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Palm Sunday Without The Cheering Crowds

Well, that was a strange day! Usually, Palm Sundays for me have been about gathering with my parish family at Mass, convincing the kids the Gospel wouldn’t be too long (white lie!) and having a sense of beginning Holy Week with the cheers of the crowd echoing in my ears.

But this isn’t a usual Palm Sunday. There was no gathering with parish family. No convincing the kids about their ability to stand for an extra long Gospel and no sound of crowds anywhere (thankfully we are, for the most part here in Belfast, doing what we should in terms of staying in or maintaining safe distance while out).

Instead, today I gathered with a virtual parish family on St John’s Parish Facebook live feed. My own parish has no online presence. I am finding ‘going’ there regularly affords me the sense of community. I see the same names appear on my screen each time I ‘go’ there for Mass or for night prayer or for Martin’s daily online catch up – called Good Afternoon St John’s.

Mass was special, maybe more so because I found I had to make the effort to feel part of it in a way that I don’t at a physical gathering. Indeed I am more and more convinced that even when we no longer have to, we should continue these online gatherings. They are good for us.

After Mass I took my one period of exercise for the day. I walked my dogs. First I walked the four of them. Then I left Mac in and went on with the three. Then I left Cody and Jenny in and finished my walk with Charley.

We went up the Glen Road, past our church of St Teresa of Avila. There at the door I saw a statue, a candle and some palms. I went over and knelt at the door of the church and prayed.

It was a very moving experience. In a way it was achingly painful not to be inside and to know I hadn’t received the Eucharistic in so long. More painful was the realisation that I wouldn’t for even longer.

However, as I knelt there with the wind blowing against me and the traffic passing I found a quietness and an ability to connect. I prayed for a while and was grateful for the chance.

Palm Sunday heralds the start of the most important week in the Christian calendar. Today may have been a strange one but nonetheless it was a good one and it still ushers us into the mystery, the pain and ultimately the glory of the week to come.

Peace be with you all.

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