Pastor Marty Michniewicz casts a blessing with holy water on parishioners and the palm fronds they are holding aloft during Palm Sunday Mass at St. Alexander Catholic Church, 7025 W. 126th St. in Palos Heights. (Photo by Anthony Caciopo)
Easter-egg hunts, bunnies large and small, baskets, bows, ribbons…what about the real reason for the season?
Easter has become nowhere near as commercialized as Christmas, and undoubtedly never will, but has Easter taken on an almost permanent meaning in common culture that includes virtually nothing about its true significance?
I called the St. Alexander church office in Palos Heights—pretty much at random—and was connected to the pastor, Rev. Martin “Marty” Michniewicz. I asked him if I could drop by during Palm Sunday Mass earlier this week with camera in hand. He couldn’t have been more welcoming.
The scene last Sunday at the church, 7025 W. 126th St., was busy. Adults and children flowed in before the start of services, most picking up one or more palm fronds from a table outside the sanctuary. Palm Sunday is the beginning of the holy week of Easter and palms are symbolic of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, Fr. Marty told the congregation at the start of the Mass.
Jesus rode a young donkey into Jerusalem and the palms were placed in his path as a sign of respect.
Fr. Marty then left the altar and walked the broad center aisle, sprinkling holy water and offering a blessing as parishioners held their palm fronds aloft, heads bowed.
In conversation with Fr. Marty a couple days later, he said “All of us who are baptized as Christians believe in Jesus’ resurrection. He died for our sins and the victory is his resurrection.
“Forgiveness is so lacking in this world,” he said. “Jesus knew what it was like to be humiliated, what it was like to suffer such a horrible death (crucifixion). And he said ‘Father, forgive them’.
“Can you imagine that?” said Fr. Marty. “Love and forgive, like Jesus did, and we are heaven-bound.”
Fr. Marty explained a bit about the week ahead.
“As Catholics we begin the sacred triduum on Holy Thursday,” he said. “On that day we remember that Jesus communicated to the apostles to go out and serve the people on this earth. We are reminded that as Christians we are here to serve one another.”
“On Good Friday we remember Jesus’ suffering on the cross for our sins,” he said.
(Triduum is the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Holy Thursday and ends with Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.)
I asked Fr. Marty for a closing thought to explain Easter for those who might not know.
“Sin and death have been defeated by God,” he said. “We are called to celebrate by serving and loving one another and thanking God through praise.”
Many thanks to Rev. Martin Michniewicz and the parishioners at St. Alexander who tolerated a few flash pictures during a solemn moment, done in an effort to provide a little context and understanding of Easter.