Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Holy Week begins Today. In these last days of Lent we spiritually place ourselves with Our Lord as He suffered in His last hours: as He agonizes in the garden, is scourged, spat upon, mocked, and crowned with thorns; as He carries the cross, is nailed to it and hung upon it for three hours to die. Who can look at this and not be overwhelmed, not simply with grief for His suffering, but also with love for Him who has loved us so much?
For almost 40 days, we’ve been trying to grow in love through Christ’s grace and our Lenten penances. We have one more week: let’s make it a truly “holy” week centered on Jesus’ suffering and ineffable love.
One of the best ways to do this is to come together for the special liturgies of this Holy Week. We have begun this today, with this unique Mass of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, with the blessed Palms, the Procession and reading of the Passion.
Then on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, come to daily Mass—let’s fill the church with prayer! And if you haven’t been yet this Lent, come to confession—our Lord awaits you there, to wash you clean with the grace pouring from His side on the Cross.
On Holy Thursday, there is no Mass during the day (except at the Cathedral), but in the evening join us here in the parish for The Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00 pm, commemorating the institution of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Priesthood. And afterward, walk in procession with the Eucharist to an altar in the Parish Hall, as if walking with the Lord to the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Lord invites you to “remain here, and watch with Me…watch and pray,” for at least a few minutes or until midnight.
Then comes Good Friday, the holiest day of the year. It is a day of fasting and abstinence as we share in the suffering of the Lord. We should keep the day with quiet, reflection, and charity—even at work—especially from noon to three. There is no Mass; instead we gather in the church at 3:00 in the afternoon, the hour of our Lord’s death, for the solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord. I beg you not to miss it, even if it means leaving work early! This is the holiest hour of the year—come and be with the Church to worship Christ at the hour of His death; what could be more important than this?!
We begin this unique liturgy with the priest prostrating himself before the altar, and all joining him by kneeling. We then read the Passion from the Gospel of John. Then the priest prays ten ancient ritual intercessions, calling down our Lord’s mercy on the Church and the world. Then we individually come forward to personally venerate the Cross, by a genuflection, kiss, or some other gesture. This takes some time, but everyone waits so patiently, as the beautiful strains of our choir help us to place ourselves for a few minutes waiting with the Blessed Mother, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene at the foot of the Cross. After this, the priests bring the Blessed Sacrament from the sacristy and the faithful receive Holy Communion, and the rite concludes. (Stations of the Cross are prayed at 7:00pm).
On Holy Saturday the Church continues its somber reflective mood, as She encourages us to continue to fast and abstain from meat as we do on Good Friday. The only Mass this day begins at 8:30pm (after sunset), as the celebration of Easter Sunday begins with the Easter Vigil Mass, a liturgy filled with all sorts of unique ceremonies: the presentation of the Easter Candle; the chanting of the Exsultet; an extended Liturgy of the Word; and Baptism, and Confirmation for adults. I encourage all to attend. (However, lasting two hours, it can be tough for little ones).

This is a wondrous week, the holiest week of the year. Let’s not squander this opportunity to get caught up in the awesomeness of the Love of Christ Jesus.

Fr. Mark Pilon, RIP. Last week we lost a good and faithful priest, as Fr. Mark Pilon succumbed to his long battle with cancer, and died on the Feast of St. Joseph, patron of a “happy death.” As most of you will recall, Father Pilon was parochial vicar at St. Raymond’s, from 2009 to 2012, when he retired due to his health. We were honored to offer his funeral Mass here this last Friday, March 23.
Born in Detroit on March 23, 1943, Father grew up in a devoutly Catholic home attending Catholic schools. After earning his Bachelor’s in English from the University of Detroit in 1966, he taught at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria (1966-70), and was publisher and assistant editor of Triumph Magazine (1970-73). In 1975, he graduated from Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas, and was ordained to the priesthood by Arlington Bishop Thomas J. Welsh on Nov. 29. He went on to earn a Master’s in Educational Administration from Catholic University (1978), a Sacred Theology Licentiate from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family (Rome, 1987), and Sacred Theology Doctorate from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome, 1991).
He held several different parish assignments over the years, as parochial vicar of St. Louis in Alexandria in (1975) and St. John in Front Royal from (1987-1990), and pastor of St. Ambrose in Annandale (1990 to 2000).
He also held various academic positions, at Bishop O’Connell High School (1977, 1981 to 1985), Catholic University (1978-79), Christendom College (1987-90), and finally at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary (2000 to 2009).
Fr. Pilon was a brilliant man, a gifted teacher and preacher, and a wise and caring priest. I’m sure he is on his way to heaven, where he will receive wonderful rewards for his great work on Earth. But as he himself used to plead with me, let’s remember to keep praying for the perfection of his soul in Purgatory. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Congratulations, Natalie Butler. On a happier note… We’re all very proud of parishioner Natalie Butler, daughter of parish Secretary Mary Butler, for her outstanding collegiate basketball career, a career built on great spiritual courage, faith and grace.
Natalie began her college basketball career as a standout freshman at Georgetown, where she was named Big East Freshman of the Year. But for her sophomore year, she transferred from the internally troubled Georgetown team to the University of Connecticut. After a redshirt year she went on to play a pivotal role in UConn’s winning two NCAA national championships, despite, several devastating injuries along the way. For her final year of eligibility, Natalie transferred this year to George Mason to work on her Master’s degree, and immediately stepped into a starring role with the Patriots, leading her teammates to the most wins in school history and a spot in the WNIT tournament. Besides averaging 19.2 points per game and an astounding 16.6 rebounds per game this season, she also set several national records, including Women’s NCAA record for rebounds in a season, 563.
An amazing young woman. Congrats, Natalie, and may God continue to bless you!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

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