couple I am preparing for a May wedding and offered Benediction for our Sunday night Holy Hour.
Monday brought the very real down to earth reminders that Deacon's function in the world while remaining an icon of Christ the Servant, no matter where they are or what they do. When Monday morning dawned, I was off to work for the beginning of a 50-hour, 6 day work week. And for Monday night lagniappe, the Deacon cut the grass because, in case you did not know this, the grass grows even at the home of the Deacon.
One of the absolute best highlights of Holy Week came on Wednesday night as I visited my men at Rayburn Correctional. We spent the evening in prayer and reviewing the readings of Holy Thursday through Easter. After Communion, I offered an Easter blessing for the men since I would not be able to return for Easter Sunday. I was sky-high driving home from the prison as I reflected on the fact that 75 men were with us and our participating group keeps growing and growing!
And then the Triduum. Once again, Thursday was another long and tough work day and I struggled to place myself in the spiritual place I wanted to be when arriving at Church. This is a powerful night, and I arrived to find all my brother deacons present, including our recently retired Deacon Frans. Holy Thursday is so beautiful with the Gloria, the washing of the feet, the remembrance of the Last Supper and then the procession with Jesus, in the Blessed Sacrament, to the altar of repose. Once there, we give worship and then return to the Church to strip the altar. All of the significance is overwhelming. I managed to fully participate and allow the beauty and mystery to overcome my difficult work week. Once home, I watched the Holy Thursday Mass from the Vatican until I literally fell asleep.
Good Friday and I worked until 12:30 and then rushed home to rest for an hour or so before returning to church for the Passion of the Lord, held every year at 3 pm, the hour of the death of Jesus. The Veneration of the Cross, the Passion read again, the Eucharist received from the hosts consecrated the night before. Once again, home for a little rest and then back to church for the 7 pm Stations of the Cross. One final reminder before we transition to Saturday of the greatest act of love given to all of us by the crucified Lord. And yes, reminded of his total gift of self, I felt guilty for feeling as tired as I did returning home.
I would have loved to sleep in on Saturday morning but guess who is working at the bank? That would be me. Just a half day today; but work nonetheless. I spent my afternoon watching the Easter Vigil Mass from the Vatican which included a beautiful ceremony of Baptism and Confirmation for many new converts from around the world. As the Mass ended, I knew it was time to get moving for our celebration at dark, 8 pm. Our celebration once again included all of my brother Deacons and would last 2.5 hours. We entered in total darkness, the only light burning from the Easter Candle lit by the new fire. Exusltet, 6 Scripture readings plus the Gospel, the return of the Gloria and the Alleluia's, 3 Baptisms, 6 Confirmations, what a powerful evening celebrating the Resurrection. Home by 11:30, I retired for my first Mass of Sunday morning would be at 8 am.
Sunday comes and we are at Easter, immediately I realized the normal 8 am mass crowd would be almost triple normal size. With a packed church, I dutifully assisted in this first mass of the day. It was so joyful for my daughter and her husband to be with us and later joined us for Easter breakfast. Returning home I watched Mass from St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the New Orleans French Quarter and then, sadly, I used the afternoon to cut grass. I know, I know. But for Sunday evening, I was back at St. Jane's for our last Easter liturgy of the day! And before I knew it; done!
This is just an example of the life of a Permanent Deacon; serving because it is who we are thus what we do too! So many of my brother deacons had similar and even a more intense Holy Week. Please do not view this article as anything more than what it is; a snapshot into our lives as ordained ministers in the Catholic Church who are mostly married, mostly employed full-time and always ready to serve and not be served!!
And while Permanent Deacons are exhausted today; a holy exhaustion by the way, we also remember our Priests who in addition to all we see them doing, also spent hours after hours in the confessional and spend time in deep prayer for all of us.
Holy Week done, the Triduum done, Easter, not done; still an Octave, still a Season!!