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NH Catholics set to commemorate Holy Week

BEDFORD - Catholics will be focusing on faith and spirituality in anticipation of Holy Week, which begins this Sunday and ends on Easter.

"It's the climax of Lent," said Rev. Msgr. John Quinn of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Bedford. "We've gone through a period of penance, and now it is a time of joy, happiness and celebration."

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week events.

"It is a remembrance of the Lord entering Jerusalem for the last time," he said.

On Tuesday, Catholics can attend the Chrism Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Manchester at 6 p.m., where Bishop Peter Libasci will bless the holy oils that all Catholic Churches will use for the year.

"It's a beautiful Mass," Quinn said, "and it includes people from churches throughout the state."

St. Lawrence Parish in Goffstown will offer a special Tenebrae service on Wednesday at 7 p.m., said Rev. Gerald Bertin, which is not normally part of Holy Week celebrations, but a service he has conducted for several years.

Bertin said the service, which he refers to as the Liturgy of Shadows, signifies the ominous shift of climate between the triumph of Palm Sunday to the darkness of the crucifixion of Christ.

Twenty candles will be lit and put out during the course of the service, with the exception of one, to represent the light of Christ's resurrection.

"It's a progressive walk into darkness," Bertin said. "The anger is building up, the human heart shifts."

Holy Thursday marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the Sacred Triduum, which lasts through Easter Sunday evening.

According to Quinn, the Mass celebrates The Last Supper, which resulted in the institution of both the Eucharist and the priesthood.

St. Elizabeth Seton and St. Lawrence will both include at the Mass the washing of the feet of 12 volunteers, which is symbolic of Christ acting in humble service to the twelve Apostles.

On Good Friday, the Passion and death of the Lord are remembered; no Masses are held. St. Elizabeth will hold a service at 3 p.m. and hold Stations of the Cross at 7 p.m., St. Lawrence will hold Stations of the Cross at 3 p.m. and hold a Liturgy of the Passion at 7 p.m.

At 10 a.m., the Youth Ministry at Ste. Marie Parish in Manchester will hold its annual Living Stations of the Cross at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.

"Everything is done by the youth," said Fern Rheault, Ste. Marie's music director. "It's very well attended."

St. Lawrence Church will hold an ecumenical service with local churches at the Goffstown Christian Fellowship at noon, with area clergy reflecting on the last seven words of Christ.

"It's nice having the Protestants and the Catholics working together in this way," Bertin said. "We all have the same mission."

Easter Vigil will be held on Holy Saturday evening as the sun sets.

"That is the Liturgy of the year," Bertin said. "It represents the new fire, the Resurrection of Christ."

The Mass begins in darkness, and a small fire is built from which candles are lit.

"It tells us the history of salvation," Quinn said. "It reminds us that Christ is the light."

Candidates in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program are also welcomed into the church.

Holy Week ends on Easter Sunday, with parishes celebrating the resurrection of Christ.

"It's the crescendo," Bertin said. "Without the Resurrection, everything is meaningless."

Quinn echoed that sentiment.

"Saint Paul himself said if it weren't for the Resurrection, our faith would have been in vain," he said.

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