By Fr. Tom Hurley
Sunday, April 9, 2017
It seems every year as we approach the “high holy days” of Holy Week in our Catholic Christian Tradition, my mind automatically wanders back to my childhood. I’ve mentioned many times before (for those who have been around Old St. Pat’s for a while) that my childhood home was located directly across the street from my Catholic parish and grade school of St. Cajetan in the Morgan Park neighborhood on the city’s south side. Some of you may be tired of me talking about it and/or writing about it, but my involvement in church life from an early age was a significant contributor to my vocation as a priest and certainly to my faith formation as a disciple. I loved growing up next door to the Catholic parish. Though I certainly had plenty of friends to play with growing up, I do recall that much of my time in junior high and high school was spent helping out at the parish. I admired and I was intrigued by the goodness of the Dominican Sisters and our parish priests. They were, and continue to be, some of the finest heroes who positively impacted my life from a very early age.
Holy Week reminds me of my earliest days of formation in the Catholic faith and likewise my first exposure to the liturgical celebrations of this most sacred time in our calendar. I’m almost certain, from an early age, my parish priests knew or could sense that I had a vocation to the priesthood. I was very fortunate and wonderfully blessed by their goodness and example. They were all excellent priests! I think it was probably when I was in the sixth grade that the pastor Fr. Schomburg invited me to play (what I thought anyway as a sixth grader) a crucial role in pulling off the success of the Holy Week services. Just being present, setting up vessels, following the scripts for the mass parts, arranging the church furniture, lighting candles for Holy Thursday, stripping the altar for Good Friday, turning lights on and off at the appropriate cues, and setting up the fire for our Holy Saturday Vigil are just some of the fond memories I have of this most sacred week in our Tradition. I know, it might sound like I was a church nerd, and I probably was, but now that I’m 50, I’ve gotten over it! In fact, I’m more grateful now for that early formation than you can imagine! I loved it and I’m grateful for it.
I know times have changed and certainly Old St. Pat’s is not the neighborhood church, per se. But the Holy Week liturgies continue to, and will forever, speak of the wonderful mysteries that call us to be disciples and help us embrace further the richness of our identity as Catholic Christians. Despite all the details related to this week and making sure we celebrate each liturgy well, I love everything about Holy Week. As an adult, and certainly as a priest, I am intrigued and so profoundly grateful to watch almost 30 adults say “yes” to joining the Church and all the pageantry surrounding the rituals of initiation. I am so moved by the crowds that come here on Holy Thursday for dinner and then join in the Feast of the Lord’s Supper! The somber tone of Good Friday, during the Passion liturgy and the Stations of the Cross, continue to move my heart as they did many years ago when I watched them unfold at my home parish. Nothing compares to the hype, beauty, and joy of Easter at Old St. Patrick’s Church. It’s one of my favorite days here with all of you and the many visitors who join us as well.
I hope to see you this Holy Week at our services. Come to as many as you can. I think these services help form and renew us in our identity as people of Faith. To our parents: bring your kids! I’m so glad my mom and dad encouraged me to say “yes” to the invitation by the parish priests to help out at my home parish when I was young. It made a huge difference in my faith formation and likewise my understanding of the Catholic faith and stories of Jesus.
A blessed and inspiring Holy Week to all of you!
Father Tom Hurley
Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram: