Easter homilies Print E-mail
By Julie Pfitzinger - For The Catholic Spirit   
Wednesday, 08 April 2009

Are they different than other homilies?

The Easter homily is one that is traditionally greeted with much anticipation, offering a hopeful message to the faithful. For priests, it is often an opportunity to reach a wider audience as they strive to provide those words of hope.

Are there particular messages they try to focus on each year? Is the current economic crisis — which is causing some people to feel less hopeful — a consideration this Easter? How do they craft their Easter message knowing that some members of the congregation that day are likely not regular churchgoers or might be estranged from the Catholic faith?

In these final days before Easter, The Catholic Spirit asked several local priests to offer some thoughts about their own Easter homilies.

• Father Stephen Adrian, pastor of St. Matthew in St. Paul

Father Stephen Adrian has celebrated many Easter seasons at St. Matthew church on the West Side, and every year he makes it a point to thank all the parents who have brought their children to Mass on Easter Sunday.

“I know that it can be a terribly chaotic morning in a household to get the children dressed and ready for church,” Father Adrian said. “However, they have chosen to be at church and to make the worship part of their family’s story. That is very meaningful.”

In the process of writing his Easter homily, Father Adrian said that in years past he has often talked about the mystery of what takes place inside the tomb of Christ.

“We don’t know if the resurrection happens in the twinkling of an eye or if it is a two-day process,” he said. “When the stone is rolled away, we are allowed to enter into the tomb, to enter into that mystery.”

Calling Easter “a feast of hope and promise,” Father Adrian said he knows the current times may be causing some to question hope.

“Even in the midst of the darkness we may be experiencing economically, there is an opportunity to re-examine our lives and the way we use our resources,” he said.

Above all, Father Adrian believes in making sure that all who are in attendance at St. Matthew during Holy Week feel welcome. This weekend, as he does every year before Easter, he plans to ask members of the congregation to consider inviting a relative, friend or neighbor who may not attend regularly to come to church with them during the week.

“If an individual hasn’t been to church for a while, they might be initially leery about returning,” Father Adrian said. “When they are accompanied by someone they know and are publicly welcomed, it can be very helpful.

“Everyone’s presence is a gift to the rest of the parish,” he continued. “For some, they may feel that at this point in their life they don’t need to be here. But if there comes a point when they need us, we want them to know that we are here every week.”

• Father John Ubel, pastor of St. Agnes in St. Paul

“Ideally, I like my Easter message to be one of hope, even in the midst of a challenging world,” said Father John Ubel. “It is a day of victory, and I believe our message must reflect this reality.”

Father Ubel plans to build this year’s Easter homily around a theme that he will employ for the entirety of the triduum: “This year, I want to center on the symbolism of Easter, including that of Jesus as the Lamb of God. I am looking into the symbolism of the sequence, the beautiful hymn, “Paschal Victim.”

When asked about Catholics who might only attend Mass at Christmas and Easter, Father Ubel said, “This reminds me of the story of the gentleman who had the audacity to complain to the priest after Mass, even on Easter Sunday. He said, ‘Father, I have a bone to pick with you about the decorations in church. Every single time that I come to Mass, I see the same thing over and over again — poinsettias and lilies, poinsettias and lilies!’”

While Father Ubel said St. Agnes does not typically experience a notable spike in attendance at Easter, he acknowledges that every parish has members who do not attend Mass as regularly as others do.

“I would always try to focus on a message of welcoming those who are here to experience the fullness of Catholic life available from the regular participation in the church’s liturgical year,” he said.

Over the years, Father Ubel has delivered many Easter homilies. He said, however, that he believes the ones that are the most memorable for him are those from the Easter Vigil because “they are so filled with imagery.”

• Father John Gallas, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul in Loretto

According to Father John Gallas, the preparations he makes for his Easter homily are very similar to his preparations for every week’s homily.

“I tend to think about my homilies in advance in a very general way,” he said. “And then it is through prayer and looking at Scripture that I try to come up with a message that can be connected to the reality of our lives.”

When asked if this year’s Easter homily will address the current economic crisis that is creating challenges for many families, Father Gallas said that while he has made reference to the situation in recent homilies, he believes there is a broader message.

“This world will always be filled with transience,” he said. “Our hope is in the Father, and I truly believe he will take care of us. And as a community, we will look after each other.”

While he knows that every year he will have people in the congregation who are not regular churchgoers, Father Gallas said he has discovered great wisdom in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote on this subject before he became the Holy Father.

“The pope said that there are a lot of people who aren’t ready to live in the light, but they will come near it. He believes we should make them feel welcome, but also take the opportunity to challenge them at the same time,” Father Gallas said.

Last Easter, he recalls that he spoke about the Lord’s Day and what it means to keep the day holy all year long.  “Every Sunday is an extension of Easter Sunday,” he said.