Last month during that incredibly frigid weekend, our seminarian Dharen and I were in the car having a conversation about the New England Seasons. I assured him that they are quite different than Columbia! I shared with him (through chattering teeth) that we are accustomed to the changes associated with each season and welcome the variety. We probably love spring more than most since we’ve endured winters that are very challenging. Difficult winters help us never take for granted the smell of spring as the ground begins to thaw, or rejoice in our hearts when we feel the warm breeze of the new season enticing us out of our cloistered winter abodes. New Englanders understand, perhaps better than most, that in order to experience the new life of spring we have to travel through the desolate winter.
Perhaps our perspective helps us to better understand the journey we take through Lent. We all love and rejoice with the arrival of Easter but we also embrace and welcome the season of Lent. Lent is a season when we slow down, contemplate, pray and fast. We place ourselves in a space where we remember His sacrifice, passion and death. It can be a difficult place to sit but it is a necessary one. When we choose to reflect on Christ’s passion we choose to look at the sacrifices He made for us. We contemplate His incredible ability to love unconditionally, endure resolutely, sacrifice completely, and stay faithful through whatever the world threw at him. He is our example, and the one we all aspire to model. When have a prayerful Lent, we are better able to rejoice with the arrival of Easter with all of its glorious sights, sounds, smells and message!
I am particularly excited to celebrate this Lent and Easter because we do it as a yoked* community. Two parishes that share resources, talents, energy, and faith has to be better than one! As a yoked community there are very specific Lenten and Easter guidelines established by our Diocese. The one that will affect us the most involves the Holy Triduum; Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Saturday night Easter Vigil. These three celebrations are not three separate liturgies but in fact one. We therefore are directed to have them at one Church. This year our Holy Triduum will be celebrated at St. Bernard Church and next year we will gather at St. Matthew Church.
I am humbled and grateful to everyone who has already begun working on making this year’s Triduum something that will open our eyes and hearts to the magnitude of His love and sacrifice. The music ministry of both parishes are working cooperatively and the combined choirs along with directors and instrumentalists will be at each of the liturgies. Ministers of the Eucharist, Lectors, oil bearers, and volunteers for the foot washings will be chosen from both parishes. The combined liturgy committee and the clergy are working diligently to prepare for this holiest of seasons. I know the result of our combined efforts will produce something truly faith inspired and spiritually moving.
Both St. Matthew and St. Bernard parishes will have their own Masses on Easter Sunday. I invite and encourage all of our parishioners to make the effort to join us at each of our celebrations. We need you – for without you, our family is not complete.
May God bless you for your fidelity and kindness.
*We are now yoked with St. Matthew of Tolland to form "The Catholic Community of St. Bernard and St. Matthew" with Fr. Rick Ricard as Pastor of this new Catholic Community assisted by Fr. Bill Olesik, Deacon Michael Berstene and Deacon Ron Freedman. To learn more about the yoking process, please read Guidelines for Yoked Parishes in the Diocese of Norwich.