Pastor’s Desk ~ March 10, 2024

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

This weekend we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent, commonly known as “Laetare Sunday.” It is a designation shared by Catholic and most Lutheran and Anglican parishes. To explain, I will begin nearer to the beginning.

The two penitential seasons of the Church year, Advent and Lent, prepare us for the two great Christian feasts, Christmas and Easter. We can infer by the relative length of those seasons the relative importance of those feasts. Christmas is the birth of the Lord and the hope of salvation, but Easter is the achievement of that hope. Gaudete Sunday comes just after the mid-point of Advent, while Laetare Sunday comes just after the mid-point of Lent. Both of these Sundays are also known as “Refreshment Sundays,” because they are brief breaks from the penitential regime. These “Refreshment Sundays” had much greater impact in the old days, when Advent and Lent meant going on (in modern terms) a vegan diet, plus some fish (which was almost always dried or salted). Why else would there be Mardi Gras– “Fat Tuesday”– if Lent didn’t mean serious penitential restrictions not only on meat, but on dairy and fats as well, such as cheese, butter and even olive oil?

Violet, the thematic color for vestments and altar furnishings, signifies mourning and repentance. (Many of us remember when the statues were shrouded by violet coverings during Lent, so as to focus our attention both inward and on the crucified Lord.) For the two “Refreshment Sundays,” rose is the thematic color, as rose is violet in its lighter aspect. The rose theme is carried out in the one rose candle in the Advent wreath, and by rose-colored vestments worn only on those two days.

“Laetare” comes directly from the Latin translation of Isaiah 66:10 – “Rejoice, O Jerusalem,” long the opening prayer (“introit”) of the Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. The traditional psalm for the feast day is Psalm 122: “I rejoiced when I heard them say, “Let us go to God’s house.” From Laetare Sunday on, the prayers of the Mass are more focused on the the hope of Easter.

All of the foregoing is a reminder that when we take participate in and take to heart the readings and prayers of the Mass, we are receiving – even if without knowing it – the most concentrated “doses” of Sacred Scripture it is possible to pack into a Sunday or daily Mass. Even Catholics who are not students of Scripture will, if they are attentive to the prayers and readings, receive a powerful exposure to Sacred Scripture and basic Christian theology.

Finally, this weekend we have the Confirmation of well over 100 of our parish youth, after 2 years of preparation. They face tremendous challenges in their lives. Please remember them and their families in your prayers.

Fr. Bill Donahue

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