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Episode No. 79 Easter 2020, An Easter Like No Other

Four Cathedral Musicians talk about what it was like to prepare for Holy Week, Triduum and Easter Sunday without congregations, without instrumentalists, with a limited number of singers and in some cases just an organ and cantor. The Corona virus has given the church an Easter like none of us have ever experienced before. Enjoy this fascinating look into the planning (and replanning) that it took to make Easter 2020 come alive in four of the nations most important cathedrals:

Christ Cathedral, Orange California Dr. John A Romeri, Director of Music and David L. Ball, Assistant Director of Music and Cathedral Organist
Christ Our Light Cathedral, Oakland California Dr. Rudy De Vos, Director of Music and Organist
St. Thomas More Cathedral, Arlington Virginia Dr. Richard Gibala, Director of Music and Organist
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC Dr. Peter Latona, Director of Music and Organist

MUSIC: Haec Dies John Shepherd (1515 – 1558) Christ Cathedral (6 staff singers) John Romeri, conductor
MUSIC: Alleluia Randall Thompson Christ Our Light Cathedral (8 staff singers) Rudy De Vos, conductor
MUSIC: The Lord Will Reign Forever James Biery St. Thomas More Cathedral (recorded before Corona with their Cathedral Choir) Richard Gibala, conductor
MUSIC: Christ our Passover, Peter Latona The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (5 singers) Peter Latona, conductor
MUSIC: In The Father’s Glory Peter Latona The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (5 singers) Peter Latona, conductor

ARTICLE: The Music of the Easter Season: Adapting to the Challenges of Coronavirus Dr. Peter Latona



Vatican City, Apr 11, 2020 / 03:40 pm (CNA) – Here is the full text of the Easter Vigil homily of Pope Francis, delivered April 11 at St. Peter’s Basilica.

“After the Sabbath” (Mt 28:1), the women went to the tomb. This is how the Gospel of this holy Vigil began: with the Sabbath. It is the day of the Easter Triduum that we tend to neglect as we eagerly await the passage from Friday’s cross to Easter Sunday’s Alleluia. This year however, we are experiencing, more than ever, the great silence of Holy Saturday. We can imagine ourselves in the position of the women on that day. They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly. They had seen death and it weighed on their hearts. Pain was mixed with fear: would they suffer the same fate as the Master? Then too there was fear about the future and all that would need to be rebuilt. A painful memory, a hope cut short. For them, as for us, it was the darkest hour.

Yet in this situation the women did not allow themselves to be paralyzed. They did not give in to the gloom of sorrow and regret, they did not morosely close in on themselves, or flee from reality. On the Sabbath they were doing something simple yet extraordinary: preparing at home the spices to anoint the body of Jesus. They did not stop loving; in the darkness of their hearts, they lit a flame of mercy. Our Lady spent that Saturday, the day that would be dedicated to her, in prayer and hope. She responded to sorrow with trust in the Lord. Unbeknownst to these women, they were making preparations, in the darkness of that Sabbath, for “the dawn of the first day of the week”, the day that would change history. Jesus, like a seed buried in the ground, was about to make new life blossom in the world; and these women, by prayer and love, were helping to make that hope flower. How many people, in these sad days, have done and are still doing what those women did, sowing seeds of hope! With small gestures of care, affection and prayer.

At dawn the women went to the tomb. There the angel says to them: “Do not be afraid. He is not here; for he has risen” (vv. 5-6). They hear the words of life even as they stand before a tomb… And then they meet Jesus, the giver of all hope, who confirms the message and says: “Do not be afraid” (v. 10). Do not be afraid, do not yield to fear: This is the message of hope. It is addressed to us, today. Today. These are the words that God repeats to us this very night.

Tonight we acquire a fundamental right that can never be taken away from us: the right to hope. It is a new and living hope that comes from God. It is not mere optimism; it is not a pat on the back or an empty word of encouragement, with a passing smile. No. It is a gift from heaven, which we could not have earned on our own. Over these weeks, we have kept repeating, “All will be well”, clinging to the beauty of our humanity and allowing words of encouragement to rise up from our hearts. But as the days go by and fears grow, even the boldest hope can dissipate. Jesus’ hope is different. He plants in our hearts the conviction that God is able to make everything work unto good, because even from the grave he brings life.

The grave is the place where no one who enters ever leaves. But Jesus emerged for us; he rose for us, to bring life where there was death, to begin a new story in the very place where a stone had been placed. He, who rolled away the stone that sealed the entrance of the tomb, can also remove the stones in our hearts. So, let us not give in to resignation; let us not place a stone before hope. We can and must hope, because God is faithful. He did not abandon us; he visited us and entered into our situations of pain, anguish and death. His light dispelled the darkness of the tomb: today he wants that light to penetrate even to the darkest corners of our lives. Dear sister, dear brother, even if in your heart you have buried hope, do not give up: God is greater. Darkness and death do not have the last word. Be strong, for with God nothing is lost!

Courage. This is a word often spoken by Jesus in the Gospels. Only once do others say it, to encourage a person in need: “Courage; rise, [Jesus] is calling you!” (Mk 10:49). It is he, the Risen One, who raises us up from our neediness. If, on your journey, you feel weak and frail, or fall, do not be afraid, God holds out a helping hand and says to you: “Courage!”. You might say, as did Don Abbondio (in Manzoni’s novel), “Courage is not something you can give yourself” (I Promessi Sposi, XXV). True, you cannot give it to yourself, but you can receive it as a gift. All you have to do is open your heart in prayer and roll away, however slightly, that stone placed at the entrance to your heart so that Jesus’ light can enter. You only need to ask him: “Jesus, come to me amid my fears and tell me too: Courage!” With you, Lord, we will be tested but not shaken. And, whatever sadness may dwell in us, we will be strengthened in hope, since with you the cross leads to the resurrection, because you are with us in the darkness of our nights; you are certainty amid our uncertainties, the word that speaks in our silence, and nothing can ever rob us of the love you have for us.

This is the Easter message, a message of hope. It contains a second part, the sending forth. “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee” (Mt 28:10), Jesus says. “He is going before you to Galilee” (v. 7), the angel says. The Lord goes before us. He always goes before us. It is encouraging to know that he walks ahead of us in life and in death; he goes before us to Galilee, that is, to the place which for him and his disciples evoked the idea of daily life, family and work. Jesus wants us to bring hope there, to our everyday life. For the disciples, Galilee was also the place of remembrance, for it was the place where they were first called. Returning to Galilee means remembering that we have been loved and called by God. Each of us has our own Galilee. We need to resume the journey, reminding ourselves that we are born and reborn thanks to an invitation given gratuitously to us out of love. This is always the point from which we can set out anew, especially in times of crisis and trial.

But there is more. Galilee was the farthest region from where they were: from Jerusalem. And not only geographically. Galilee was also the farthest place from the sacredness of the Holy City. It was an area where people of different religions lived: it was the “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15). Jesus sends them there and asks them to start again from there. What does this tell us? That the message of hope should not be confined to our sacred places, but should be brought to everyone. For everyone is in need of reassurance, and if we, who have touched “the Word of life” (1 Jn 1:1) do not give it, who will? How beautiful it is to be Christians who offer consolation, who bear the burdens of others and who offer encouragement: messengers of life in a time of death! In every Galilee, in every area of the human family to which we all belong and which is part of us – for we are all brothers and sisters – may we bring the song of life! Let us silence the cries of death, no more wars! May we stop the production and trade of weapons, since we need bread, not guns. Let the abortion and killing of innocent lives end. May the hearts of those who have enough be open to filling the empty hands of those who do not have the bare necessities.

Those women, in the end, “took hold” of Jesus’ feet (Mt 28:9); feet that had travelled so far to meet us, to the point of entering and emerging from the tomb. The women embraced the feet that had trampled death and opened the way of hope. Today, as pilgrims in search of hope, we cling to you, Risen Jesus. We turn our backs on death and open our hearts to you, for you are Life itself.


Even amidst the COVID-19 crisis we are all dealing with right now, we must remember that we are an EASTER people!

Deacon Steve Greco is delighted to welcome our very own Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange for our Easter program.

Be sure to share this podcast with a friend.





Originally broadcast on 4/12/2020


Never before in our lifetimes have we experienced a Lent like Lent 2020. The extraordinary measures taken amid a global health pandemic occurred in tandem with the Lenten season. While public Masses may have been temporarily suspended, it did not mean commemoration of the Holy Sacrifice ceased. It also did not cancel Christianity’s most hallowed day, Easter Sunday. 

After the long Lent of 2020, Easter’s promises of new life in Christ takes on new meaning. The solitude enacted by restrictions placed on our everyday life provided opportunities for a new way of looking at life and its greater context, God. Perhaps we took too much for granted, wanted things more than we needed, relativized relationships and our treatment of the other. Holy Week and especially Good Friday provides us a path to ponder these matters in union with the trials and sufferings endured by Jesus, from the Last Supper to the hasty placement of his battered and bloodied body in the tomb. 

“Those drops of blood I shed for you,” Blaise Pascal reflected in Pensées 

Our comfort zones were disrupted during this time of uncertainty and crises. But Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) once said, “There is no experience of God unless one goes out from the business of everyday living.”  

“We need to keep in mind that there is always hope in the Resurrection,” Vicar General Monsignor Stephen Doktorczyk said. “There is a saying, ‘there would be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.’ Jesus had to suffer before rising. We, too, are suffering greatly.” 

Christian art often depicts the Resurrection by having a triumphant Christ emerge from a sarcophagus while the Roman guards sleep. His right hand is in the gesture of benediction while he clutches a banner of the Triumphal cross in his left. In the Gospel of St. John, we are told, “In the place where he had been crucified there was in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried” (19:41). It was in a garden, Gethsemane, where Jesus confirmed the will of the Father and where he was betrayed by Judas. One garden gives way to another, one of new and everlasting life. 

It was also in a garden where Adam and Eve were cast out of Paradise. In the Resurrection of Christ, the garden from the Fall is renewed and fulfilled. Jesus becomes the new Adam. An ancient tradition says the ubilucum mundi, the center of the world, is Jerusalem, where God created Adam. In our own Creed, recited every Sunday, we profess that before rising again on the third day, Christ “descended into hell.” This is the focus for meditation on Holy Saturday, a time of darkness for those living, before the brilliant light of Resurrection. Yet even here Adam, the first man, is not forgotten. A verse from an ancient Syriac liturgy states, “He visited Adam in Sheol,” the Hebrew word for the place of the dead, “and brought him astonishing news: He promised him life, and the Resurrection that would completely renew him.” 

Death, then, no longer has the last word. In Eastern Christianity, this moment of anastasis is depicted in Christ emerging from the sarcophagus clutching the hands of Adam and Eve, pulling them out of the realm of the dead. Psalm 24 is frequently associated with the descent into hell, popularized in the Middle Ages. “Lift up your heads, O gates; be lifted, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter (24:9).” A popular legend told of Satan and his minions panicking upon hearing this thunderous voice outside the gates. They look at each other in dread, quoting the next verse (24:10): “Who is this king of glory; the Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory!” 

The richness of how the faith has been expressed over time hinges on the reality that Jesus of Nazareth triumphed over death on the third day. Monsignor Doktorczyk recalled being in the Holy Land for both Holy Week and Easter Week in 2006. “On Easter Sunday, a priest friend and I travelled by car from Jerusalem to Galilee,” he explained. “We reflected on Matthew 28:10,” where Jesus encounters “fearful yet overjoyed” disciples scrambling to tell the others of the empty tomb. “Do not be afraid,” said Jesus. “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. There they will see me.” This struck Monsignor Doktorczyk in a powerful way as he was doing just that. 

But the reality of the Resurrection transcends time and place. The Easter Season is an opportunity for us to look upon the world around us with new eyes. Monsignor Doktorczyk invites us to ask ourselves, “Is our hope in Jesus Christ? Do we believe all things are possible for God (cf. Romans 8:28)? We pray that this difficult Lenten season will make us stronger in faith in Jesus Christ and much less focused on ‘other gods.’”


We have a very special treat to share with you on today’s podcast episode of Cathedral Square. As you may or may not be aware, each Sunday we air a ‘live stream’ of the 9:30 AM Mass at Christ Cathedral. There are several such presentations that are archived on our Facebook page.

Today, we bring you the messages that Fr. Chris delivered on the 3rd and 5th Sundays of the Easter season.

Be sure to share this inspiring podcast with a friend!





Originally broadcast on 7/13/19


Liturgically the seven weeks beginning with the Easter vigil and extending to Pentecost Sunday – celebrated this year on June 9 – are known as the Easter season. 

Many sacraments are celebrated during this time, from First Holy Communion for youngsters to the Holy Spirit welcoming teenagers to adulthood in Confirmation, so people sometimes call this period the ‘season of sacraments.’ 

“In all this flurry of activity we are reminded of our own reception of the sacraments,” says Katie Dawson, director of the Office of Parish Faith Formation for the Diocese of Orange. “It is good to focus on what we’re really doing here – this is a time that stresses the important recognition of how God breaks through into our lives – rather than accepting it as just a good excuse for a party.” 


Be open to God’s love 

Dawson is quick to acknowledge that we live in a material world full of distractions. We can become busy with so many activities that we are largely unaware of how greatly God loves us.  

“One of the aspects of the sacraments we often mention is grace,” she notes. “Grace helps us understand that God is working in our lives in a particular way.” Grace, from Latin, is defined as ‘the pure gift of love.’ 

“We must seek moments of opportunity to encounter Him to recognize His love for us, especially in the times when Jesus is uniquely ours,” she says. “Saint Thomas Aquinas said that grace will only affect us to the degree we are properly disposed to receive it.” 

The saint’s description helps us understand why some Catholics can attend Sunday Mass week in and week out and not especially change while, when we truly open ourselves to God’s grace, we allow the possibility of real transformation. 


Experience the joy of the sacraments 

In Matthew 7:7, Dawson notes, the disciple writes that if we knock, the door shall be opened and if we seek, we shall find. “The funny thing is,” she says, “God gives us grace whenever we ask for it. If we especially ask God for the grace to return to Him or the grace to restore our relationship with Him or improve our relationships with others, He grants it.” 

As we witness our young children receive the Eucharist for the first time, we experience their joy. “They are joyful about receiving Jesus,” she says. “Their excitement reminds us to be attentive, to make the space in our lives to prepare to receive Him.” 

Rather than racing around to get to Mass at the last second, Dawson advises that we prepare to arrive at Sunday services early enough to ask God to prepare us to be changed.  


Become who God intends you to be 

“We are supposed to become what we receive – that’s the whole point of the Eucharist,” she explains. “We must ask God to help us be prepared to welcome Him into ourselves. We must become transformed, to become Jesus and His presence in the world.” 

Fathers of the early Church spoke about being ‘divinized’ by the Holy Eucharist, Dawson notes. “We are made like God in receiving the Eucharist,” she adds. “It’s a huge responsibility, and yet we just go to communion so casually.” 

Saint Catherine of Siena, who ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Catholic Church, said that if we are what God intends us to be, we will set the world on fire, Dawson says. Eastertide, or the 50 days of Easter, is a great time to devote more prayer and thought to who God intends us each to be. 


Consider praying a divine mercy chaplet 

Writing on, Gretchen Fitz – a lay Dominican and writer – says the beautiful, simple prayers of the novena to the Holy Spirit are a powerful way to foster a devotion to the Holy Spirit this Eastertide. 

“This is also the time of year when catechumens are baptized and received as new Christians into the Church,” Fitz writes. “Renew your own baptismal promises by bringing holy water into your home and using it regularly.” 

The second Sunday of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday, Fitz says, so the Divine Mercy devotion is tied in a special way to the Easter season. The message of Divine Mercy is threefold. It teaches Catholics to pray for Jesus’ mercy, to be merciful, and to completely trust in Jesus.  

The chaplet of Divine Mercy is traditionally prayed on Fridays and at 3 p.m., the hour in which Jesus perished on the cross. You can find a guide to praying the Divine Mercy chaplet at 


Welcome spring in Eastertide 

Spring and the Resurrection go together, Fitz writes. “Fill your house with the lovely fragrance of freshly cut flowers,” she recommends.  

“Keep a beautiful bouquet in the kitchen, on the dining room table, and in each bedroom in honor of the Resurrection of Jesus and a sign of hope in our own resurrection. Give flowers to your loved ones to grace their homes as well in honor of the Easter solemnity.”


We have a very special treat to share with you on today’s podcast episode of Cathedral Square. As you may or may not be aware, each Sunday we air a ‘live stream’ of the 9:30 AM Mass at Christ Cathedral. There are several such presentations that are archived on our Facebook page.

Today, we bring you the messages that Fr. Chris delivered on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Be sure to share this transformative podcast with a friend!





Originally broadcast on 6/1/19



VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As the machine of warfare continues to churn out more dangerous weaponry, only the power and joy of Christ’s resurrection can fill hearts with comfort and peace, Pope Francis said before giving his Easter blessing.

“May the one who gives us his peace end the roar of arms — both in areas of conflict and in our cities — and inspire the leaders of nations to work for an end to the arms race and the troubling spread of weaponry, especially in the economically more advanced countries,” the pope said as he prepared April 21 to give his Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).



Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is not only the start of a true renewal that “begins from the heart, from the conscience” but also the beginning of a new world “free from the slavery of sin and death” and now open to God’s kingdom of “love, peace and fraternity,” he said.

The pope’s prayer for peace came a few hours after news broke of multiple bombs that exploded in several churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, killing and wounding hundreds in the capital city of Colombo and the neighboring cities of Negombo and Batticaloa.

After giving his blessing, the pope expressed “sadness and pain” at the attack before leading the crowd in several moments of silent prayer for the victims.

“I wish to express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, struck while it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” the pope said. “I entrust to the Lord all those who have been tragically lost and I pray for the wounded and all those who suffer because of this tragic event.”

According to the Vatican, an estimated 70,000 pilgrims attended the Easter morning Mass in St. Peter’s Square, where a vast floral arrangement adorning the steps leading to the basilica highlighted the festive atmosphere.

The display of flowers, imported from the Netherlands, featured more than 57,000 individual flowers, plants and trees, including tulips, daffodils, birch trees and more than 1,500 orange and blue strelitzia flowers that accented the joyful celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

Pope Francis did not deliver a homily during the Mass; instead, an announcer invited the crowd to remain in silent prayer for several minutes. As a hushed silence filled the packed square, Pope Francis remained with eyes closed, hands folded and head bowed in prayerful reflection.

Standing on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica after celebrating the morning Mass, the pope prayed that the risen Christ shine his light upon “those experiencing hardship, pain and suffering,” especially in Syria, Yemen, Libya and the Holy Land.

“May the light of Easter illumine all government leaders and peoples in the Middle East, beginning with Israelis and Palestinians, and spur them to alleviate such great suffering and to pursue a future of peace and stability,” he said.

The pope prayed that Jesus would bring peace to the African continent, which he said was “still rife with social tensions, conflicts and at times violent forms of extremism that leave in their wake insecurity, destruction and death, especially in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon.”

He also prayed for peace in Sudan as well as neighboring South Sudan, whose leaders were recently at the Vatican for a spiritual retreat.

“May a new page open in the history of that country, in which all political, social and religious components actively commit themselves to the pursuit of the common good and the reconciliation of the nation,” the pope said.

Turning his attention toward Latin America, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Nicaragua so that a “negotiated solution” would bring peace to its people.

He also remembered the suffering people of Venezuela who “lack the minimal conditions for leading a dignified and secure life due to a crisis that endures and worsens.”

The pope prayed that political leaders in the country would put an “end to social injustices, abuses and acts of violence” while taking concrete steps “to heal divisions and offer the population the help they need.”

Before delivering his blessing, Pope Francis urged Christians to be renewed by the living Christ who “is hope and youth for each of us and for the entire world.”

“May the risen Christ, who flung open the doors of the tomb, open our hearts to the needs of the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, the poor, the unemployed, the marginalized, and all those who knock at our door in search of bread, refuge, and the recognition of their dignity,” he said.


WASHINGTON (CNS) — Tens of thousands of new Catholics are expected to join the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil liturgies in parishes throughout the United States the night of April 20.

While a precise number was not available, reports from 89 U.S. Latin-rite dioceses, roughly half the total number, indicate that their dioceses alone will account for about 37,000 Catholics joining the church.

The great majority of the new Catholics will have gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process at their chosen parish. Already with some knowledge of Jesus and Christian teachings at the time they begin, the new Catholics learned the teachings of the Catholic Church in a more formal way and discerned that they were ready to commit to living according to these beliefs.

There are two distinct groups of people joining the church. One group is known as catechumens, who have never been baptized. They will receive the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and first Communion — at the Easter Vigil liturgy. The other group is known as candidates, who have already been baptized in another Christian faith. They will enter the Catholic Church through a profession of faith and reception of confirmation and the Eucharist.

Some of the largest U.S. dioceses are receiving more than 1,000 Catholics each into the church at Easter. They include the Los Angeles, Galveston-Houston, Atlanta and Seattle archdioceses, and the Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, dioceses.

Many other dioceses are welcoming at last 100 each of catechumens and candidates into the church. Archdioceses that have reported such totals include Washington, New Orleans, St. Paul and Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Denver, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Boston, Indianapolis and Baltimore.

Twenty dioceses also reported more than 100 each of catechumens and candidates ready to enter the church at Easter. They include: Honolulu; Pittsburgh; Salt Lake City; Orlando, Palm Beach, St. Augustine and Venice, Florida; Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Jefferson City and Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Arlington, Virginia; Tucson, Arizona; Little Rock, Arkansas; Trenton, New Jersey; Wichita, Kansas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Tyler, Texas; and Springfield, Illinois.