easter2005_02a.jpgOur Catholic heritage provides many poignant memories of our faith. Growing up in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood in Gray’s Ferry always provides musings of parochial recollections, especially during the celebration of Holy Week. Every year, Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper was accentuated with the solemn procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Repository. According to the ancient traditions of our Roman liturgy, we were all invited to spend time with the Eucharistic Lord, recalling the Agony in the Garden and the subsequent unfolding events of Good Friday.
The Sacred Triduum in a Catholic parish in South Philadelphia encapsulates our Catholic faith, our community rituals and traditions and our ethnic heritages. There is no better way to celebrate the holiest days of the liturgical calendar than fully participating in Catholic liturgical ritual and solemnity. Celebration and commemoration of the sacred events always involved clouds of incense dispensed from a bronze censer swinging ahead of the long procession, with altar boys, parish priests and parish ushers escorting The Divine Presence under a canopy to the designated resting place until midnight. In those days, our Catholic Churches remained unlocked, so people could visit and pray. In Gray’s Ferry it was also a tradition to visit three churches on Holy Thursday night. Usually a posse of Catholic schoolchildren would venture into the foreign parishes of Saint Aloysius, King of Peace and Saint Anthony to fulfill the ritual visit. It never dawned on us that it was late in the evening. We never thought about being out late, or the distance of the walk or who was following along in the crowd. Catholic adults and teenagers all made their way from Catholic Church to Catholic Church.
Along the way, we would pick up children in the group. Others would drop out of the group and go home or get otherwise preoccupied with the concerns of being a teenager in South Philadelphia. On the street corners all around my old neighborhood, older men hung out on the corner, watching and knowing all of the destinations and the names of our merry parish visits. Some of the guys on the corners watched me on Holy Thursday night from my earliest grade school days through Seminary College, grad-school and then some. No one thought visiting churches was unusual or overly religious…it was something we all just did as good Catholics.
Growing up Catholic in Gray’s Ferry provided me with a strong Catholic foundation that I cherish to the present day. Participation in our sacred rituals is something which the suburban dwelling, automobile mandated Catholic sometimes misses when there is no neighborhood or close parish community. Regardless, Holy Week for me is ecclesial Super Sunday, Christmas, 4th of July and the end of school all rolled into one magnificent display of Latin, smoke, music and liturgical pomp. Every Gray’s Ferry Catholic should take their children to the events of Holy Week at their local parishes, make visits to three suburban churches and celebrate the great mysteries of our Catholic faith and heritage. Hopefully, there will be plenty of incense, smoke, candle wax and melodious hymns of majestic Catholic praise.

Hugh J.McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist who writes on Catholic topics and issues. He attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied both philosophy and theology. He writes frequently at http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://nothing-left-unsaid.blogspot.com . Hugh writes about his Irish Catholic upbringing and educational experiences at http://graysferrygrapevine.blogspot.com . He has contributed works to Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online, The Irish Catholic, (Dublin), the British Broadcasting Company,(London) and the Philadelphia Bulletin, Pewsitter.com, Blogger News Network & The Catholic Business Journal.

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