Recovering Presiders

In my twenty-one years of full-time parish ministry (plus the ten or so before that) only once have I been out of commission for Holy Week. I injured my back moving a church piano in 1993 and was ordered to bed at the beginning of Lent to await surgery. I didn’t return to work until after Easter Week. It was very much a trial for me, especially as it came during a personal crisis involving my reexamination of ministry compounded by a time of moral danger.

As for the parish, we were fortunate to have an outstanding church musician on hand to cover my musical duties. He succeeded me at the parish and continues as music director there to this day. 

I noticed Cardinal Egan is home from the hospital, but still burdened with an unknown abdominal ailment. As of today they seem unsure if he will preside at the cathedral Triduum liturgies. I’m sure I join with other Catholics of and not of his flock who wish him healing and peace in recovery. But it does bring a question: If he were unable to preside at the Easter Vigil, let’s say, or judge it to be too demanding a liturgy to risk personal injury or discomfort or be the focus of speculation from the pew (“The cardinal looks like he’s going to keel over!”) would he just attend for as much as he could?

We know St Patrick’s will have no problem enlisting the rector or an auxiliary bishop for the Triduum liturgies if they need it.

Maybe this is a question for any clergy out there: If you weren’t well enough to preside at a really important Mass, but felt well enough to attend, would you go? Would Cardinal Egan just sit in a concelebrant’s chair and duck out if he felt ill? Or is it too much of a distraction? And if he decides to rest in his apartment, who do you suppose gets the ministry of bringing him Communion? Or does he just preside at an Easter Mass for himself? Ever wonder how that all happens? … Or maybe not.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to Recovering Presiders

  1. FrMichael says:

    I lost my voice one Wednesday of Holy Week and was under doctor’s orders not to speak for two weeks.

    So I served as MC for my associate throughout the Triduum liturgies. Surprising how much one can communicate with altar servers through the use of fingers and directional looks of the eyes.

  2. Liam says:

    Clickers are even more efficient, I’ve been told (I wouldn’t know – I was the first of my parent’s half dozen who went entirely to public schools….)

  3. Randolph Nichols says:

    Most parishes don’t have the luxury of having a second in command to fulfill essential roles. I know my biggest fear during twenty-five years as a church music director was the prospect of facing Holy Week or Christmas with an unexpected debilitating illness. One doesn’t play the organ or direct a choir after you’ve contracted influenza. You at least have to be able to stand or sit upright. Fortunately, I’ve never had to experience such a dilemma.

  4. Liam says:

    Well, I will never forget coming in early with the accompanist to prep for Holy Thursday’s liturgy (I would have been song leader, but I was also a general factotum for prepping things). It was also the Thursday before April 15 (like this year) and the accompanist was a tax lawyer, so he had been burning the midnight oil for weeks. I had hurled out of my office at 4pm under great pressure (in my industry, Good Friday is a holiday, but April is a busy season for printing and filing registration statements with the SEC, and mid-April is one of the worst times of year).

    The accompanist told me he had a message at work from our music director that the MD wasn’t going to direct the music that evening because he had a stressful day and needed to be in the congregation.

    So I directed, and the accompanist played, and the MD came in just before liturgy to sit in the congregation.


  5. RP Burke says:

    As the diocesan bishop, I believe Cardinal Egan would have the right to “preside” at a Mass celebrated by someone else.

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