Holy Thursday reflections
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2020 - 12:00am

The world’s attention is rightfully focused on the coronavirus pandemic. The global spread of this virus in such a short time; and, the power it exerted to virtually close down civilization should remind us that the Ultimate Power in our lives is the one true God.

Today is Holy Thursday, one of the most important feast days in the Catholic Church. It may even be only second in importance to Easter Sunday, the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord. Today, however, is one of the most profound days of celebration. The reason many people sometimes misunderstand this holy day is because of its complexity. So many things of critical importance to the Church happened on this day.

The two most important events we celebrate today are the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ; and, the institution of the sacrament of priesthood or Holy Order.

This was the day of the Last Supper when Jesus offered Himself as the Passover sacrifice – the sacrificial lamb – and taught that every ordained priest would follow the sacrifice in the same way. This was the first mass.

On this night, Jesus washes the feet of the Apostles symbolizing the first bishops and priests. Jesus also stressed the importance of the humility of service and the need for cleansing with water, a symbol of baptism.

Holy Thursday actually marks the end of Lent which began with Ash Wednesday. This day is also the beginning of the Sacred Tridium of Holy Week – Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday. These three days are the three holiest days of the Catholic Church. Finally, this was also the night Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane where he suffered the “agony in the garden.” It was also the night of his betrayal and abandonment by his apostles.

In the past, unfortunately Holy Week had been a time to go on holidays to the beach or staycation at hotels. It was a time to go home to the province and celebrate family reunions. Because of the lockdown, this will be the first time for many families to find time to truly observe these days by meditation and prayer. Here is part of a prayer I saw and share with you:

 “Allow me, dear Lord, to spend this night in prayer and meditation with you. After the meal, You invited Your Apostles to join You for one hour, to stay awake and keep vigil as You prepared for Your arrest. The Apostles fell asleep, leaving You in Your bitter agony alone.

I accept your gentle invitation of love, dear Lord, to spend the night in vigil with You. May I enter Your Heart as it faced the coming persecution You were to endure for my sins. May I console Your Sacred Heart and know the love and Mercy that flowed.”

St. John Baptist de la Salle

Last Tuesday, April 7 was the 301st death anniversary of St. John Baptist de la Salle. Born in Reims, France, he was the first son of wealthy parents. He was ordained a priest and received a doctorate in theology.

At that time few people lived in luxury and most of the people were extremely poor. They were peasants in the country and slum dwellers in the towns. Only a few could send their children to school and most children had no hopes for the future. Moved by the plight of the poor who seemed so “far from salvation” either in this world or the next, he determined to put his own talents and advanced education at the service of the children “often left to themselves and badly brought up.” He renounced his position and wealth and organized a group of teachers that became known as the Brothers of the Christian Schools now popularly known as the La Salle Brothers.

It was the first Catholic organization devoted solely to teaching. He was also a pioneer in education. At that time only the nobility and the wealthy could afford to hire private tutors which was the common form of education. St La Salle invented the classroom style of teaching that would allow the Brothers to teach several students at the same time. In an article by La Salle alumnus writer Butch Dalisay wrote: “His innovative ideas included grouping students according to their ability, teaching in the vernacular, integrating religious study with secular subjects, caring for delinquents and training teachers.”

St. La Salle is considered as the greatest thinker and reformer in the field of education. Today there are La Salle schools in more than 80 countries. The organization he founded also became a catalyst and resource for other religious organizations dedicated to education that were founded in the 18th and 19th centuries.

St. La Salle died in 1719 and was canonized by Pope Leo XIII on May 24, 1900. Because of his contribution and inspiration to education in general and Catholic education in particular, Pope Pius X declared St. John Baptist de la Salle as the Patron Saint of all Teachers in 1950.

It was Archbishop Jeremias Harty, archbishop of Manila who invited the La Salle Brothers to come to the Philippines. At first the Brothers turned down the invitation; but, Archbishop Harty asked Pope Pius X to intercede. And soon on Jan. 29, 1911 the first Brothers arrived in the Philippines.

Today, in memory of St. La Salle, the Brothers continue their mission “to provide a human and Christian education to the young.”

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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