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Holy Week: Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass, Bishop Deeley Urges Maine Catholics to Make the Most of Holy Week

PORTLAND---Asking God “to sanctify these branches,” Bishop Robert Deeley officially began Holy Week by blessing palms at the start of the celebration of Palm Sunday Mass of the Passion of the Lord at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland on April 10 (many additional pictures below).

The Mass opened in the rear narthex of the church where, after the bishop blessed the palms, Deacon Luis Sanclemente shared St. Luke’s account of Christ’s triumphant journey to the Mount of Olives. The palms then were carried in procession up the central aisle of the cathedral to the sanctuary. The start of Mass on Palm Sunday begins in joy as it recalls Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem when palm branches were waved and cloaks were placed at his feet. Ultimately, the liturgy turned the attention of the faithful to what has been the focus of the reflection and penance of Lent.

“The central event of this week is the Passion and Death of the Lord,” Bishop Deeley told the large assembly after the proclamation of the Passion of the Lord, which recalls Jesus' death on the cross at Calvary. “For us, as Christians, this is the ultimate event of Jesus’ life. And, for that reason, that gives the further title to the celebration of today: Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.”

The bishop said that the mercy of Jesus and his generous love is shown throughout the story.

“It begins and ends in compassion. When they crucify Jesus, even in his pain, he calls out, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’ And shortly thereafter, the man whom we call the good thief asks Jesus, ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answers him words of reassurance for everyone: ‘Today, you will be with me in paradise.’ Jesus, even in this moment as death approaches and he has given himself completely, trusts that God’s love is stronger than death.”

Focusing not only on the negative aspects of the tragedy, but also the hope it offers, is important for all faithful people.

“The story of the Passion is also one of love, that of Jesus, in his great humility, and that of the Father, whom Jesus trusts to watch over him and make it possible for him to fulfill the promise he has made to the good thief.”

The bishop stressed the importance of reflecting, during Holy Week, on the real purpose of Jesus’ death.

“The story of Jesus and his Passion and suffering is not only about him but about us, his disciples,” said Bishop Deeley during his homily. “We are the recipients of his grace and mercy, but we are also called in our lives to live like him, humbly and with a concern for others. As we go through this day and this Holy Week, let us prayerfully be attentive to Jesus, our merciful and generous Savior. We watch, not just to admire, but also to learn, so that we, in the very different circumstances of our own lives, may walk in his footsteps. If we are to be his disciples, he invites us to walk his way: in generosity, in love, in humility, in service of others, in imitation of his mercy. It is in the imitation of Christ that we will bring hope to the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the world.”

The cathedral was adorned with palm fronds for the celebration of the Mass, including some placed at the foot of the Lenten cross. Some parishioners braided or weaved their palms, a longtime tradition, which they will keep in their homes until the approach of the next Lenten season, when they will be burned to create the ashes used on Ash Wednesday. The vestments worn on Palm Sunday are red, the symbol of martyrdom and blood, a color that will also be used on Good Friday.

Bishop Deeley will celebrate the annual Chrism Mass on Tuesday at 3 p.m. at the Cathedral. At the Chrism Mass, Bishop Deeley will bless the oil of the sick and the oil of the catechumens, and he will consecrate the sacred Chrism, all of which will be used across Maine parishes during the next year. On Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., the bishop will celebrate the Mass of the Holy Oils in Madawaska for parishes in northern Maine. The bishop will return to the Cathedral for the Holy Thursday Celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (7 p.m.), the Celebration of Our Lord’s Passion on Good Friday (7 p.m.), the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday (8 p.m.), and the celebration of the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday (10 a.m.). All of the Masses and services at the Cathedral will also be livestreamed at www.portlandcatholic.org/livestreamed-liturgies.

“This week sees the climax of the mission of Jesus Christ in which the deepest meaning of his life is unfolded and in which his teaching becomes very real for us in his own words and actions, his suffering, death, and resurrection,” said the bishop on Sunday. “It begins in triumph, it descends into the suffering of death on Friday, and rises with joy in the resurrection of Easter.”

A special Holy Week section is available on the Diocese of Portland website that includes Mass times and locations at all Maine parishes, listings of parish events, daily prayers and reflections, and many other resources. In addition, stories from many Masses and services, messages, and other resources throughout Holy Week will be posted on the diocesan website, the diocesan Facebook page, the diocesan Twitter page, the diocesan Instagram page, myParish App, and on Bishop Deeley’s personal social media pages on Twitter and Instagram.