Eastertide: The Season of Sacraments

The Easter Vigil, which was celebrated on the evening of Saturday, March 31st opened up a great season for our parish: no, I’m not speaking about the delightful swan song of a lingering Minnesota winter. Not to worry—winter shall indeed pass: “April snowflakes brings May flowers” just doesn’t have a ring to it! No, the Easter Vigil ushered in something much more profound and welcome: the glorious fifty-day season of Eastertide, a season of Sacraments!

Classically defined, the Seven Sacraments are outward signs instituted by Christ to give inward grace. Stated in another way, the Sacraments put us in living contact with Jesus Christ. They impart supernatural grace, that is to say, they truly work! As the Catechism teaches: “The mysteries of Christ’s life are the foundations of what He would henceforth dispense in the Sacraments, through the ministers of his Church, for ‘what was visible in our Savior has passed over into his mysteries’” (CCC 1115, quoting St. Leo the Great). Of course the Sacraments are celebrated throughout the year, but in our venerable Catholic tradition, the Easter season is a heightened time, especially for the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation; as well as the Sacraments of Mission: Marriage and Holy Orders. Of course there is no bad time for the Sacraments of Healing either: Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. In fact, I just preached this past weekend at the St. Hedwig Masses about Confession and the ongoing availability of confessions in our parish, throughout the week including on Sundays.

It was only my second year as a priest that I really took notice of how full the Easter Season is with the Sacraments. They are the true channels by which the Lord’s superabundant grace overflows into our lives to make possible real growth in holiness. I realized that although the Lenten season is full, in some ways the Easter season is even fuller—though with the best of things! From Easter Sunday leading up to the great Feast of Pentecost (this year, May 20th), countless sacramental encounters with the Risen Lord will transpire in our midst. It is the goal of this article to draw attention to these hallmarks of our parish life.

Allow me to point out a few of the recent and upcoming highlights: At the Easter Vigil, one Catechumen was baptized and four additional candidates for full communion in the Catholic Church received the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion. Many of our children are still preparing and eagerly waiting to receive their First Holy Communion, the first of many Communions! Our festive First Communion Mass is the 9:30 am Mass at Holy Cross on Sunday, May 13th—once again this year, Mother’s Day. We are reminded that the fervor of our First Communicants should inspire the way we receive Holy Communion, well disposed Sunday after Sunday. May 30th we also have a number of school age children who will be baptized, confirmed and receive Holy Communion. Thanks are due to Quang Nguyen for his dedicated service.

On Tuesday, April 17th families from our parish will make a pilgrimage across the river to the Basilica of St. Mary for the great celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation presided over by one of our Bishops. Fr. Hagan and I met this week with our twenty-two confirmandi, parents and sponsors to offer some timely encouragement.

In addition to all of these Sacraments, our spring wedding season begins this weekend. Our engaged couples approaching the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony this spring and summer continue to be in our prayers as well as those anticipating for 2019 weddings. Our new Mentor Couple program continues to grow in momentum and we are looking for ways to gather our newly-weds for substantive fellowship following their wedding day.

Broadening our scope for a moment to consider our Archdiocese as a whole, two glorious events will take place in May: the Diaconate and Priesthood Ordinations (May 12 at the Basilica and May 26 at the Cathedral respectively – both are open to the public and begin at 10 am although early arrival is strongly recommended to find a seat). One of the men to be ordained a priest is Deacon Colin Jones, from our neighboring parish, St. Charles Borromeo. Let’s keep praying that the Lord stirs the hearts of some of the young men from our parish to consider priestly life.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the seven weeks leading up to our annual commemoration of the Holy Spirit’s descent at Pentecost are so intensely sacramental. After all, it is the Holy Spirit who makes the Sacraments fruitful, as it was through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that Mary first conceived Jesus. If the very name of Christ evokes the truth that He is the anointed one of God, the corollary is that the Christian must be anointed and impelled through the ongoing reception of the Sacraments of salvation, beginning with Baptism. “Because the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Christ, it is Christ who, as the head of the Body, pours out the Spirit among his members to nourish, heal, and organize them in their mutual functions, to give them life, send them to bear witness, and associate them to his self-offering to the Father and to his intercession for the whole world. Through the Church's sacraments, Christ communicates his Holy and sanctifying Spirit to the members of his Body” (CCC 739). In reality, it is the Sacraments which are collectively the experience of Pentecost which the Apostles experienced in the upper room together with Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The Sacraments all point to the fact that we are human beings, not angels, whom Lord meets and grants His grace as He created us and according to His wisdom through sensible, concrete, personal yet ecclesial encounters that we call the Seven Sacraments of the Church. Caryll Houselander, the English Catholic devotional writer of the twentieth century, said succinctly, “A Christian life is a sacramental life.” As the snow melts, God willing, and the spring season bursts forth with new life and promise of a growing season, we can be confident that through fervent reception of the Sacraments our spiritual lives can likewise grow and bloom in new ways. Let us not settle for anything less in this radiant Easter season!

 

United in the Sacraments,

Fr. Howe