The early days of Holy Week

By Father Aaron Williams
In my previous column, I discussed the development of the liturgy of Palm Sunday. In this edition, I want to address Masses which belong to the ‘early days’ of Holy Week: namely, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Mass given for the Monday of Holy Week has been surprisingly consistent throughout the centuries, more so perhaps than any other Mass during the week. The Gospel passage is taken from the twelfth chapter of St. John’s gospel and chronologically speaking occurs the day before Palm Sunday, making it interesting to be placed the day after in the Lectionary. But, there are two reasons for the placement of this passage: one, because it makes mention of the rising of Lazarus within the context of the Passover (thus, foreshadowing the rising of Christ), and second, because of St. John’s aside that Judas was a thief and would take money from the apostle’s communal purse.
Apart from the Gospel, there is no proper rite associated with this day. Before the reform of the Holy Week liturgies promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1955, special petitions were offered on this day against the church’s persecutors and for the Pope. These were suppressed in 1955, and with the exception of the change of the order of the Mass, the Mass given in the Missal of 1962 is virtually the same as the Mass in the Missal of Pope St. Paul VI.
The Masses of Tuesday and Wednesday are where we see real change. Prior to the reforms which followed the Second Vatican Council, the Passion according to St. Mark was read in full in the Mass of Tuesday, and that of St. Luke was read at the Mass of Wednesday; St. Matthew’s had been read on Palm Sunday. In the reformed Mass, the gospels of Palm Sunday are read on a three-year cycle so each year during Holy Week the faithful only hear two readings of the Passion: one from either Matthew, Mark, or Luke and then St. John’s version on Good Friday. In the older form of the Mass, all four Passion accounts were read during the course of the week.
There was a slight alteration in the length of the Passion readings from before 1955 and after. In the liturgies before 1955, the synoptic Passion readings included the account of the Last Supper. This section was removed after 1955 and the readings begin in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The modern Roman liturgy introduces two new Gospel readings for Tuesday and Wednesday, but with a sort of traditional flair. The reading given for Tuesday is Our Lord’s prediction of the betrayal of Judas at the Last Supper as given in St. John’s Gospel. The placement here is appropriate since the next day, Wednesday, is traditionally known as “Spy Wednesday” – when Judas met with the chief priests to arrange the manner in which he would betray Jesus. Naturally, the Gospel passage in the modern liturgy which is read on Wednesday is this the account of this meeting between Judas and the Jewish authorities as given in St. Matthew’s Gospel.
Thus, while the arrangement of the readings in the older form of the Mass were designed to bring the faithful’s attention to the events of the Passion itself, the readings of the newer form intentionally lead the faithful chronologically through the events of Holy Week in the order they played out.
One final note since I will not have space to provide a full column on this topic. In the early Medieval liturgical rites in use prior to the Council of Trent, these three days served as a final preparation for the Penitents to be given absolution on Holy Thursday morning. Formerly, grave public sinners brought themselves to the door of the Cathedral on Ash Wednesday when they were ceremonially ‘cast out’ of the church and given sackcloth to wear in penitence for all of Lent. In these last days, their penitence often took on a more physical form and they would beg outside the door of the Cathedral until the morning of Holy Thursday when the Bishop would prepare to meet them inside at the altar.
The deacon would go outside into the square and three times tell the penitents to approach the church. Three times the penitents would step forward and prostrate themselves. Once this was completed, the deacon took them by the hand and led them straight through the church and up to the altar where the Bishop would remove their sackcloth and grant them sacramental absolution. This would allow them to rejoin the faithful for the Mass of Holy Thursday night where they could once again partake in Holy Communion.
In my next column I will discuss a the traditional prayer service of Tenebræ, which is regaining popularity today in many parishes, as well as ways this service is even included, in an altered form, in the modern Liturgy of the Hours.

(Father Aaron Williams is the administrator at St. Joseph Parish in Greenville)

Social teachings make way for dialogue

Kneading Faith
By Fran Lavelle
I have been trying to process the devasting toll the coronavirus has had on so many around the world and the impact of George Floyd’s death. Every day seems to bring its own new set of challenges to our already highly emotionally charged world. In all of it I have been listening to the voices of our young people from teenagers to the 40-somethings. It occurred to me that the generations who were brought up watching Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and Barney have taken notice that we are not as Barney proclaimed, ”a happy family.” Watch the news, look at your social media newsfeed, talk to the younger members of your community and you will quickly hear their clarion call for change. And, in thinking about the messaging they grew up with, I totally understand where their clarion call is coming from. Moreover, I truly appreciate it.
In the past decade or so in this country we have allowed the politics of hatred to divide us so deeply that we have stopped seeing one another as God’s beloved and only as opposites. If you are not with us, you are our enemy. The divisiveness is driving wedges between co-workers, church members, friends and family. And the Body of Christ is suffering because we are quick to see one another as hostile enemies, forgetting that we share in our dignity as God’s beloved.
In Genesis 1:27 we read: “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” When the dignity of others is eroded by indifference, prejudice and distrust we stop seeing the beauty of God’s creation. The first Chapter of Genesis teaches us about the goodness of creation and the divine desire that human beings share in that goodness. God brings an orderly universe out of chaos and gives humanity dominion over it. With the power of dominion comes the responsibility to be good stewards of our resources.
The good news is that we have an excellent resource to help us have constructive dialogue. Catholic social teaching is the articulation of Catholic doctrines on matters of human dignity and common good in society. The following is a summary from the USCCB on the core principles of Catholic social teaching:
Life and Dignity of the Human Person: The Catholic church proclaims that human life is sacred, and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.
Call to Family, Community and Participation: The person is not only sacred but also social. How we organize our society directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
Rights and Responsibilities: The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities – to one another, to our families and to the larger society.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers: The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected.
Solidarity: We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. Pope St. Paul VI taught that “if you want peace, work for justice.”
Care for God’s Creation: We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation.
Let us listen to the voices of our young people and heed the call for unity.
“Each one of us is called to be an artisan of peace, by uniting and not dividing, by extinguishing hatred and not holding on to it, by opening paths to dialogue and not by constructing new walls!” – Pope Francis

(Fran Lavelle is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson)

Call by Name

Another “homegrown” seminarian will enter the ranks for the Diocese of Jackson this fall. William Foggo of Brandon was officially accepted as a diocesan seminarian on May 28 by Bishop Kopacz. Foggo is an alumnus of St. Richard Elementary School in Jackson and St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison. He spent the last three years at Mississippi State University where he was heavily involved in the Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM). This past school year he was the service chairman for CCM, and he has been closely involved in the diocesan SEARCH retreats for the past several years. He is also an Eagle Scout.

With Foggo’s admission, the diocese currently has seven seminarians. He will enroll at St. Joseph Seminary College in the fall to begin his philosophy studies. Will studied engineering while at MSU. He joins fellow St. Joe alumnus Grayson Foley at St. Joseph Seminary, which is a Benedictine Abbey located near Covington, Louisiana, while five seminarians continue to study at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. Will grew up attending St. Paul Flowood, and was very involved at St. Joseph Starkville while in school.

Father Nick Adam

Candidates for the seminary go through a thorough application process, all designed to help a young man discern whether he is being called to formally discern priesthood. The first step anyone who is feeling called can take is to contact me in the Office of Vocations. It is a great joy to walk with someone who is open to the will of the Lord in their lives, and anyone can be assured that their interest will not result in pressure to “be a priest.”

Saturday, June 27, 2020 – Priestly Ordination of Deacon Andrew Nguyen and Deacon Cesar Sanchez, Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle Jackson, 9:30 a.m.

Friday, October 9, 2020 – Homegrown Harvest Gala, Cathead Distillery
Downtown Jackson

If you are interested in visiting a seminary or house of religious formation,

Faithful Friendship

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
I grew up in a close family and one of hardest things I ever did was to leave home and family at the age of seventeen to enter the novitiate of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. That novitiate year wasn’t easy. I missed my family intensely and stayed in touch with them insofar as the rules and communication of the day allowed. I wrote a letter home every week and my mother wrote back to me faithfully each week. I still have and cherish those letters. I had left home but stayed in touch, a faithful family member.
But my life became a lot more complex and socially demanding after that. I moved to a seminary and began to live in a community with sixty others, with people entering and leaving constantly throughout my seven years there so that by the time I’d finished my seminary training I had lived in close community with over one hundred different men. That brought its own challenges. People you’d grown close to would leave the community to be replaced by others so that each year there was a new community and new friendships.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

In the years following seminary, that pattern began to grow exponentially. Graduate studies took me to other countries and brought a whole series of new persons into my life, many of whom became close friends. In more than forty years of teaching I have met with several thousand students and made many friends among them. Writing and public lectures have brought thousands of people into my life. Though most of them passed through my life without meaningful connection, some became lifelong friends.
I share this not because I think it’s unique, but rather because it’s typical. Today that’s really everyone’s story. More and more friends pass through our lives so that at a point the question necessarily arises: how does one remain faithful to one’s family, to old friends, former neighbors, former classmates, former students, former colleagues, and to old acquaintances? What does fidelity to them ask for? Occasional visits? Occasional emails, texts, calls? Remembering birthdays and anniversaries? Class reunions? Attending weddings and funerals?
Obviously doing these would be good, though that would also constitute a full-time occupation. Something else must be being asked of us here, namely, a fidelity that’s not contingent on emails, texts, calls, and occasional visits. But what can lie deeper than tangible human contact? What can be more real than that? The answer is fidelity, fidelity as the gift of a shared moral soul, fidelity as the gift of trust, and fidelity as remaining true to who you were when you were in tangible human community and contact with those people who are no longer part of your daily life. That’s what it means to be faithful.
It is interesting how the Christian scriptures define community and fidelity. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that before Pentecost those in the first Christian community were all “huddled in one room.” And here, though physically together, they were not in real community with each other, not really a family and not really faithful to each other. Then after receiving the Holy Spirit, they literally break out of that one room and scatter all over the earth so that many of them never see each other again. Now, geographically distant from each other, ironically they become real family, become a genuine community and live in fidelity to each other.
At the end of the day, fidelity is not about now often you physically connect with someone but about living within a shared spirit. Betrayal is not a question of separation by distance, of forgetting an anniversary or a birthday, or of not being able to stay in touch with someone you cherish. Betrayal is moving away from the truth and virtue you once shared with that person you cherish. Betrayal is a change of soul. We are unfaithful to family and friends when we become a different person morally so as to no longer share a common spirit with them.
You can be living in the same house with someone, share daily bread and conversation with him or her, and not be a faithful family member or friend; just as you can be a faithful friend or family member and not see that friend or family member for forty years. Being faithful in remembering birthdays is wonderful, but fidelity is more about remembering who you were when that birth was so special to you. Fidelity is about maintaining moral affinity.
To the best of my abilities, I try to stay in contact with the family, old friends, former neighbors, former classmates, former students, former colleagues, and old acquaintances. Mostly it’s a bit beyond me. So I put my trust in moral fidelity. I try as best I can to commit myself to keeping the same soul I had when I left home as a young boy and which characterized and defined me when I met all those wonderful people along the way.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. He can be contacted through his website


Part of the Solution
By Reba J. McMellon, M.S.,LPC
This is the time of year that many graduations take place. So, what does it mean to graduate?

Reba J. McMellon, M.S.,LPC

Graduation is a time of moving forward while looking back and being proud of your accomplishments. While graduation ceremonies will look different this year, the infamous year of 2020, it’s important to remember most milestones in life don’t involve a ceremony or cap and gown. Most graduations involve little pomp and circumstance.
You’ll likely always have someone cheering you on, but the crowds get smaller as you get older.
The good news is – that doesn’t make them any less important. Psychological research has shown that the milestones in life that bring the most internal motivations are the strongest. If a person is accomplishing things for external praise, the motivation is a shallow one. Internal rewards are the strongest.
Graduation is defined by moving from one stage of experience and proficiency to the next. Graduation is not an end; it’s a new beginning.
Academic is one type of graduation. As people move through life, there will be many important milestones. Graduating into adulthood, parenthood, and empty nests are a few examples. Wouldn’t it be nice if a marching band and a cheering crowd showed up in your front yard for those events?
Spiritual graduations that go beyond baptism and confirmation are important as well. Those, like high school graduations, are only the start. Spiritual growth is imperative but involve little outward fanfare.
If you have a graduate at your house, it’s a type of graduation for you too. Parents are ushering their graduates into young adulthood. They’ve made it to a new stage, and you have too. It is a time to step back and encourage your graduate to explore vocations, be prayerful and fly away from the nest. They can’t fly further than your love can reach. I promise.
If you are a graduate in 2020, lift your arms high in the air and give yourself a high five. You’ve achieved an important milestone, now go make your next mark while you high step it into your future.

(Reba McMellon, M.S. is a licensed professional counselor with 35 years of experience. She worked in the field of child sexual abuse and adult survivors of sexual abuse for more than 25 years. She moved back to Mississippi in 2001 and works part-time as a mental health consultant and freelance writer.)

U.S. bishops confront racism and call us to brotherhood

By Tony Magliano
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” With these beautiful words from Scripture (1 John 3:1), the U.S. Catholic bishops introduce us to their recent pastoral letter against racism titled, “Open wide our hearts: the enduring call to love.”
Just think about it. The almighty God is not a distant slave master, but a close loving father who calls us his children. That is a truly awesome thought! “Yet so we are.”
Thus, no matter what religion we claim or don’t claim, no matter what our nationality is, no matter what our ethnic heritage might be, and no matter what color we are or race we belong to, we all equally share one loving father.
And that unmistakably means that all of us are brothers and sisters!
Imagine how wonderful the world would be if only we would truly take this sacred teaching to heart, and with every thought, word and deed put it into practice.

Tony Magliano

But sadly, this is often not the case. Instead, over and over again many people negatively judge countless other people according to their skin color and/or what nation they or their ancestors are originally from. This is racism. And racism is always ugly and immoral.
The bishops write, “Racism comes in many forms. It can be seen in deliberate, sinful acts. In recent times, we have seen bold expressions of racism by groups as well as individuals. The re-appearance of symbols of hatred, such as nooses and swastikas in public places, is a tragic indicator of rising racial and ethnic animus” (see:
Drawing forth specific examples of racism, the bishops highlight the fact that often Hispanics and African Americans “face discrimination in hiring, housing, educational opportunities, and incarceration. Racial profiling frequently targets Hispanics for selective immigration enforcement practices, and African Americans, for suspected criminal activity.”
The bishops critically say, “Extreme nationalist ideologies are feeding the American public discourse with xenophobic rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants and refugees. Finally, too often racism comes in the form of the sin of omission, when individuals, communities, and even churches remain silent and fail to act against racial injustice when it is encountered.”
Why do so many white people of faith remain largely silent about racism?
I don’t think it’s because most white believers are prejudiced against African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Muslims or any other minority. Rather, as with other social justice and peace issues, it’s a matter of “out of sight, out of mind.”
So as a corrective to this serious inattentiveness, let’s pray, educate ourselves on racism, talk with people in minority groups about their experiences, befriend persons of different races and ethnic backgrounds, lobby to increase refugee admissions, and vote for politicians who are committed to pursuing policies of racial/ethnic equality and comprehensive and just immigration reform legislation.
A thoughtful reading of “Open wide our hearts: the enduring call to love” would be time well spent (see: ).
And let us commit ourselves to praying and working for a society and world where as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr said, “People will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” and where all persons recognize each other as brothers and sisters who are all equally loved by the same divine Father.
(Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at

Editors note: This column is a reflection on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pastoral letter against racism – Open Wide our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.

Leaving peace behind as our farewell gift

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI

By Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI
There is such a thing as a good death, a clean one, a death that, however sad, leaves behind a sense of peace. I have been witness to it many times. Sometimes this is recognized explicitly when someone dies, sometimes unconsciously. It is known by its fruit.
I remember sitting with a man dying of cancer in his mid-fifties, leaving behind a young family, who said to me: “I don’t believe I have an enemy in the world, at least I don’t know if I do. I’ve no unfinished business.” I heard something similar from a young woman also dying of cancer and also leaving behind a young family. Her words: “I thought that I’d cried all the tears I had, but then yesterday when I saw my youngest daughter I found out that I had a lot more tears still to cry. But I’m at peace. It’s hard, but I’ve nothing left that I haven’t given.” And I’ve been at deathbeds other times when none of this was articulated in words, but all of it was clearly spoken in that loving awkwardness and silence you often witness around deathbeds. There is a way of dying that leaves peace behind.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives a long farewell speech at the Last Supper on the night before he dies. His disciples, understandably, are shaken, afraid, and not prepared to accept the brute reality of his impending death. He tries to calm them, reassure them, give them things to cling to, and he ends with these words: I am going away, but I will leave you a final gift, the gift of my peace.
I suspect that almost everyone reading this will have had an experience of grieving the death of a loved one, a parent, spouse, child, or friend, and finding, at least after a time, beneath the grief a warm sense of peace whenever the memory of the loved one surfaces or is evoked. I lost both of my parents when I was in my early twenties and, sad as were their farewells, every memory of them now evokes a warmth. Their farewell gift was the gift of peace.
In trying to understanding this, it is important to distinguish between being wanted and being needed. When I lost my parents at a young age, I still desperately wanted them (and believed that I still needed them), but I came to realize in the peace that eventually settled upon our family after their deaths that our pain was in still wanting them and not in any longer needing them. In their living and their dying they had already given us what we needed. There was nothing else we needed from them. Now we just missed them and, irrespective of the sadness of their departure, our relationship was complete. We were at peace.
The challenge for all of us now, of course, is on the other side of this equation, namely, the challenge to live in such a way that peace will be our final farewell gift to our families, our loved ones, our faith community, and our world. How do we do that? How do we leave the gift of peace to those we leave behind?
Peace, as we know, is a whole lot more than the simple absence of war and strife. Peace is constituted by two things: harmony and completeness. To be at peace something has to have an inner consistency so that all of its movements are in harmony with each other and it must also have a completeness so that it is not still aching for something it is missing. Peace is the opposite of internal discord or of longing for something we lack. When we are not at peace it is because we are experiencing chaos or sensing some unfinished business inside us.
Positively then, what constitutes peace? When Jesus promises peace as his farewell gift, he identifies it with the Holy Spirit; and, as we know, that is the spirit of charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, longsuffering, fidelity, mildness, and chastity.
How do we leave these behind when we leave? Well, death is no different than life. When some people leave anything, a job, a marriage, a family, or a community, they leave chaos behind, a legacy of disharmony, unfinished business, anger, bitterness, jealousy, and division. Their memory is felt always as a cold pain. They are not missed, even as their memory haunts. Some people on the other hand leave behind a legacy of harmony and completeness, a spirit of understanding, compassion, affirmation, and unity. These people are missed but the ache is a warm one, a nurturing one, one of happy memory.
Going away in death has exactly the same dynamic. By the way we live and die we will leave behind either a spirit that perennially haunts the peace of our loved ones, or we will leave behind a spirit that brings a warmth every time our memory is evoked.

(Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. He can be contacted through his website

Called by name

Father Nick Adam

During the time of COVID-19, our circumstances have changed in the Office of Vocations, but our mission has not, and the seeds of faith are still growing in our diocese. We have several young men either actively applying for the seminary or seriously discerning whether to enter the seminary. I am in contact with several young women who are discerning whether the Lord is calling them to religious life. We will also celebrate the ordination of two new priests in late June, and six seminarians continue their formation to the priesthood this summer. I want to honor these men and women by making sure our vocations department continues to grow with them.

With this in mind, the Vocations Office is hosting the first annual Homegrown Harvest Gala and Fundraiser on October 9, 2020 at Cathead Distillery in Jackson. The staff at Cathead have been great with the uncertainty of this time, and they are dedicated to working with us as social distancing protocols are updated throughout the summer.

I hope this column has helped you to see how your financial contributions to the vocations department are being spent. I want to continue to offer regular opportunities for young people to see what religious formation is really like, and with two new seminarians expected to enroll this fall, tuition and room and board remain a substantial need. The proceeds of this annual event will provide immediate support to our programs and will greatly bolster our long term plans in vocation promotion and seminarian support. But this celebration will also simply be an opportunity for us to rejoice that the Lord is calling men forth to serve His people.

Tickets to the Gala will be available this summer, and I will be hitting the road and finding ways to reach out to your parishes and ask for your support as the summer wears on. Our diocese is growing because the Holy Spirit is moving in the hearts of young men and women, and it is our job to support them. I pledge to do that as vocations director, and I want you to get to know our seminarians who have already answered the call to discern. In the next several issues of Mississippi Catholic, you will be introduced to all of our seminarians, and I look forward to giving you more information on this exciting event, which I pray will be a great celebration of what the Lord is bringing forth in our Diocese.

Vocations Events

Saturday, June 27, 2020 – Priestly Ordination of Deacon Andrew Nguyen and Deacon Cesar Sanchez, Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle Jackson, 9:30 a.m.

Friday, October 9, 2020 – Gala, Cathead Distillery in Downtown Jackson

If you are interested in visiting a seminary or house of religious formation,

“All shall be well? Really?”

Sister alies therese

From the hermitage
By Sister alies therese
I’ve never given plagues much thought. Stunned by AIDS (1980s) and hearing of various pestilence ‘over there’ in Africa or India … but not here! I was a polio pioneer but don’t remember if I got the real stuff or the placebo. Even the ‘white plague’ (TB) has largely been relegated to medication.
In Derbyshire, England, on the grounds of the Parish Church of St. Lawrence, stands a large 8th century stone cross looking out over Plague Village. What a name!
There are black plagues, bubonic plagues, leprosy, SARS, polio, AIDS, anthrax, H1N1, ebola, bird flu, dengue fever, Spanish flu, TB, and, of course, this horrid “19.” Consider these folks:
St. Louis died of plague in Tunisia during a crusade in 1270. St. Julian of Norwich, England, 1416, was an anchoress, lived through three plagues.
Martin Luther wrote Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague, where he discussed whether a pastor (or others) might ‘run away’ if their life was in danger. Germany, 1527.
In Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in 1531 between the European small pox invasion and later hemorrhagic fevers. St. Martin de Porres, OP of Peru, 1630’s, nursed the sick midst the plague.
Venerable Dorothy Day (Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn), 1918, nursed the epidemic sick and Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Portugal, 1919-20, both died of plague.
St. Julian was six when the black death hit Norwich in 1348 and resurged in 1362 and 1369. Clearly, for most of her life the terrors of plague and death surrounded her.
Author, Ritamary Bradley explores St. Julian’s writings in Julian’s Way:
“Julian insists this present situation requires the impossible to be well. God answers gently: ‘True, you cannot do the impossible. But, I can. Hence all things can be made well.’ (32)
St. Julian talking with the Lord: ‘Really what kind of a mother are you? All is not well: none of these things (ravaging disease, hunger, pain …) are being made right, are they?’
To us God sounds defensive: ‘I didn’t say that! I did not say you would not be tempted. Did I say you would not be travailed?’
‘Then what did You say?’
God answers this time ‘sharply:’ ‘What I said is that you will not be overcome.’ (68). In the end we will sing a mighty chorus: ‘Indeed, this is the way things are, and it is well.’ For we shall then see …’”(85).
I wonder if Julian’s religious sensibility of devotion to the Passion of Christ wasn‘t formed around the plague pains and anguish she heard at her window and saw in her prayer?
Venerable Dorothy Day (d. 1980), not unlike many of our first responders, was young and still trying to find her way to God and her way to serve. So, she went to nursing school, just in the nick of time.
“One afternoon when I had been cleaning up filth all day, and the perverse patient had again thrown her bedpan out on the floor dirtying my shoes and stockings, I left the ward in tears … this was the time of the ‘flu’ epidemic and the wards were filled and the halls too. Many of the nurses became ill and we were very short-handed. Every night before going off duty there were bodies to be wrapped in sheets and wheeled away to the morgue. When we returned in the morning, the night nurse was performing the same grim task. (D. Day, The Long Loneliness, HarperOne, 1952).
What would be well? All? Really?
I want to remember what Governor Cuomo said: “The cruelest irony is the poorest pay the highest price.” Just look around, not only Mississippi, but the world! Not only the dying patients but the frontline workers. Did you see the pic of the masked kneeling six-year-old, Alen Zelada at night prayer on Junin St., Guadalupe, NW Peru? When asked why he was there said he wanted to be sure God heard him. His house was noisy. He wanted an end to the sickness … people are dying.
Offer what kind of service you can and note that during this time of anguish we can either be lonely or alone. Community is formed in many different ways. Love is needed for all to be well!
“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” (D. Day)

(Sister alies therese is a vowed catholic solitary who lives an eremitical life.)

Ordinary Times in St. John Paul II’s Hometown

Lucia A. Silecchia

By Lucia A. Silecchia
Had this May unfolded differently, I planned to be in Rome to celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s birth in the jubilant grandeur of St. Peter’s Square. I was eager to celebrate because he was the first pope I really remember and the one who shaped my youth and young adulthood as part of the “John Paul II generation.” I remember the way he confronted a broken world in the vigor of his youth and how he faced his very public suffering and death with the strong serenity of his age.
Since the extraordinary celebration is no longer on my calendar, my thoughts turn instead to more ordinary times and some days I spent in St. John Paul II’s Polish hometown of Wadowice. There, I saw the places sacred to his youth that may have seemed ordinary at the time, as so many of our own hometowns seem ordinary simply because they are so familiar. But, it was this small town that shaped the life of an extraordinary man.
I saw the parish church where St. John Paul II was baptized and the baptismal font where, in his words, “it all began.” I saw the town square where he played with his friends — many of whom would soon have their lives stolen from them in Nazi death camps or on the bloody battlefields that engulfed their young lives. I saw the programs from his high school drama productions, and thought about how different the world would be if he had followed his early ambitions to be a poet or an actor.
I saw the photographs of the whole Wojtyla family he loved and lost — a sister, Olga, whom he never knew; a beloved mother, Emilia, who died when he was only eight; a brother, Edmund, who died as a physician caring for his patients; and his devoted father, Karol Sr., who died suddenly when young Karol was merely twenty. Years before Karol Wojtyla was ever ordained a priest, his entire family had already passed from this life.
I saw the dining hall where his father took him to eat when the two lived alone. I saw the orphanage run by religious sisters who cared for him as a boy during the times when his father was traveling. In the interest of serious historic inquiry, I ate at more than one bakery that claimed to sell the very crème cakes the future pope enjoyed as a boy. In the interest of curiosity, I visited the museum devoted to his life.
Most poignant to me, I visited his very ordinary childhood home. In a small flat on the second floor of a modest building, was a simple bedroom he shared with his father, a tiny kitchen and a neat sitting room. The sitting room was the nicest – and it went unused after the shadow of Emilia’s death. In those few rooms, he grew up and came to know the God who would sustain him in the many sufferings of his youth, the blessed Mother who would comfort him in the trials of his life, and the understanding of what it is to live with fear and hope, with joy and sorrow, with great love and great loss.
This home was located just across an alley from the parish church where Karol and his father would go to Mass each morning. What caught my eye was a large sundial mounted on the side of the church — a sundial now permanently marked with the precise time of Saint John Paul II’s death. Over the sundial was, and is, a Polish inscription that read, “Czas Ucieka Wiecznosc Czeka” or “Time Flies, Eternity Waits.”
These were words that young Karol Wojtyla would have seen out of his window every day. In those words, lies an important truth by which to live. It is a reminder to do what is urgent, pressing and necessary — but not at the expense of those things and people who are truly important because they point the way toward eternity.
For me, it is so easy to get caught up in the things of this world that keep life busy and make time fly. But, perhaps what gave St. John Paul II the serenity, courage, and fortitude to live the life he did was knowing that, in spite of all that makes time fly here on earth, it is eternity that waits — patiently and peacefully. It was a truth learned in his own hometown.
I would like to think that, in the joy of eternity, St. John Paul II prays for those of us still occupied with the busy-ness of life that makes time fly. I hope too, that the same eternity waits for us when we, cross the “threshold of hope” and leave behind our ordinary times.

(Lucia A. Silecchia is a Professor of Law at the Catholic University of America.)