Sunday, April 8, 2018

The End of the Easter Octave

Well today, Divine Mercy Sunday, brings with it the conclusion of the Octave of Easter - the 8 days of celebration - because you know, the Resurrection is too awesome an event to celebrate for just one day, we need 8!  And with the end of the Octave comes a time of reflection for me and looking back on Easter and this wonderful week of celebration.

First, WE HAD NO SCHOOL!  Gosh, it's like I'm a little kid - but it was really nice to not have to go to school every day - although I did take full advantage of my time "off" and studied and got ahead on a few subjects.

My last post I did make mention of a little bit of a surprise - because I had to wait until the photos were ready, but...  On Easter Sunday I was able to actually meet the Holy Father!

I mentioned that he greets the Cardinals following the Mass - well last Sunday, after greeting the Cardinals, he went to the next row - and since I was seated behind the Cardinals, I knew he'd make it down to me!  The other time that I was able to shake his hand (kind of), by the time he arrived the only thing I could say was... "ablugh..."  Nothing came out.  This time, I tried to prepare a little bit better.  I could certainly  have said many things, but decided that since Cardinal O'Brien was sitting right in front of me, I'd simply identify myself, "Your Holiness, I am Cardinal O'Brien's secretary" (in Italian).  He said, "Oh..." raised his eyebrows, and smiled.  And moved on.  It's a cool moment, no matter what!

Ok, the photos and human persons aside, let me share a bit of my own reflections during this past Easter Octave.  One of my favorite ways to pray is the way St. Ignatius told us to pray - using our imagination.  So I did that all this week.  So here are some of my reflections on some of the readings from daily Mass this week really struck me:
  • On Monday, the reading from Matthew's Gospel spoke of Jesus' appearance to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who, when they see Jesus, approach Him, embrace His feet, and do Him homage.  I imagined myself there with them, encountering the Risen Lord.  Like them, I too ran up to Him and embraced His feet.  What JOY!  What relief!  After the terrible events of Good Friday, to see the Lord ALIVE!
  • Tuesday Mary Magdalene (in John's Gospel) is outside the empty tomb weeping.  She tells the angels she sees inside "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him."  She turns around and sees Jesus (but doesn't realize it is him - she mistakes him for the gardener).  "Woman," Jesus says to her, "why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for?"  She asks Him the same question: "if you took him..." but Jesus replies with just one word: "Mary!"  And she responds, "Rabbouni."  I took a lot of time with this Gospel.  Can you imagine?
    • First of all, if you see two angels sitting there on the empty slab, wouldn't that be something odd?  
    • But then the beautiful moment of encounter between Jesus and Mary.  "Mary!" he says.  Can you imagine how her ears perked up?  You know how someone you loves speaks your name - and you hear it - and recognize them.  This is that moment with Mary - she recognizes the way in which Jesus speaks her name!
    • And her response, "Rabbouni" - I imagine it as much a question as a statement.  
    • And again, I place myself in the scene - this beautiful scene of encounter - and in my own interior way am able to encounter the Risen Lord, embrace Him, and tell Him of my love.
  • Wednesday and Thursday are the two parts of the account of the Road to Emmaus - wonderful sources of reflection and prayer.
  • But throughout the week there's been two recurring images in my prayer:
    • At the Last Supper - the disciple whom Jesus loves, who is next to Jesus, leaning back toward him to inquire which disciple will betray him.  It's an image that for me is very significant - being close to the Heart of Christ.  His Heart means so much: His tremendous suffering for us because of our sins; and His incredible love for us.  And I can easily identify with both images.  In fact, Sr. Thelma Steiger at Ain Karim in Fairfield, PA wrote an image for me of the Sacred Heart - which sits in front of me in the chapel - so that during my prayer every day, I can reflect on both Jesus' suffering and His love.
    • The other image is one from Good Friday - Jesus entrusting Mary to John, and John to Mary.  And I really believe that this image is the root of my own Marian devotion.
On Wednesday, Peter Rettig arrived in Rome.  Peter is a seminarians from St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Waynesboro (the Diocese of Harrisburg) where I was pastor for 5 all-too-short years.  He entered the seminary while I was still there and we've kept in touch.  Right now he is studying First Theology in Spain (in order to improve his Spanish) and during his Easter break he came to Rome to visit.  The rest of the week was split between work and just hanging out with Peter!

We did some traveling around Rome - we went on Thursday to St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran (the Cathedral of Rome) and St. Mary Major.  While at the Lateran I was able to get the newly blessed oils (during the Chrism Mass) for the Cardinal and myself.  After visiting these we went to St. Peter in Chains (since he's Peter Rettig's name-sake) where they have the chains that held Peter prisoner - and Michelangelo's "horned Moses" (tho from an art perspective, this link  is really interesting).

Friday afternoon we went up to the Roof of the North American College for one of the most spectacular views of the City of Rome.

Saturday we celebrated Mass in the morning in the Clementine Chapel (the chapel inside the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica that is closest to St. Peter's tomb).  After Mass, I had to go to work, but Peter had the entire morning to explore the Basilica and the cupola of St. Peter's.  That evening we had a wonderful evening down in Trastevere - and this morning (Sunday) he headed back to Spain to begin classes tomorrow (as do I).

It's been a great week celebrating the Resurrection, meeting the Pope - and having Peter Rettig come to visit!  I pray that you have also had a joyous celebration of Our Lord's Resurrection!

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