Holy Week is by far my favorite time in the Church year. I love the traditions of Palm Sunday and the Triduum. And in recent years, St. Peter’s Fire has become a very important part of my Easter preparation.
I like to stay after Stations of the Cross when the fire is lit on Good Friday evening. Father Schatz gives a little insight into why he brought this tradition to St. Mary. John refers to a charcoal fire only twice in his gospel: after Jesus is arrested while standing around a charcoal fire, Peter denies knowing him three times; and again in today’s reading when Christ is sitting behind a charcoal fire on shore. Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Then says to him, “Feed my sheep.” For each time Peter denied Jesus, he is given the opportunity to redeem himself!
This year, I met many different people along my journey through St. Peter’s fire. I got to see families with children tending the fire and learning about how we dispose of last year’s sacred oils by burning them in the fire. I witnessed the joy and friendship of a group of sophomore and junior confirmation students. I saw a grandmother with her daughter and grandchildren take their turn keeping the flames going during the midnight hour. I met a widower who has been gone from the church and is finding his way back. I was followed by a couple who brought their guitar and was going to sing songs of worship for their hour. Then there was me, a busy mom who just needed to spend time with Christ (I really enjoy the silence of the 2 am shift). Each of us had the opportunity to read and meditate about these two readings along with the passage in Mark, when in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks his apostles if they can’t stay awake for even one hour (hence the 1-hour shifts).
How many times have we denied Jesus? Have we been too busy? Is it an inconvenience? Are we unsure? Afraid? No matter how many times we deny Jesus, he is always going to be waiting for us to come back to him. It struck me in crossing paths with so many different people around St. Peter’s Fire, we are all at a different place in life, dealing with our own personal challenges. And Jesus is right there with us, calling us to Him. Do we love him? Let’s feed His sheep!
- Gerri Dix