Easter at Cathedral Rejoices in Jesus ‘the Rock Remover’

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Cardinal Dolan, in his Easter Sunday homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, surmised that “Jesus didn’t much like rocks.”

Then he chronicled the numerous reasons why. “Satan, remember, tried to get Him to jump off a high, mountainous rock in the desert. In a parable He spoke of the seed of God’s word falling on rocky soil, not being able to take root. He detested those fists clenched around a rock to throw at that woman caught in adultery. He knelt at a rock and wept over the plight of His beloved Jerusalem…

“On the night before He died, there he was…on a rock in the Garden of Gethsemane sweating blood. He was unjustly accused at a place called the stone pavement. He tripped over rocks on his arduous walk up the Way of the Cross, only to be crucified on a boulder called Calvary. And he was buried in a cave in front of which was rolled a huge rock.”

Thus do those holy women visiting the tomb of Jesus that first Easter morning wonder who will remove the stone for them from in front of His tomb, he continued.

“What a great question,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Who will  remove the rock? Jesus is the rock remover. Jesus is the rock breaker. Jesus takes the stones away. Jesus, as a matter fact, happens to be the stone rejected by the builders which has become the cornerstone.

“As happy as we are this Easter Sunday morning,” the cardinal said, “we’re sober enough to admit that we have rocks in our lives. We’ve got rock hard stubborn hearts” and “stone deaf ears to our Lord’s teaching. We’ve got stone cold consciences which have lost any moral sensitivity. We’re hardened at times in our old, cold, rocky ways. 

“And Jesus came to remove those rocks. Jesus came to push aside the rock we place in front of a soul that often has become like a tomb so He could raise it up to share in the glory and life of His resurrection.”

The cardinal was principal celebrant of the 10 a.m. Mass on Easter Sunday, April 17.

Resplendent flowers adorned the exterior and interior, complementing the joyful, hope-filled music that wafted throughout the cathedral. The liturgy included a Renewal of Baptimsal Promises and the sprinkling of holy water upon the congregation.

The Prayer of the Faithful included an intention “for the Church, that we may be steadfast witnesses to our resurrected Lord, extending mercy, hope and healing in His name to all of God’s children.” The Universal Prayer also included an intention “for those troubled, tortured areas of the world,” including Ukraine and the Mideast, “that the consoling grace of the Lord’s resurrection may descend upon them.”

The Gendron family of St. Anthony’s parish in Bryan, Texas, were grateful for their good timing in attending the cardinal’s Easter Sunday Mass at the cathedral just a few days after celebrating the graduation of Tiffany DeJesus from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.

Patrick and Alma Gendron and their daughters Tiffany and Madeleine were exiting the cathedral after the Mass when CNY caught up with them. 

“It was extra special for us,” Patrick Gendron, 50, said of celebrating Easter Sunday “with people from around the country, around the world here in this great cathedral, in this great city.”

“Beautiful” was how 10-year-old Madeleine, a fourth-grader, described the Mass. “I loved to be here.” She planned to share with her friends back home that the cathedral has “lots of detail, lots of candles.” 

“Be happy and grateful” is Madeleine’s Easter message, she said.

The Steve and Anita Mierisch family of St. Peter’s parish in lower Manhattan were conversing with their longtime friend, Father Enrique Salvo, the cathedral rector, atop the cathedral’s exterior front steps after the Mass.

“The whole feeling was top notch,” said Steve Mierisch, 46, who appreciated the camaraderie among congregants as some of the more restrictive coronavirus protocols have been lifted.

Accompanying the couple were their three sons: Esteban, 10; Bruno, 7; and Hugo, 4. Attending Mass as a family, Steve Mierisch said, is significant throughout the year and, in a special way, at Easter. “What we always talk about is that the most important holiday is the resurrection of Christ.”

Fifth-grader Esteban said, “Easter, to me, means spend time with family. It’s a day that Jesus came back from the dead after He died for our sins. So it’s really important.”

Speaking with reporters after the Mass, the cardinal was asked about his reflections this Easter in relation to the passing of his mother, Shirley Jean Radcliffe Dolan, last month. His father, Robert, died in 1977. “Just naturally I think of all the Easter Sundays at home” growing up happily with both parents, as they “made Easter so meaningful,” he said.

“And now, more than ever, the thought of eternal life that Jesus won for us by His resurrection from the dead, so that Mommom and Daddad share in that. All I can say is hallelujah. 

“And she made the best lamb cakes in the world.”

The cardinal also shared his delight in the packed cathedral this Easter, two years after the onset of the global coronavirus; the many across the archdiocese who joined the Church at the Easter Vigil and the comeback of the city. “There’s a great sense of rebirth and renewal, which is what Easter’s all about.”

Referencing the war in Ukraine as well as “some of the division and violence in our country, some of the turmoil in our city,” the cardinal concluded “we need a little Easter right this very moment.”

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