Yes, I know I’m early. But I want to spread out my reflections on Holy Week.
These next three entries were written last year, when I was coming into the Catholic church. The posts about that can be found down below in the “Going Catholic” section, if you’re interested.
These describe the services of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, as well as the morning of the Great Vigil of Easter, as I was getting ready for the Big Event. Hope you enjoy!
Holy Thursday, 2012
It’s a good thing I went to the service. I knew I was supposed to go, but I thought it was just “recommended.” No, I had a job to do. I got to be one of the people to go forward and carry one of the newly blessed oils to the altar.
Guess which one I got? Oil of the sick. Figures.
I’m sure it was providential that I got to carry the oil used for healing and last rites because those are my two lifelong issues—healing and death. And the oil I carried will be used for this whole next year for everyone going into surgery or about to die. It was a privilege.
The service itself was joyful. Father Enda wore white with a stole of many colors, every color of the liturgical year. A friend came and sat with me. I told her I hadn’t seen the stole before.
“The kids call it the Happy Stole,” she said. She teaches second grade at St. Mary’s.
One way the service was more joyful than usual was they used the organ, the one that’s over 100 years old up in the balcony. There was also a choir. Who knew we even had a choir?
Many people went forward to have their feet washed. I stayed back and watched. I saw the men and women come forward, old ladies with their wheeled walkers, toddlers—running, a woman with the cane, a teenaged girl in a floral dress that was way too short, another teenaged girl with a Boobies belt, a high school boy with a hoodie. Come one, come all. This was one ritual everyone could participate in. No one asked if you believed in the Blessed Sacrament or not. No one asked if you’ve been baptized or received first Communion. Come if you want to. Come.
After it was over, we turned to each other in the congregation and blessed each other by making the sign of the cross on each other’s foreheads. I did this with the woman in front of me and with the woman who is the teacher.
“Did I do it right?” I asked.
“You did fine,” she said.
When it came time to bring forward the oil, I had no idea what to do other than walk with it. Father Enda motioned to me to hold it up high so everyone could see it, so I did. Then I was supposed to turn and put it in a stand in front of the altar, but I didn’t hear that because the deacon telling me was on my deaf side. Eventually Father Enda pulled my arm and gestured. At least I didn’t spill it.
After the service was over, they processed outside, over to the chapel, where they would be holding Eucharistic Adoration until midnight. They sang all the way.
I had a question for my sponsor. I was still worried about the oil. “Did I do it right?” I asked her.
“Of course!” she said.
But that wasn’t good enough. When I saw the deacon, I apologized to him. “I’m so sorry I messed it up. With the oil. I didn’t know what to do,” I said.
“I don’t think you can mess it up,” he said. “See you tomorrow.”