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Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday

Feast date: Apr 14

Holy Thursday is the most complex and profound of all religious observances, saving only the Easter Vigil. It celebrates both the institution by Christ himself of the Eucharist and of the institution of the sacerdotal priesthood (as distinct from the 'priesthood of all believers') for in this, His last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover, He is the self-offered Passover Victim, and every ordained priest to this day presents this same sacrifice, by Christ's authority and command, in exactly the same way. The Last Supper was also Christ's farewell to His assembled disciples, some of whom would betray, desert or deny Him before the sun rose again.

The Holy Thursday liturgy, celebrated in the evening because Passover began at sundown, also shows both the worth God ascribes to the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water (a symbol of baptism) in the Mandatum, or washing in Jesus' washing the feet of His disciples, and in the priest's stripping and washing of the altar. Cleansing, in fact, gave this day of Holy Week the name Maundy Thursday.

The action of the Church on this night also witnesses to the Church's esteem for Christ's Body present in the consecrated Host in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, carried in solemn procession to the flower-bedecked Altar of Repose, where it will remain 'entombed' until the communion service on Good Friday. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.

And finally, there is the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the people during the night, just as the disciples stayed with the Lord during His agony on the Mount of Olives before the betrayal by Judas.

There is such an abundance of symbolism in the solemn celebration of the events of Holy Thursday layer upon layer, in fact that we can no more than hint at it in these few words. For many centuries, the Last Supper of Our Lord has inspired great works of art and literature, such as the glorious stained glass window in Chartres cathedral, Leonardo's ever popular (and much imitated) Last Supper in the 16th century, and the reminiscence called Holy Thursday, by the French novelist,François Mauriac, written in the 1930s.

 

St. Peter Gonzalez

St. Peter Gonzalez

Feast date: Apr 14

Public humiliation led Peter Gonzalez to a true conversion experience and set him on the road to sainthood.

Peter was born into a noble family in Castile, Spain, in 1190, and he became a priest as a step to high office. One Christmas Day, during a grand entrance into the city before all the townspeople, the young priest was thrown off of his horse and onto a dung-heap.

Embarrassed and knowing that his parishioners thought he was a fake, Peter withdrew from the world for a period of prayer and meditation. During this time, he had a conversion and spent the rest of his life making up for his lost youth. He joined the Dominicans and shunned those who tried to convince him to return to his old ways, saying: "If you love me, follow me! If you cannot follow me, forget me!"

He served as the confessor and court chaplain to King Saint Ferdinand III of Castile, and reformed court life. He also worked for the crusade against the Moors, went into the battlefields, and worked for humane treatment of Moorish prisoners.

Fearing that the honors and easy life offered by the king’s court would lead him to return to his previous ways, he left the court and evangelized to shepherds and sailors. 

He died in 1246 and was canonized in 1741.