After weeks of rain, wind and fluctuating temperatures, Holy Week began on a sunny day in Raleigh. Budding flowers and blue skies on Palm Sunday proved that Spring was truly here.
Monsignor Michael Shugrue, diocesan administrator, opened the 10:30am Mass with a welcome and blessing under blooming pink and white dogwood trees in the cathedral’s courtyard.
Members of the choir, who were interspersed with the palm-waving crowd, sang a hymn of praise. For the ceremony of the blessing of the palms, Monsignor Shugrue dipped the aspergillum in holy water and asked those gathered to hold their palms high before he walked among the congregants blessing the palms and the people holding them.
After the blessing, more than 400 faithful followed the cross inside and filled the cathedral to standing-room-only capacity. The choir filled the balcony loft in a moment that took special significance during this, the last Holy Week to begin with Sacred Heart Cathedral as the mother church of the Raleigh Diocese. Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral will take that position by this time next year.
After sharing the Gospel which described the passion of Jesus, Monsignor Shugrue delivered a stirring homily relating what happened over 2,000 years ago to the world we see today.
In describing the trials that Jesus faced, Monsignor Shugrue noted, “He could’ve changed his mind, he could’ve ‘cut and run.’”
Monsignor also pointed out that Jesus could have changed course upon realizing his message wasn’t ‘popular.’
“He could’ve changed his teaching about heaven being open to all, about the first being last and the last being first.” But, Monsignor Shugrue said, “Jesus continued on his road to Jerusalem that would lead to his suffering and death. The road to freedom starts in total defeat.”
Monsignor Shugrue then invoked the examples in the world around us. “The events of this past week in Syria, the attacks in Sweden and the attack on the Coptic Christians in Egypt this morning make us feel that this is a terrible week, not a Holy one,” he said. “We can change that if we begin to realize the depth of God’s tremendous love for each person on this planet … If we live according to the standards of Jesus, we will make this a truly holy week.”