Michael Swan

Cardinal Collins issues letter to faithful for Holy Week

  • April 8, 2020

Amid the disruption and anxiety of the COVID-19 crisis, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto has issued a pastoral letter for Holy Week in which he urges the faithful to reach out in “prayer and responsible action” rather than collapse into “selfishness and despair.”

“The choice is ours,” he wrote.

He said we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus whose suffering, death and resurrection gave us a “model for our life today.”

The global pandemic, he wrote, created a Lent “like not other in recent memory,” revealing “the fragility of our human condition in this valley of tears” and shattering the “illusion” that “human will is in control of the world in which we briefly live.”

But in the midst of this storm, Jesus is, as always, the way, the truth and the life, he wrote.

Through Jesus we can use this crisis to become wiser and to develop a “greater love of God and neighbour, especially when so many of our neighbours are suffering.”

Modern technology is no replacement for “life-enhancing human relationships,” he said, but we must be thankful for the technology that allows us to “reach out in love of neighbour and to help us grow in love of God.”

Even though churches are closed, the sacred liturgies of Holy Week and Easter will proceed in churches across the archdiocese, he said. 

His letter included links to resources to help people engage in the many streamed and television services, including those he will personally preside over at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Michael’s.

“I will keep you in my prayers each day, and ask you to keep me in yours,” he wrote. “May God bless you always.

The cardinal’s complete letter is below:

Dear faithful of the Archdiocese of Toronto,

Each year, in this most holy week, we follow Jesus from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, through the institution of the great gift of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, and His suffering and death on Good Friday, to His glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday. As disciples of Jesus, we see in the drama of those days long ago the model of our life today, for our life is a way of the cross leading through suffering to glory, in the footsteps of Jesus.

Christians have always prepared for the glory of Easter with the austere penitential discipline of Lent, but this Lent has been like no other in recent memory. The global Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of our human condition in this valley of tears, through which we journey home to the heavenly Father. It has shattered the illusion that our human will is in control of the world in which we briefly live. 

Our society has even conditioned us to deny or to mask the reality of death, but that reality cannot be evaded in a pandemic. In addition, the measures needed to protect others have forced so many of us to put aside distractions of our busy-ness, and to enter a solitude that can either drive us to frustration, or lead us to more profound insight and greater compassion.

In the midst of this storm Jesus is, as always, the way, the truth, and the life, and He offers us the grace to use this crisis to discover a deeper wisdom about the human condition, and to move from that insight into greater love of God and neighbour, especially when so many of our neighbours are suffering. A faith that is purified in the fire of tribulation impels us to reach out in loving prayer and responsible action, instead of collapsing into selfishness and anger. The choice is ours. 

In the pandemic emergency, love of neighbour has required that we take the extreme, and ultimately unsustainable, step of temporarily suspending the communal dimension of our sacramental life. But the Word became flesh, and Jesus died for us on a real, not a virtual, cross. That is what Good Friday is all about. Even apart from the sublime experience of ultimate reality which we are granted through supernatural faith, and through our sacramental life, the ordinary, natural, life-enhancing human relationships of love cannot be replaced by the dry abstractions of modern technology. 

Meanwhile, however, as we seek to protect our neighbours by staying home, and so hasten the day when we can once more relate fully as humans again, we are thankful for the technological tools that can creatively be used to do the best we can to reach out in love for neighbour, and to help us to grow in love of God. 

Even though it is not possible for the faithful to be present physically, every day every priest celebrates the Holy Eucharist for them, and every day I offer the Holy Eucharist in the cathedral. Livestreaming of many of these sacramental celebrations allows the most participation that is possible in our current situation.  Until you can participate in person, I invite you to connect in that way. 

Our priests are also finding many innovative ways to continue to serve their parishioners and many parishioners are reaching out to those most affected in this crisis. I know you’ll be inspired by these Parish Initiatives

Ultimately, our parishes rely on the support of the faithful and I am grateful to all those who have been so generous. If you are unable to do so given the current reality, please pray for all those who continue the important outreach and ministry in your parish community.

Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter

The most sacred time of the year is upon us. Even though our churches are closed, our priests will preside at the sacred liturgies of Holy Week and Easter in every parish, adapted to the restrictions required at this time. I invite you to learn more about our Holy Week celebrations in the archdiocese here: Holy Week.

Holy Week liturgies will also be celebrated in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Michael. The schedule and livestream for the celebrations are found here: Cathedral Liturgies. For those without access to the internet, you can also find information about televised services here (include link).  

While we are unable to gather together in person, we can be united in prayer. I encourage you to deepen your life of prayer in preparation for Easter. To assist you during these sacred days, we have numerous prayers and resources available here, at Spiritual Resources.

Easter is not just the celebration of the memory of an event long ago. It is the celebration of our present relationship with our Risen Lord, in whom we find our hope, and the motive for our acts of loving kindness, and the courage to face earthly tribulation with joyful boldness. 

I will keep you in my prayers each day, and ask you to keep me in yours. May God bless you always.

In Christ,

Thomas Cardinal Collins Archbishop of Toronto

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