Fr. Gerard’s Weekly Column: 3/24/24

You plunge me into the bottom of the pit, into the darkness of the abyss… friend and neighbor shun me; my only friend is darkness.

In the Fall of 2016, I had the opportunity to lead a group of parishioners on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Of all the holy places we visited, the location that emotionally moved me the most was the “sacred pit” in the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. The church takes its name from the Latin word “Gallicantu,” meaning cock’s-crow in commemoration of Peter’s triple rejection of Jesus. This spot is also believed to be the location of the High Priest Caiaphas’ palace, where many believe that Jesus may have been imprisoned, in an underground cistern, after his arrest. It is the tradition that pilgrims descend into the pit and pray Psalm 88 from which the above quotation is taken.

As I recited the psalm for the group, I was overwhelmed with what it must have felt like to be abandoned in this dark and dank hole in the ground. To me, this seemed to be a more frightening experience than the rest of the passion ahead. Perhaps it is because I never meditated on this particular experience of the Lord, that this place struck me. Nevertheless, the emotional experience of loneliness and despair was quite tangible and deepened my awareness of the extent of the Lord’s passion.

When I completed the reading of the psalm, I shared with the group that this place made me keenly aware of the pains and sorrows of all who are plunged into the depths of depression, loneliness, and addiction. I shared with them thoughts once shared with me by someone who was, at the time, imprisoned because of crimes he committed feeding that addiction. He wrote to me, “It’s easier to keep digging the hole than to try and climb out of it.” His insights are the experience of many who are in a deep emotional pit.

When we meditate on the Lord’s passion this week, we are called to be aware of the truth that the sufferings we experience are shared by him. First, we are called to unite ourselves to him, trusting that he knows our pain and his passion transforms it. Second, I would suggest that we pray Psalm 22, from which Jesus utters from the cross. The psalm begins with the sorrowful words, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” but concludes with the hopeful realization, “For he has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.” With the Lord, we pray through our passion, trusting that God and his love never abandons the faithful. Third, this week, amidst the Lord’s passion and ours, we are mindful that we are not alone. From the cross, Jesus entrusts his mother to his disciple, and his disciple to his mother. This is the Church, the faithful of the Lord, united together with each other and His Blessed Mother, whom he has entrusted to us. Deep in the emotional hole, we cannot accept a sense of forsakenness and despair, but a hope that comes from the truth that we are loved and never abandoned by a merciful God.

RECONCILIATION MONDAY – I encourage you to take advantage of the merciful Lord’s presence in the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Monday, here or any Catholic church from Montauk to Middletown. Priests will be available from 2:00 to 4:00 pm and 6:00 to 9:00 pm.

HOLY WEEK SCHEDULE – The entire schedule can be found elsewhere in the bulletin. I look forward to sharing this week with all of you. May the sanctity of this week bear fruit in our personal faith and a dramatic growth of the church here on Long Island.

CHRISM MASS – Consider attending this year’s Chrism Mass at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, March 26, 2024 at St. Agnes Cathedral. A pontifical blessing with a plenary indulgence attached will be imparted at the celebration of the Chrism Mass. This celebration of the Eucharist is exceptionally beautiful and steeped in rich symbolism. During the Chrism Mass, Bishop Barres will consecrate the Oil of Chrism and bless the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick. These holy oils will be used throughout the Diocese during the coming year in celebration of the sacraments. Priests of the Diocese will also renew their call to the Holy Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

EASTER WEEK OF ADORATION – Throughout the first week of Easter, our parish will be participating in a special week of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Beginning Monday, April 1 through Friday, April 5 from 10:00 am-9:00 pm, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will take place in the Chapel of the Fr. Graham Center. Don’t miss the opportunity to stop in to pray and spend time with God. We are in need of many volunteers to be assured that Blessed Sacrament is never left unattended. Please email Tom Griffin to sign up for an hour time slot at