Hundreds of people flocked to St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo on Good Friday, April 14 to hear Bishop Richard J. Malone lead the Solemn Celebration of the Lord's Passion. Good Friday liturgies have three parts: Liturgy of the Word, Adoration of the Holy Cross, and Holy Communion.
Unlike Bishop Malone's typical liturgies, he did not offer a welcoming address. Instead, after processing in, he laid prostrate in front of the altar while the congregation prayed.
Also unique to the Holy day, the entire congregation joined in proclaiming the Gospel. John 18:1-19:42 was delivered like a Passion Play depicting Jesus' final moments before his death. Deacon Larry Eschbach served as narrator. The congregation took on the role of the villagers, while Bishop Malone spoke for Christ.
Following the Gospel, the bishop delivered a homily that showed his loyalties to Jesus are second to none, even his beloved Boston Red Sox.
Bishop Malone took to the podium recalling a Boston Herald news story by Beverly Beckham from April 1998. He said Beckham usually wrote well on the Church, but disagreed on this particular story involving the Red Sox playing a baseball game on Good Friday, which struck up a storm of debate in the predominately Catholic New England city.
"So, Beverly Beckham decided to write an article entitled, 'Faith - Each in His Own way.' For the most part, until the very end of it, she does a good job," he said.
"She talks about who Jesus is in a very beautiful way, talking about Christ and His offering of His life for His example for us. His tremendous act of love was His death on the cross. It really is a testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. Then she gets to her conclusion. 'We get hung up,' she says, 'on the silliest things when it comes to Holy days. This year it's the Red Sox game that's the big controversy. Many are saying it shouldn't be played today. Years ago Catholic school children had to remain silent from noon to 3 p.m. because that's when Jesus suffered on the cross. That was fine, but it was style. It's all style. Some people reflect in silence, some in a church, some in a car. Others might sit in a baseball game and, at least for a little while, love they neighbor. Isn't that, after all, the point of this day?' I think she missed it, huh? It's wonderful to sit at a baseball game. It's wonderful to love thy neighbor. But to compare being at the ballgame and being a loving person while you're there, which might hold up in Boston as long as the Sox were ahead, you know, doesn't quite come up to the point where you are participating in the Good Friday liturgy. Don't you agree?
"I mention that today because of the simple fact that what we do today, here, and what Christians around the world are doing today in their churches is of utmost significance. We could not be doing anything more important right this minute. It is precisely the heart of our Christian story. It is the innermost mystery of the God incarnate in flesh, in Jesus. It is the triumph of the cross that God would not and could not with His love leave us caught in the grasp of Adam's sin, isolated in our guilt, in the pain of our human condition, victims of the temptation to call life meaningless and futile. Jesus, on that day, frightened like us, yet free, heard our cries as today he hears the cries of those Coptic Christians being terrorized and persecuted in Egypt and others in the Middle East. Jesus hears our cries, and Jesus goes with us into that ultimate human boundary experience, which is death. To share it, to break it, to transform it, even paradoxically, even to make death our friend by conquering it forever with the power of diving life so that death becomes, for the believer, a gateway to eternal life, all because of what Jesus did on that Friday. And so it is that we call this Friday 'Good.' And we can call it good with deeper conviction and gratitude because of what people celebrate tomorrow night and Sunday morning."
Ten minutes of solemn intercession followed, asking the congregation to pray for Pope Francis, Bishop Malone, the catechumens preparing to join the Catholic faith, Jewish people, those who don't believe in Christ, and those who hold public office.
Father Peter Drilling, rector of the cathedral, brought out an 18-inch crucifix and placed it in front of the sanctuary. After Bishop Malone and the vested clergy paid respects by kissing the statue, the congregation joined in. Members of the congregation merged into the center aisle, like the parting of the Red Sea from the "Ten Commandments" in reverse, then flowed up to the sanctuary to kiss, pray and bow in front of the crucifix. Veneration of the cross is a Good Friday tradition dating back to the seventh century.
After Communion, the clergy bowed in front of the crucifix and departed quietly.
Concelebrating the Liturgy were Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, bishop emeritus of Buffalo; Msgr. David Slubecky, vicar general of the diocese; and Father Drilling.