The following story appeared in the March 26 issue of the Idaho Catholic Register
Below is a letter Bishop Peter Christensen sent to all the priests in the Diocese regarding Holy Week observances in the Diocese of Boise:
My Brothers in Christ:
As you all know, this past difficult year began in a real and sadly tangible way for Catholics just before Holy Week of 2020. It was then, as lockdowns began across the globe, that we began to realize the extent to which our ministry, our communities, and all of our lives would be affected by a virus.
With last spring’s extraordinary statement from the Vatican regarding the unprecedented changes to our Holy Week liturgies, we began a long, strange, year that dramatically affected the way we gather to pray.
As I celebrated Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil in a silent, empty cathedral, I had no way of knowing how thoroughly this pandemic would scatter our faith family and cut us off from each other, further isolating those who were already among our most vulnerable.
As we look forward once again to Holy Week and to the liturgies that are the highest and holiest of the entire year, many of you have asked what limitations should be placed on the devotions and practices of the week’s liturgical observations.
I am urging you all to approach these liturgies as an opportunity to affirm that the way we have been forced to worship for the past year must not become normalized, and indeed is largely coming to an end.
With all due consideration, I encourage you to celebrate Palm Sunday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Passion of the Lord and Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, and the solemn Easter Vigil in the Holy Night in accordance with the fullest implementation of the rubrics provided in the Missal.
The distribution of palms, the washing of the feet, the veneration of the cross – these unfold the mysteries of the faith for the faithful. They are profound symbols – along with the fire, the litany, the Passion reading, and more – and should not be skimped nor neglected. They can be observed safely (for example, the cross may be venerated by a bow), and should be observed for the benefit of all. These are some of the Church’s most ancient and beautiful rites.
As the people return to our churches to keep Holy Week, they crave and deserve the fullest expression of what we celebrate every Sunday, but especially at Easter, which is our entry into the Paschal Mystery.
One of Easter’s offertory prayers proclaims, “Exultant with paschal gladness, O Lord, we offer the sacrifice by which your Church is wondrously reborn and nourished.”
Let us, then, pray as we believe. Let us offer the forthcoming celebrations as a true rebirth, from sickness to health, from brokenness to wholeness, from fear to trust, as a people exultant in paschal gladness, people who are hopeful, joyful and fearless.
Yours in Christ,
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