Passion of Our Lord -- Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., prays during the Good Friday service he celebrated April 14 in St. John the Baptist Church, Allentown. At right is Father Brian Woodrow, pastor. David Kilby photo
Passion of Our Lord -- Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., prays during the Good Friday service he celebrated April 14 in St. John the Baptist Church, Allentown. At right is Father Brian Woodrow, pastor. David Kilby photo

By David Kilby | Correspondent

It was a Good Friday that captured every aspect of reverence and sorrow called for on such a day, in St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown where Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., joined Father Brian Woodrow, pastor, to commemorate the Passion of Our Lord.

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Father Woodrow sang the Gospel which was the Passion of Christ according to St. John, while Bishop O’Connell sang the words of Christ. They were joined by seminarians and Deacon Joseph Hepp who sang the Prayers of the Faithful. The line for the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion almost went out the door, as the faithful came to the altar for this day when we remember the Lord’s Death and wait for his return.

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell spoke of the permanence of the Crucifix as a symbol of not only our faith but also God’s undying love for us.

“The Crucifix has endured because it depicts and represents the turning point of humanity and life in this world as we have known it,” the Bishop shared in his homily. “Nothing more important has ever happened in the history of the world than the moment of his Death, which we remember in a dramatic way today.”

He recalled when he was a child how his mother used to kiss the feet of Jesus on the Crucifix in their house every time she walked by it. 

He continued, “What brings those two wooden beams, those two directions together, is a single body, his body, Jesus Christ, whose life of suffering and transforming love was a life and a love for all: a crucified love that has endured and will continue to endure. A love that turns the wood of a tree, the tree of defeat and death, into a tree of life and victory.”

After the observance, Father Woodrow, parishioners and some from other parishes shared their gratitude for the bishop’s visit to St. John’s, mentioning how the bishop always shares a powerful message when he comes.

Father Woodrow said “It’s an incredible honor” to have the Bishop commemorate Good Friday with the parish community of St. John the Baptist, especially in this holiest of weeks. “We know where the bishop is, there is the Church triumphant,” he added.

The pastor shared the significance of Holy Week, emphasizing the importance it carries not only in his own parish but in the universal Church. “In the course of human history, God so loves us with such compassion and such immeasurable strength that he gives his very life for us,” he shared. “So it means a great deal to see these events unfold, with people around the world, especially with those who are suffering this week, particularly those in the Middle East who could be forfeiting their lives in order to celebrate, and do something that we sometimes take for granted.”

Father Woodrow mentioned how the seminarians and other members of the parish community helped make this Good Friday observance what it was. For instance, Timothy Graham, a seminarian from St. John the Baptist Parish, represented the parish by playing the role of the “Speaker” during the Passion reading. “He really is the voice of this parish,” Father Woodrow mentioned.

Also, the Passion reading ended with a beautiful closing lamentation by Peter Carter.

During the Veneration of the Cross, the parish choir sang the Good Friday Reproaches. Throughout the Good Friday observance, the choir sang a unique mix of traditional and contemporary music. Father Woodrow mentioned what a blessing it is to have both the Novus Ordo and traditional Latin Mass choir forms contributing.

The whole Good Friday experience was a bit nostalgic for some, including parishioner Maria Pillar. “Since I was a little girl, it was a special occasion to go to Mass,” she shared.

“I remember those moments going to church together with my mother, and I passed that onto my children so they can do the same thing. The Good Friday observance is a beautiful tradition we have in the Catholic Church. The Bishop loves being with the people, and means a lot that he goes to all the different parishes to meet them all.”

For others, spending Good Friday with the bishop in such a venerable way brought the significance of Holy Week to the surface.

“Holy Week is the apex of our faith,” said parishioner Brian Marion. “It was great to have the Bishop here on such an important occasion.”

“It’s always so beautiful whenever the bishop does any of these ceremonies,” added Libby Vernon, a student in Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, and parishioner of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish. “He sends such a powerful message through his homilies.”

“The Triduum is important to all of us,” said Eileen Vernon of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton. “I loved the bishop’s homily. The crucifix is not just a symbol. It’s the most important landmark in our faith and that’s why we are here today.”