There is no more hopeful place than Easter Sunday Mass,” Cardinal Dolan said in his homily at the 10:15 a.m. liturgy he celebrated April 1 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“It is here that we profess and celebrate our faith, that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, that good ultimately conquers evil, that hope triumphs over despair, that faith is stronger than doubt, that love is victorious over hate and that life trumps death.”
Jesus, by His Passion, Death and Resurrection, “has defeated sin, Satan and endless death,” the cardinal told the congregation of 2,000. “And if that doesn’t give us hope, I don’t know what does.”
The cardinal recalled the heart-rending Funeral Mass of FDNY Lieutenant Michael R. Davidson that he offered at the cathedral March 27. Davidson, 37, a 15-year veteran of the FDNY, died March 23 after battling a five-alarm fire in Harlem. He is survived by his wife, Eileen, and their four young children.
“Last week, here in New York and here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we had two Good Fridays, not just one,” Cardinal Dolan said. In addition to the actual Good Friday, which commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the cross, he was referring to Tuesday of Holy Week, the day of Davidson’s Funeral Mass.
“Folks, take my word for it, that Funeral Mass was Good Friday. Like that first Good Friday, the darkness was thick…the floors of this cathedral seemed to tremble with an earthquake of sadness,” the cardinal said.
“There were tears galore, and heads were down, sobbing. And yet, last Tuesday, there was also a hint of Easter,” the cardinal said. “I watched as there were embraces of love, tender concern and outreach for Eileen and the four kids. There were smiles and even laughter at stories of Michael recalled and exchanged. There was renewed solidarity and commitment among our firefighters of New York. There were assurances to one another that we’d get through all this.”
Afterward, “the firefighters went back to work. And Eileen and the kids went back home. Because life goes on. Because they have faith and hope. And the sun came up the next morning because of that faith and hope, because of Easter.”
After the homily, the cardinal asked the faithful to renew their baptismal promises, as is customary on Easter Sunday. In doing so, they united with the more than 1,000 who were baptized into the faith and received the other sacraments of initiation (confirmation and Holy Communion) at the Easter Vigil in parishes across the archdiocese.
Cardinal Dolan and the principal concelebrants, Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara and Msgr. Robert Ritchie, the cathedral rector, then processed up and down the aisles of the cathedral’s nave to sprinkle holy water upon the congregation.
Davidson was remembered again in the Prayer of the Faithful, as was Rusty Staub, the former New York Mets outfielder who died March 29, opening day of the baseball season. The cardinal acknowledged Staub for his goodness to the Archdiocese of New York and to archdiocesan Catholic Charities. Cardinal Dolan’s late father was also remembered, as the day marked the 41th anniversary of Robert Dolan’s death.
The Greg and Kathleen Hanson family of St. Mary’s parish in Spokane Valley, Wash., came to New York for the first time for spring break and Easter. Accompanying Greg and Kathleen were their son Carter, 20, and daughters Amanda, 18 and Grace, 16.
“I personally just love seeing all of the people that Christ brings together,” Carter said. “It’s amazing, and just the atmosphere of prayer and just knowing that Christ is here, and the peace that it brings to me,” he added, “it’s incredible.”
Amanda absorbed the music that resonated throughout the cathedral from the “inspiring” choir. “It’s amazing to hear it in different languages. I love not only hearing it in English, but also in Spanish and Latin.”
“Our Catholic faith is very important to us,” Greg Hanson, 48, said. “It’s always just been central to our lives, and to come to this church to celebrate Easter, it’s powerful.”
Speaking with the press after Mass, the cardinal was joyful about the vast congregation that had assembled. “Thank God they’re here. I hope they come back. It’s like going home to your mom’s house for Easter and you say, ‘Hey, I enjoy this. I think we’ll do it every Sunday.’”
Asked what the message might be to the immigrant community on Easter, he said, “They’re welcome. And in all their fear, in all their trepidation, even in their sorrow from being away from home, and the confusion about the future, they listen to Jesus: ‘Be not afraid.’ Their faith is an inspiration. We love them. We need them.”