What was your Easter like?

Or, to offer a diaconal bow to Amy Welborn, “What did you hear”?  How were the masses?  The homilies?  The music?

A few observations from my parish:

1. All the masses were SRO, which was great, of course.  But when did people stop dressing up for Easter?  Saw a few nice dresses (and bonnets!) but it could have been any other Sunday. Jeans and sneakers were common.

2. Best homily was from the priest who provoked a lot of laughs by assuring people they would have no trouble finding seats next week.  He broke open the seven questions posed to Pope Benedict and found some resurrection themes.

3. Music included a few of my favorites: “Out of Darkness,” “Alleluia, Let the Holy Anthem Rise,” “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” and, of course, the “Hallelujah” Chorus.

4. Dubious moment: at the close of the Easter Vigil, just before the final blessing and dismissal, my pastor made a few “thank you” remarks and led a round of applause for both the altar servers and the choir.  After mass, a woman cornered me, horrified.  “There should never be applause in church,” she told me.  “Never.  Ever.  It is a ministry, not a performance.”

Well, of course, she was right — Pope Benedict has said as much — but most people, I think, were glad to be able to express their appreciation.  My pastor also led the applause earlier in the evening, after all the fully initiated had received their sacraments and were lined up before the altar in their white robes.

Anybody else see or hear anything especially memorable?

  • Paul

    Went to the Vigil at the Immaculate Conception Center. Msgr. Thelen gave a wonderful and eye opening homily on the resurrection.

  • Ray

    Forget about Easter, I can remember ordinary Sunday Mass as a child; men were all in suits and women decked out to the nines, hats, gloves, the whole bit. We had a full house in my Church, on Sunday, and I was maybe one of a dozen men in a suit. Kind of sad that no one cares enough, or thinks of Church as a special occassion anymore. But drive a few blocks to the Baptist Church on the corner, and they put us Catholics to shame.

  • cathyf

    We had handbells, which were magnificent. The story about how we came to have handbells is even better…

    Our local college has a young man who works in student life who is getting married this summer. He is a Methodist, and his fiancée is a lapsed Catholic. He is very interested in Catholicism, and is probably going to start RCIA in the fall, and he is trying to convince her to come with him. He is a virtuoso on the bells, and so he decided that if he played at the Vigil then his fiancée would have to come, right?

  • Deacon Norb

    I’d add two items that make this Easter Week-end somewhat memorable:

    –At the Vigil, wind was swirling outside when we lit the Easter fire and still had not settled down by the time we tried to lite the Easter Candle. After almost ten minutes of futile activity, my deacon candidate took a set of kitchen tongs, went into the hot fire, and brought out a flaming ember. That he placed in the Easter Candle’s drip shield intact. That worked. It in the interim, sparks were flying every which way: maybe a half-dozen landed on my regalia and about half that on my pastors. Those spots may never come out.

    –After that encounter with the “Fire of Christ,” everything else seemed rather anti-climactic. I sang the classic chant of the “Exultet” as I customarily do and I must have had some of that fire light me as well because I heard several compliments about it this year — and no one ever compliments my singing!

    Praise the Lord !

  • Darren

    We sang Matt Maher’s song “Christ is Risen” after Eucharist. It is a great triumphant expression of Christ’s victory over death.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mXeA0G_xKc&feature=fvst

  • Nate

    At the Good Deacon’s own parish there was a trumpeter accompanying the choir that was, as the kids say, off the hook. Sensationally, fantastically good.

  • B

    My church had less people than normal. It’s a tiny church, and I’m going to bet most people who weren’t there were with family members at another church.

    The parking lot we share with the Pentecostal church next door was PACKED though! On my way driving out I paused for some of them to pass. I waved at them with some exuberance. They waved back. I smiled. :) Interdenominational Easter Joy!

  • http://annebender.blogspot.com Anne Bender

    Thank you, Deacon Greg, for sharing so many wonderful moments of life at your parish during the Triduum and Easter. Your parish looks absolutely gorgeous! You have much to be proud of!

    My joyous Easter memories are too many to share in a combox, so, this link is to my own post about my favorite Easter memories from this year’s vigil and relates a bit to past Easter Vigils as well.

    http://annebender.blogspot.com/2011/04/god-wins.html

    A very happy Easter to you!

  • http://breadhere.blogspot.com/ Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    Oh too many to mention but I shall try and I am grateful to read of other folks experiences.

    For starters – we had many more people at all of our services and that was in spite of it being school vacation week in these parts. It was remarkable to see the church so consistently full.

    We started our Holy Fire after Night Prayer on Thursday, around 11:20pm. It had been started earlier in the week with the sun and a magnifying glass and been kept on a candle. It was beautiful to behold the beginning of this fire. It was tended with parishioners volunteering to cover every hour until Vigil began… That included cold overnights with rain and even some snow!

    Good Friday is always beautiful as our RCIA team and candidates/elect carry the Cross in as we sing Behold The Wood of the Cross. Deeply moving.

    Saturday Morning Prayer… at then end of it we were all asked to pray for our Elect/Candidates who were present. We all held their hands, stood with them, one at a time and prayed.

    We had 3 adult baptisms along with one infant and numerous Confirmations and First Eucharists this year.

    Vigil – the great Holy Fire, the candle entering the dark church, the Exultet ringing out to over 600 people present, the baptisms and other sacraments.

    What a privilege!

    And for the most part – people dressed up at the Vigil!

  • http://breadhere.blogspot.com/ Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    Ooops- The homilies? All excellent. I loved my pastor’s at the Vigil but I must say that I went to the parish where I work on Sunday morning. The homily was **outstanding** and I do mean outstanding. I think that some who were there because it was Easter might consider returning. It was that good.

    The music at my worship parish is beyond sublime. Many voices and instruments and a parish that sings out.

    Beautiful!

  • ron chandonia

    Our parish is the oldest predominately African American Catholic church in Atlanta, and we are known for our music ministry and our “spirit filled” worship. The high point of the year (as it should be) was the Easter Vigil. Our new pastor sang the Exultet magnificently (the deacon not being willing to take that on), and we had a large number of baptisms. But the very best part was the reading of the Easter gospel. As the deacon proclaimed the gospel, shouts rose up from throughout the assembly: “That’s right!” “He did it!” “Thank you Jesus” and repeatedly “Amen!” The pastor began his sermon, “You heard it, and I know you believe it . . . “

  • Deacon Norb

    Ron:

    Will you let this “English Hillbilly Catholic” also raise a loud “Amen” at your report!!

  • ron chandonia

    I hear people from more “restrained” parishes saying they wish they could have the kind of worship service we enjoy at Our Lady of Lourdes. It’s then that I drop the other shoe: our Easter Vigil service lasted 3 full hours–and most people came early and stayed afterwards.

  • MhariDubh

    I was away from my “home” parish for the first time in forever. My mom and sis filled me in after I returned from Easter Vigil where I saw a friend fully received into the church. They told me that the best part was after the Gloria (and all those readings!) when a little girl said, “Is it time to go home now?” and the whole section started laughing.

  • Meggan

    In the middle of Good Friday service, mid-homily, we had to go to the basement because of a tornado warning. We continued the service down there. It was actually very moving to be gathered down below, still church even though we were all standing around the spare looking basement. The choir singing to a guitar the music director pulled out of his office ( no organ or piano in the basement).
    A memorable Good Friday in more ways than one.

  • Andy

    Our pastor “skipped” the Homily, and went directly to the Renewal of Baptismal Vows. Just before Communion, he held up the Host and said (and I wish I could remember his exact words) “For those of you who thought you were getting away without a sermon, I have this to say: This is Christ. This is why we’re here, this is Christ come to you, and come to all of us”. He said more, but I can’t recall it all. As I said, I really wish I could remember the exact words, but I will also say that this was one of those rare times where the words actually gave me chills (to the point of goosebumps!). It was truly brilliant. Whether or not it was a liturgical error, I cannot answer, but wow, did it have the desired effect. Truly made my Easter!

  • Michele

    Our Easter Vigil was amazing!
    My favorite part was when a ‘special needs’ adult made a profession of faith…and when he and his wife (also special needs) celebrated the Sacrament of Marriage immediately following the Easter Vigil.
    Amazing!

  • Greta

    Our priest looked out on the standing room only crowd and reminded all Catholics present that we are required to attend mass every Sunday on pain of grave sin, not once a year. He also mentioned that going up to recieve the Eucharist was for those in the State of Grace. He did not dwell on the subject, but made clear statements which are certainly needed. We are blessed to be in a strong Dominican parish filled with great priests, most of whom are very young and passionate about Church teaching. We had a lot of Latin in our mass and the songs selected were solid Catholic to the core. We also were blessed this year to have 39 new Catholics brought into our parish and are seeing this number grow each year.

  • janet

    I attended Easter morning Mass @ a parish I’ve never been to before or will again in the future. I was back home visiting family & went to a friend of the family’s service to hear him sing in the choir.

    I was dressed for Easter with hat, heels & dress. The dressy vs. Casual ratio was about 50/50, but only by including children, little girls with their lovely dresses & tresses.

    The liturgy was…very ad lib to the point that I was concerned whether I had fulfilled my Sunday obligation & if the Eucharist was valid. The presider invited all the children up to surround the alter during the entire Eucharistiic prayer.

    At the end, before the final blessing they had what I call the awards ceremony applauding the people who made “it” all possible from the lectors to the choir, only this time they actually did read from an award for their choir director who received a standing ovation.

    P.s. not a word was spoken about Earth Day.

  • Joe

    When the deacon who was acting as MC forgot to mention to blow out the candles after the Exsultet, God was with us as most of the congregation ( not knowiung what to do – and not reading in the missalette) left their candles lit during the 5 readings we did.

  • jkm

    I am not a fan of applause in church either (especially when it comes in response to a musical “performance”) but at our Easter Vigil on Saturday night–my first in 30 years as a revert back in full and joyous Communion–when the 21 newly baptized and 14 confirmandi/those being received reentered the assembly, rank on rank in their new white robes, the whole 800 or so of us stood with one accord and spontaneously erupted in a thundering ovation. Three hours+ spent in kairos, God’s time, with a splendid new fire no sputtering rain could put out, a terrific cantor (neither priests not deacons have the voice for this, and happily admit it) making the Exultet soar (and doing the same with the Veni Sancti Spiritus during the confirmations), a lovely, thoughtful sermon on the real Mary Magdalene from the pastor, and of course the Hallelujah! to ice the cake. Our parish has a baptismal pool, and gathering around it for the baptisms I felt as close to the early Church’s wonder and awe at this “night most blessed” than ever.

  • Kenny R

    I went to Easter Sunday Mass after attending the Saturday evening Vigil Mass. The simple reason being that I was totally distracted Saturday night making certain that my friend’s six year old grand-daughter who was sitting next to me at the Vigil didn’t burn herself or otherwise do damage with the lit candle she was holding; lit candles and small children-maybe not a good idea.

  • Lynn Thomas

    I think I disagree with those who object to a [brief] acknowledgment of the folks who make such a huge liturgy possible. The choir practices for hours on end to put together music to enhance the worship. Others put in their hours doing the not-trivial work [in our church, anyway] of cleaning and decorating. Then there are those who do the planning and arranging. Not that we’re asking for applause, but if the pastor says ‘thanks’, I have a hard time thinking it’s utterly wrong. Maybe a little charity is in order? How can it be wrong to thank people for their hard work?

    As to my experiences this past weekend; I only attended Thursday and the Vigil; transporting a college student home and back precluded the others. Thursday was good, but not as engaging as in years past; our former pastor is a masterful liturgist blessed with a wonderful voice; the new pastor is not blessed with either the stagecraft or voice to match him. [I'm spoiled in this regard and admit it.] He did the Exsultet well enough but not beautifully. The vigil ran 3 hours and 37 minutes. I loved the Liturgy of the Word, all 9 readings worth, alternating English and Spanish, with Gospel and homily in both languages. To streamline things, the choir and cantor chanted most of the psalms in between, rather than do them in the usual responsorial fashion or with a song substituting. The baptism section was long, but better than some years [choir stands in an awkward spot for this and my feet get tired] when we terrorized a little girl who was afraid of the water.

    After that, it went kind of flat for me. We brought in about 60 people, by far most of them children. That doesn’t bother me, but I do have issues of our using two different sets of procedures. Children baptized as infants go through the regular order and timing of sacraments. Those baptized at the vigil some years later receive Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation all at once, even if they’re only 7 or 8. I’m told it’s a cultural thing, since that’s how it’s done in their countries of origin and their parents will throw a huge party for all of this and only want to endure the expense once. My difficulty is with being one church if we have two sets of rules in one place. We also put too much seating in the far back reaches of the church, so there was a good bit of running around, gum chewing, and other inappropriate behavior. As a choir member, I face the crowd and it’s impossible to NOT see this.

    Still, it went smoothly enough and the music was both good and varied. Most were dressed up to some degree, if not universally in suits and dresses. I observe that too-casual dress is far more common among males than females in our parish.

  • Jim V

    I attended the Easter Vigil Mass at the Dominican’s Friars’ House of Studies in Wash DC near the National Shrine. Very moving, wonderful singing by the friars, Nashville OP sisters were also there. My family sat in choir seats in the 100 year old chapel.

  • Tom

    Deacon,

    At our Easter Vigil, we were able to welcome a 30 year old man into the Church (full initiation) with his 2 month old son (baptism)! It was a great testament to the power of Jesus’ ressurection.


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