St Catherine of Sienna – 29th April

April 28, 2014

If one listens to certain ill-informed pundits in the media one might think that women have had little or no place in the Church. Everything these pundits say is based upon their uncritical acceptance of the ‘rightness’ of their time, place and class. Thank God for women such as the one we celebrate on Tuesday who show that the truth is far more complex and that holy women have exercised great power inside and outside the Church.

Catherine was born in the charming Italy city of Sienna in 1347. She was a forceful personality from the start. Despite her parents best endeavours she refused to marry, preferring to devote her life to prayer. She soon gathered a group of similar men and women around her. During her life the Church was riven by the ‘great schism’, with two (and briefly) three Popes claiming to be the successor of Peter. She worked to heal these divisions and was very direct in her writings to the church leaders of her day. Her letters to Pope Urban are very direct indeed, and reminded him again and again of his calling.

Catherine was capable of such plain speaking because of her rock solid faith. She didn’t want power or influence for its own sake but rather as a means of doing good. Let us ask her prayers that the ongoing debate about the role of women in the Church is conducted not in terms of rights and stereotypes but rather about the ways in which Christ’s love is best made known in our world today. P.D.

The Easter Triduum

April 17, 2014

This week is Holy Week – the most important week in the Church’s year. At then end of it we celebrate the three most important days in the Church’s year – the Easter Triduum. During those three days – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve – we will not just be remembering the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we will also be sharing in their life-giving power. At every Eucharist we take part in the death and resurrection of Jesus made present in the sacrifice of the Mass. These three days are like an extended Mass, giving us time not just to remember but also to be immersed.

The Christian faith is rooted in history, but it is not bound by it. What happened in the life of Jesus now happens in the lives of those who believe in him. In the sacraments they die with Christ so that they may live with him. Baptism is both a tomb and a womb (see the Letter to the Romans). The Eucharist celebrates the life-giving death of Jesus. In the Easter Triduum the mystery of faith that we proclaim at every Mass is made more vivid, and we express our confidence that ‘dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life’. P.D.

Palm Sunday

April 14, 2014

On Sunday we celebrate Palm Sunday. We recall the day when Christ entered into Jerusalem on a donkey with the crowds shouting ‘Hosanna’ and strewing his way with garments and palms. But we are doing far more than recalling this event. And we are certainly not trying to relive it in a piece of holy pantomime with donkeys and children dressed up in turbans made from tea towels. Rather we are entering into the meaning and significance of this event though the scared liturgy.

At the end of the week, in the most solemn days of the Church’s year, the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve, similarly we are not just recalling events or making a holy play of them. Rather we ourselves are caught up into the mystery through the liturgy we celebrate. By means of sign and gesture, symbol and action, we bring to the eyes of faith the eternal mystery at the heart of God made known by the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

We are not mere casual or even concerned bystanders. We are the ones who are crucified with him and who rise with him to new life. Listen and watch, the mystery of faith is made manifest to us.