Surprised by a Pleasant Good Friday

A couple of years ago I made the mistake of going to St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral in Dublin for the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. Clerical sex abuse was in the air and never absent from the media, and I certainly wasn’t alone among the faithful in thinking that the Church could have dealt better with this – in every sense. Prayers began in the cathedral and the pews are filled to standing room only. Here was a chance. It was a chance to say something meaningful about the pain that was being felt by everyone. Instead what we were given was a priest rescued from the jowls of retirement who blasted the assembly with his annoyance that young people nowadays were wearing rosaries as a fashion statement. He may have said more, I don’t know; I never found out as I got up and left before the end of his homily. Later that day, quite heartbroken, I venerated the wood of the cross with the Polish community at St. Audoen’s. What made this all the more wonderful was that it was in Polish, and I didn’t understand a single word of it. God works in Polish too.


Homilies can be hit and miss at the best of times, and I do understand the popular wisdom in the thought that when the priest is waffling on the people get a chance to zone out. This isn’t good though. The people are asking for bread, and they should get more than a stone. Yesterday I went over to the Capuchin Church on Church Street where an impressively bearded Father Richard Hendrick delivered a sermon on the meaning of the cross. It wasn’t waffle. On the contrary it was to the point of suffering and pain, and the hope of Christians for courage. We heard of the Syrian Christian who tattooed the image of the cross on his arm because he knew he might deny his faith when the persecuting mob came to get him. His words captured something of the fear of the crucifixion, the fear that we feel when under threat, and the hope for strength and courage that the image of the cross presents to us. More than this, his homily underlined the passion of that moment in history; the depth of the love expressed in God’s solidarity with people in the suffering of Christ Jesus. Uniting heaven with earth, the sign of this cross reaches over the entire world. I left with the impression that this friar believes the words he spoke, and I was grateful for them.

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