The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

And how was your Triduum?

09 Holy Thursday A.JPG
A lot of people have written, asking: “How was your Triduum? How about the Exultet? Are you still alive?”

Well, yeah. I’m here. Let me try to sort it all out. Here’s what I remember.



Morning. Spent some time polishing a homily for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. My pastor was scheduled to preach, but I’ve learned from years past: be prepared. (It’s not unusual for him to ask me in the sacristy at the last minute, “Deacon, are you prepared to preach?”) I ran a few errands, picked up some dry cleaning, tried not to think too hard about the next three days.

2 pm. My pastor’s annual Holy Thursday luncheon at a nearby restaurant. The guest list was small: my pastor, the other two priests in the parish, Deacon Bill (our DRE and a good friend and classmate), his wife, and me and my wife. During lunch, my pastor tried to persuade one of the other priests to do the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, but the other priest wasn’t taking the bait. I offered to preach for my pastor, if that would make things easier for him. “Will it be any good?,” he asks, with an arched eyebrow. “I’ll try to rise to my usual level of mediocrity,” I said. The meal broke up around 4, and my wife and I headed home.


One important thing I’ve learned from Triduums past: pace yourself. I decided it was time for a nap.

6:30 pm. I arrived at church for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. My pastor shuffled into the sacristy around 7. “Deacon, are you prepared to preach?,” he asked, in that familiar way. Sure, I said. “It’s not long, is it?,” he asked.

7:30 pm. The first chords of “Out of Darkness” began. There were a gazillion altar servers – maybe 20? 30? – including torchbearers and incense. The mass was stunning and beautiful. The mandatum (washing of the feet) was poignantly executed as the choir thundered the soaring hymn “Jesus Took a Towel.” Mass concluded a little after 9 pm, with one of my favorite parts of the Triddum, the procession in the dimly-lit church, moving from the main altar to the altar of repose (situated in the middle of the church, over the baptismal font, where a tabernacle had been placed amid flowers and candles.) “Tantum ergo, sacramentum…” The church remained open until midnight, for all those who wished to visit and pray. I went home to crash.


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Noon. My wife and I arrived at church to lead the Stations of the Cross – Mary’s Way of the Cross, the same version we had done throughout Lent. It’s the first time we tried to do this version on Good Friday. Imagine my surprise when I walked out into the sanctuary to begin the devotion at 1 pm. and saw that the church was PACKED. Standing room only. (This, in a church that seats nearly 900.)


3 pm. Our first liturgy for Good Friday. Participating: all three priests and the deacon. The reading of the Passion, a homily, veneration of the cross, communion. A sizable crowd – the church was about three-quarters full. Many people who had come for Stations stayed for this. Service concluded at about 4:15.

4:30 pm. Dinner with the priests in the rectory. I asked the pastor, “You planning to preach for the Vigil tomorrow?” He told me he’d like to, but he wasn’t sure. I nodded and made a mental note: “Work on homily for Easter Vigil.”

7:30 pm. A remarkable and unusual service: the dramatic oratorio, “The Seven Last Words,” performed by our choir, with my wife introducing each section. This was followed by a homily, veneration of the cross and communion. Again, all the priests and the deacon took part. The priests lingered for a couple hours after, hearing confessions. An idea had come to me during the service.  I went home, tore up my homily, and started over. 



9:15 am. I arrived at the church for breakfast and coffee with the RCIA candidates.

10:30 am. After a late start, we rehearsed the Vigil with the RCIA team. Everything broke up around 12:30, and I went home to tweak my (new) homily and drink hot tea and practice the Exultet.

Mid-afternoon. Somewhere in here, I took a nap.

6:30 pm. I arrived at church. About this time, people began trickling into the church and, lo and behold, who should I see, but Elizabeth “The Anchoress” Scalia. She’d schlepped in from Long Island with her husband. Warm hugs all around. I was delighted to see them. I also saw my wife, settling in to her usual pew. She beamed at me and waved and whispered: “Good luck!” I whispered back: “Pray for the deacon!”


7:00 pm. My pastor arrived in the sacristy and wanted to know if my homily was any good. “As mediocre as usual,” I told him.

7:30 pm. The Vigil began, in utter darkness, with that brilliant burst of flame. In the shadows, I could tell that the church was almost full. I carried the candle from a side entrance, slowly inching my way down a side aisle, rounding the corner, then making my way up the main aisle of the church. “Christ, our Liiiiiiiight…” You could hear a pin drop. (And, I realized: if that four-foot pillar of melting wax got any heavier, you could hear a candle drop, too…) The Exultet went better than I expected. Praise God. I made it through the homily, too, and nobody threw anything at me, and then I survived the blessing of the holy water, with that ginormous candle. When it came time for communion, Deacon Bill prepared the chalice, and put in extra wine, so that the newly initiated could receive under both species. It turned out to be more than we needed. A lot more. When they finished, the chalice was still half-full. I took a deep breath and consumed what was left of the Precious Blood. Incredibly, I managed to remain standing for the rest of the mass.


10:00 pm. My final musical moment: “The mass has ended, go in peace, Alleluia, Allllllaaaaaaaaayyylooooya!” And the choir launched into the “Hallelujah” chorus – complete with trumpets – and the Triddum, at last, was done. After, my wife and I stopped by the school auditorium for refreshments, and to congratulate the shiny new Catholics baptized that night. We got home a little after 11. I conked out the moment my head hit the pillow.

I returned to church Sunday morning, to preach at the 10, and assist with the sprinkling and communion at the 11:30 and 1:15 masses – all of which were PACKED. People were flowing out of the vestibule and into the street. (Could you imagine if these people showed up every Sunday?!)


So…after three days of this, I haven’t yet started speaking in tongues or levitating. But my eyes are bleary from incense. My feet are rebelling against leather shoes. My wife is glad she won’t have to hear the Exultet for another year. I’m pleased to be eating chocolate again, and I’m thinking that a week on an island somewhere might be good right now — but the only islands I can envision in the near future are named Long and Staten.

But I do have tomorrow off. 
Don’t bother calling.  I’m taking the phone off the hook.

Comments read comments(6)
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Deacon Alexander Breviario

posted April 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Deacon Greg,
I know exactly how you feel at this point… Was that the Triduum or a Triathlon we just finished… ;^)
Blessings and Joy…

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Your Name

posted April 4, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Dear Deacon, I am an avid reader of your blog and am eternally grateful for all you have done through this ministry to help me make the walk toward holiness. “Thank you” is not enough. I just wanted to let you know that, thanks to you, we tried out Mary’s Way of the Cross on Good Friday (I, sheepishly, read the meditations). So many people came up to the parochial vicar and me after Mass to say how much they loved it. This was a last minute decision and, it certainly was not as beautifully thought out and planned like the you tube video you posted but, we were so pleased with the results. Thank you so much for sharing it with the blogosphere. Many people were moved by it! With thanks, Audrey from Assumption, Peekskill

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Mere Catholic

posted April 5, 2010 at 12:14 am

Happy Easter, Deacon Greg. I think you need a week off after the craziness of the last three days! God bless you and your wife.

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posted April 5, 2010 at 11:54 am

Our Triduum was somewhat disappointing, sadly. Too much ‘production’ and not quite enough intimacy and reverence. For the first time, I really deeply missed our former pastor, who is a brilliant liturgist and homilist. His successors are good men, but not nearly as sharp with the details of the stagecraft. Breaking the homily into sections to translate it into Spanish was particularly distracting, and it left out the other 40+ first languages we have.

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posted April 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Hello, Deacon. Coming out of lurking…
“Deacon Bill prepared the chalice, and put in extra wine, so that the newly initiated could receive under both species.”
I live in Southern California (please do not throw tomatoes!) Eucharist under both species is the common form in our diocese and that giant archdiocese next door. Is not common on the East coast?
We haven’t used the chalice for several months, because of swine flu. Using it at the Vigil was exceptional. We’re supposed to resume using it later this spring.
Dcn. G. ]

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posted April 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm

And how was your Triduum?
Exhausting, as was the entire week.
Palm Sunday: MC’d the EF Mass (solemn Mass w/ D and SD). Lectored and served at the following OF Solemn Mass.
Monday: met with the RCIA class for final cetechesis and to walk them through the sacrament of Penance.
Tuesday: All-hands meeting with the pastor and servers for final review of Triduum liturgies.
Wednesday: MC’d out of town Solemn Mass (EF) with reading of the Passion, etc. My first time ever to see that church and those altar boys, so had to wing it somewhat. They did a nice job, considering how young they are, and how new to this.
Thursday: Left work early and gobbled some dinner before heading to church. (A million details to remember at lunch time: bought rose water for washing of the altar. Procured flint and steel for Easter fire, and salvaged some cedarwood for same. Bring library steps for the Easter candle). MC’d Mass of the Lord’s Supper (OF). We had a full serving crew with torches, lanterns, canopy, bell ringers, ombrellino, 2 thuribles (for the procession to the altar of repose). So nice to hear the Gloria again. Supervised stripping of the altar and initial preparations for Good Friday. Had a few minutes of peace with the Blessed Sacrament before collecting my wife and getting home about 11.30.
Friday: Up at 6.30 to meet our parish group walking the 9 churches (it’s a New Orleans thing). Finished the 4 miles walk around 1.00; then home to change and dashed back to church to MC the Solemn liturgy at 3.00. With that over (about 5.00), dashed home to change again and back to church to set up for the Easter vigil. Cleaned church and sanctuary, worked on numerous other setup chores till 11.00. Home to crash.
Saturday: Slept in till 8.30 (lovely!). Spent the morning doing personal chores and yardwork; knocked off at 2.00 to prepare an early dinner, thus ending my fast. To my sister’s at 5.00: a party for my nephew’s girlfriend, who’s one of my RCIA candidates. To the church at 6.00 for final preparation with servers, church organist, pastor. Other guys MC’d the Vigil, so all I had to do was lector (Ezechiel) and sheepdog my RCIA class through their processions and reception of sacraments (don’t forget duplicate cheat sheets with the confirmation names for the pastor and organist, so they can be added to the Litany!). After Mass back to my sister’s for celebratory champagne with my newly-Catholic future niece-in-law, then to a diner for late-night burgers and fries with my serving crew and a concelebrant from the Vigil. To bed about 12.30.
Sunday: Up and at it. MC’d Solemn Easter Mass in the EF, followed by Solemn Mass in the OF. Piece of cake. I am so proud of my servers. Got to brunch with wife and one of our priests at 12.30. At 12.45 my phone rings: there’s no one here to lock up the rectory; what should we do? Left brunch, scooted back to the church to see about locking up (false alarm, sorry!), then back to the restaurant for a pleasant and leisurely brunch. Home about 3.30, where I collapsed on the sofa and fell asleep reading the paper. I need a vacation; liturgy is hard work.
Should I mention that I also have a day job in the financial sector?

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