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Basilica of the Sacred Heart celebrates Holy Week

| Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easter Sunday at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is notable not only for its status as the most holy day of the year in Catholicism, but also for its ability to draw crowds rivaling a sporting event.

“On Easter Sunday, we do a couple of things  we add a Mass and we allow more times for the Masses because the crowds are so big,” Fr. Peter Rocca, rector of the Basilica, said. “We have an 8 [a.m.] Mass; the only other time we have an 8 [a.m.] Mass is on football weekends  that’s the kind of crowd we get.”

Rocca estimates that over 1,000 people come to each of the three main Masses offered on Easter Sunday. The crowds are so large that each Mass must be dismissed in a specific way, Rocca said.

“What is interesting is that at the end of that Mass, I make an announcement on how to exit the Church because people are asked to exit through only certain doors,” Rocca said.

“At the other doors, there are hundreds of people waiting in line to come in [for the next Mass].”

However, while the Easter Sunday Masses draw the largest crowds, the Basilica has many events planned for Holy Week, Rocca said. The Basilica begins the Paschal Triduum, the period of three days between sunset on Holy Thursday and sunset on Easter Sunday, with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Rocca said.

“That Mass is most noted for two things,” Rocca said. “First, the washing of the feet, which is symbolic of our call to service. Then, we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist and how that should touch our lives.

“As we eat Christ’s body and drink his blood, we do not only do it for ourselves, but we take that strength, that grace [from communion] to serve others, and that is beautifully portrayed in the Mass.”

Following this Mass, the Basilica holds Tenebrae, Latin for “shadows,” at 11 p.m. Holy Thursday.

“This is a prayer service that originated in the Middle Ages in the Church, and it took place in the early, early hours of the morning of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday,” Rocca said.

“The monks would gather in their monasteries in darkness with candles and would sing psalms and listen to lessons from the Old Testament, during which they would extinguish these candles.”

One candle would remain ignited but would be hidden, plunging the whole monastery into darkness, Rocca said.

“The monks would take their books and bang them on their choir stalls to create this loud sound, called strepitus,” Rocca said. “It was supposed to be symbolize the chaos that ensues when darkness reigns supreme.

“Then the candle would come back in, and the banging would stop. It would then be placed in the candlebra and would symbolize the light of Christ that would shine ever so bright at the Easter Vigil.”

Students pack this service, Rocca said, because it is so unlike anything else they have experienced in Church before.

“The music is very classical  a lot of chanting from the Book of Lamentations, a lot of polyphony, a lot of Latin,” Rocca said. “It is just a different kind of music than we would normally hear at Mass.”

Last year, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the South Bend-Fort Wayne diocese presided over the Tenebrae service. He loved it so much that he asked to preside over it every other year, Rocca said.

“It is just great for all of the students to be able to see our chief pastor, our diocese Bishop, there, and he does such a wonderful job,” Rocca said.

This service concludes around midnight, Rocca said, leading into Good Friday. The chief celebration on Good Friday is the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion at 3 p.m.

For those who cannot make the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, the Basilica also offers Stations of the Cross at 7:15 p.m., Rocca said. No events are planned for Holy Saturday, since it is meant to be a day to commemorate the Lord’s death and burial, he said. At 9 p.m., the community gathers in the Basilica for the Easter Vigil.

“What we celebrate, in addition to the resurrection of Christ, is the elect, also known as catechumens, and their reception into the Church by receiving the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Communion,” Rocca said.

Following the homily, the elect receive the rites of baptism and confirmation, Rocca said. When communion begins, the elect come forward to receive their first Holy Communion, Rocca said.

“This is just a glorious celebration; the Liturgical Choir sings and there is just so much energy,” Rocca said.

There will also be a 9 p.m. liturgy specifically for students, Rocca said.

“This was started years ago by a former director of Campus Ministry, Fr. Richard Warner, who is currently our Superior General and lives in Rome.

“He just thought it was a great idea to bring the whole community together, especially since it is geared for the students.”

It is important, however, to remember the celebrations for Holy Week represent one liturgy, Rocca said.

“The Mass on Holy Thursday night does not really have a dismissal,” Rocca said. “The liturgy just pauses and people come back to continue the liturgy with Good Friday.

“It is basically three separate liturgies  the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion and the Easter Vigil  but the Church considers it one continuous liturgy over those three days.”

To conclude the celebrations of the holiday, the Congregation of Holy Cross ordains some of their deacons on the Saturday following Easter, Rocca said. There are six deacons becoming ordained priests this year, he said.

“It is just a great time — beginning with Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday and ending with Easter Saturday  it just is a wonderful time for the Holy Cross community.”

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About Kayla Mullen

Kayla is a senior political science major and the Managing Editor of The Observer. She hails from Philadelphia, PA and was previously a resident of Howard Hall.

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