For many Christians, Lent is a popular, longsuffering road culminated by one Sunday of celebrating the Resurrection of Christ. Yet we know that the liturgical season of Easter is, in fact, a 50-day journey. During the Easter season we hear of the excitement of the first Christians, the power of the Holy Spirit as the new Church developed, and the conversion of many to this new faith.
Unfortunately, I find too many Catholics are unfamiliar with the stories of the first Apostles and the early days of the Church. Most know the Resurrection stories, the Ascension account, and the descent of the Holy Spirit. But how many are familiar with Peter’s miraculous healings, how difficult it was for the disciples to publicly proclaim the Resurrection (Really? A dead man came back to life?), Stephen’s stoning, or the selection of Matthias to replace Judas? Do they know about the early division among Church leaders over the issue of Gentile converts, or the division of labor among leaders and the need for what we now consider the early diaconate? How critical are these stories to active Christian faith? What can we do to place more emphasis on the fullness of the Easter message for our families?
One challenge is timing. Our catechetical year often ends before Pentecost. Our face time with students doesn’t coincide with the liturgical year. And yet the Easter season stories get to the heart of what it means to live an active, engaged Catholic Christian life.
In order to help our parishioners fully experience the depth of Easter, we may want to find creative parish-wide ways to emphasize the Scripture stories contained in the last chapters of all four Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles. Parish Bible studies, the use of symbols and visual displays, storytelling, take-home family activities, and family events are all ways to share the stories of our faith. The weeks from Easter to Pentecost should be just as full of depth and meaning for our parishioners as the Lenten season is full of fish fries and Stations of the Cross. It should be a time of renewal for the whole parish.
Easter is quite possibly my favorite liturgical season. It is a refreshing celebration of ordinary people filled with the power of the Spirit, doing things they never thought they could do. It is a reminder that God’s Spirit is just as active today as it was 2,000 years ago. As we celebrate the new life appearing all around us, may we also experience new life in the Spirit in ordinary and extraordinary ways.
How do you celebrate Easter as a season in your parish?
This article is by Kathy Olenik Henry. Now an Educational Consultant at Loyola Press, Kathy has been involved in the faith formation of children and adults for 20 years. She holds a Masters in Religious Education from Loyola University, New Orleans, and has served as a catechist, DRE, youth minister, and retreat director. She lives in Ohio with her husband and five sons.