Holy Week adventures

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – The timing of this edition of Mississippi Catholic coincides with the week called “holy.” Throughout this week Catholics hopefully will be filling pews in churches around the world for the Sacred Triduum liturgies that culminate in the celebration of Easter.

This week we journey from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane to Calvary the Tomb and finally the Resurrection. It is an immersion in Christ’s journey that brings us out of darkness and into light.

Many staff and volunteers will be preparing sanctuaries for foot washing, eucharistic processions into a symbolic Garden of Gethsemane, the Passion reading, venerating the cross, and bringing the newly blessed paschal candle into the darkness and spreading its light. A lot of details are carried out behind the scenes so that all may enter into these sacred liturgies surrounded by the rich symbols and traditions of our church.

JACKSON – Mary Woodward works behind the scenes to prepare for Holy Week at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. (Photos courtesy of archives)

Reflecting on all the details, I decided to take a look at our friend, Bishop Gunn’s diary to see what a Holy Week might be like for him. I found these interesting accounts from Holy Weeks of his time.

Holy Week 1913: “Holy Week kept me busy from March 18 to Easter Sunday March 23. I had to pontify on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; to preach on Friday and Sunday, wash feet on Thursday, and hear all the confessions of the Italians that gravitated ‘round the Cathedral during my stay.

“I was glad when the Alleluias were heard, and I remained quietly in Natchez to March 30 when the usual confirmation class was confirmed.”

Holy Week 1914: “From Vicksburg I returned to Chatawa for March 29 to remain there until April 4, when I went on April 5 to Natchez for Palm Sunday and its ceremonies. I remained in Natchez for the Holy Week functions and as usual the honors of carrying nearly the entire burden were gracefully assigned to me.

“I pontified on Holy Thursday, consecrated the oils and gave a short sermon on the blessed Eucharist on Thursday night. The washing of the feet of thirteen orphans and a sermon on the Passion Friday night gave a full day’s work.

“Saturday morning, I did all that had to be done and enjoyed the Alleluias when they came somewhere near midday. On Saturday afternoon I helped in the confessional and pontified on Easter Sunday and preached.”

Holy Week 1915: “On March 29 the Bishop went to Natchez [from Pass Christian] to consecrate the holy oils and to pontify at the Cathedral on Easter Sunday.

“April – Father Horton replaced the Bishop at the Pass for Easter Sunday and he made his visit exceptionally short on account of the scandalous conduct of some New Orleans visitors on Easter Sunday. They talked and laughed and giggled during his sermon to the extent that Horton left as soon as he could get away and nothing could induce him to return to the Pass ever since.

“This forced the Bishop to send on April 8, Father Burns who was assistant at Vicksburg and he reached the Pass to take care of the church and parish and act as the Bishop’s Chancellor.”

My favorite quotes from Holy Week 1916: “the washing of the feet came too soon after dinner.”

“Holy Saturday was like some sermons – without any terminal facilities. It was an endurance more than a religious test to get through the morning service, changing into every color imaginable at the Bishop’s throne, using vestments that had not been out of the moth balls for twelve months…”
I enjoy Bishop Gunn’s phrasing and descriptions. He certainly had a gift for sizing up situations and experiences.

This Holy Week I pray you enter into the liturgies with an open heart – one that seeks to walk in procession with Jesus into the Upper Room, out into the garden to pray quietly in his presence, on to Calvary at the foot of the Cross, then carrying his light into the darkness.

Let us remember all those affected so terribly by the recent tornadoes. May they experience the light of Christ through us.

(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson.)