“The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem was the beginning, a beginning which endures” – Pope Francis

Pentecost at the Pantheon is traditionally celebrated with a rain of rose petals, symbolizing the tongues of fire descending upon the disciples.

On the fiftieth day of the Easter season, Christians celebrate Pentecost, which commemorates the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the Apostles and the beginning of the mission of the Church. As US History teacher Mr. Edward Hester pointed out, “Pentecost is significant because it is considered the birthday of the Church. Although the death and resurrection of Jesus is our salvation, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost empowers us to live it here in the world”.  What history surrounds Pentecost? And what are the customs have been established to mark this important event in the life of the Church?

As as for timing, Pentecost originated from the Jewish feast “Shavuot”, which occurred 50 days after Passover. At first, the feast celebrated the beginning of the early harvest, but over time it became a remembrance of Moses receiving the Law from God on Mount Sinai. As for nomenclature, the Greek word “pentecoste” means “50th day”, here referencing the 50th day after Easter. Christians celebrate Pentecost, not as a harvest celebration, but as the birth of the Christian religion. 

At Pentecost Mass, red decorations and vestments are used to represent the fire above the Apostles’s heads.

After the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. Tongues of fire appeared over the heads of all in the room and they were immediately able to speak different languages. This allowed the Apostles to preach about Jesus and baptize all of the nations. 

Joseph Uzelac ‘22 stated, “Pentecost is significant to the Catholic Church because it was the day that the Holy Spirit came upon and inspired the disciples of our Blessed Lord. This supplied these first disciples with the necessary graces to carry out the Great Commission”.

Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit taught non-believers and Jews about Jesus and his crucifixion. In this first homily, Peter told the people to repent and be baptized and, according to the Acts of the Apostles, 3,000 followed his word.  The birth of thousands of believers, and their united purpose to share the Gospel is why Pentecost is rightly known as the “birthday” of the Church.

Today, churches commemorate this miraculous event in a variety of ways. Priests wear red symbolizing the tongues of fire. French Pentecost services include trumpets representing the sound of the rushing wind of the Holy Spirit. In some Italian churches, rose petals are released from the ceiling to illustrate the fiery tongues. 

On Pentecost, Christians remember the miraculous event of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, and our mission to preach the Gospels.  Uzelac ‘22 continued, “Inspiring is the word most proper for describing the events of Pentecost. The very thought of participating in the act of bringing souls to God, of evangelization, is really inspiring in itself”.

The Meaning and History Behind Holy Week

“Holy Week is a privileged time when we are called to draw near to Jesus:

friendship with Him is shown in times of difficulty” – Pope Francis 

The week preceding Easter, starting on Palm Sunday and ending on Holy Saturday, is known as Holy Week. During Holy Week, Christians honor Jesus’ actions leading up to His crucifixion by following distinct traditional rituals. How have the traditions of Holy Week come to be? 

Palm Sunday honors the jubilant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. By the 5th century A.D. and throughout Medieval times, elaborate ceremonies, including processions from church to church, took place representing Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem. Although the ceremonies have been simplified, many churches still have processions. Palm branches are also distributed to the congregation before Mass, representing the palms placed upon Jesus’ path by the people of Jerusalem as a sign of respect. 

On the evening of the Last Supper (Holy Thursday), Jesus gives us his New Commandment.

Holy Thursday, the next day of Holy Week with major observances, is also known as Maundy Thursday. The term “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, meaning command or commandment. This title represents the new commandment Jesus gave to his disciples on Holy Thursday:  “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

Christians also use the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday to remember the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples. During this Mass, a foot-washing ceremony represents the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus. When this custom began, only men’s feet were washed and typically only twelve, to represent the twelve Apostles. Over time, women were included, and the foot washing ceremonies continue to become more diverse. For example, Pope Francis has washed the feet of refugees, migrants, youth, and prisoners. 

The traditions of Good Friday memorialize the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. By the 15th century many pilgrimages were made to Jerusalem in order to retrace Jesus’ path to Calvary. Over time, this practice began to be exercised in churches, where paintings or statues represent the 14 Stations of the Cross. 

Good Friday is also commemorated as a day of fasting to emphasize the suffering of Christ. Although the Liturgy can be practiced on Good Friday, church bells aren’t rung, altars remain empty, and any communion served must be from hosts consecrated the day before. 

Many Catholics celebrated Holy Week this year by watching Masses on television.

Holy Saturday is the final day of Holy Week. On this day the Easter Vigil takes place representing the vigil Jesus’ followers held for him outside of the tomb. This ceremony focuses on the conversion of darkness into light.  During the Vigil, we bless and light the Paschal candle representing Jesus as the Light of the world. Although in the fourth century the Easter Vigil began to be celebrated in the morning, in 1956 the liturgies were reformed and the celebration moved back to late afternoon. 

As Maria Counts ‘22 stated, “Holy Week is important because it grounds you and is the final preparation for Jesus’ Passion. It is a stopping point at the end of Lent to prepare yourself for what’s coming”.

The Meaning and History Behind Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday, many churches process into the sanctuary and distribute palm branches to the congregation before Mass. In Christian Churches, the Sunday before Easter–the first day of Holy Week–is also known as Passion Sunday. On this day, Christians celebrate the jubilant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. The branches represent the palms placed before Jesus’ path by the people of Jerusalem as a sign of respect. These now common scenes call to mind images from that triumphal entry over 2,000 years ago. But how did such traditions come to be practiced among believers?

Many Catholics celebrated this year by
watching Palm Sunday Mass on television.

In Jerusalem, Palm Sunday ceremonies were taking place by the 5th century A.D. Throughout Medieval times, the ceremonies were more elaborate. Starting at one church, the procession pulled a wooden statue of Jesus on a donkey while traveling to another church where the palm branches would be blessed before returning to the original church. In the latter half of the Middle Ages, however, the ceremony was reduced to a procession around the church, ending in the cemetery in order to sprinkle holy water over the graves. In England and France it is still common for parishioners to visit and decorate graves on Palm Sunday. 

Later, during the 20th century, ceremonies and celebrations were simplified so the suffering of Christ would be emphasized. Today, the Passion Reading is one of the key parts to the celebration of Palm Sunday in the Catholic

Many Christians take home palms, sometimes assembling them into crosses to use as a reminder of Palm Sunday and Jesus’ death and resurrection.

liturgy.  One PA parent shared, “Palm Sunday to me is a bittersweet occasion. We hear how the crowds welcomed Jesus as a king, but by the end of the week those same people were calling out for him to be crucified”.  

Mary Rillens Lee ‘22 pointed out, “On Palm Sunday the congregation gets to be a part of the reading, which doesn’t normally happen during Mass.”  Lee continued, “We act as the crowd that tells Pontius Pilate to crucify our Lord. This can be difficult to reenact, but it puts us in the mindset of never wanting to do that again”. 

After Mass, the assembly often takes Palm branches home as a devotion or sacramental representation. Lee ‘22 concluded, “Palm Sunday is an important day during Holy Week because it allows us to enter into this time of preparation for Easter and it reminds us of how we need to praise our Lord, just as the Jews did so long ago. We need to lay everything down and allow Him to enter into our hearts”.

How Did Our Common Lenten Traditions Come To Be?

In Christian churches, Lent is a penitential season leading up to the celebration of Easter. Juliana Lane, a PA NET volunteer, stated, “Lent is more of a somber season. It is focused on detachment from the world and centering our lives on what is really important”. 

One Middle School hallway displays the three pillars of Lent–prayer, fasting, and almsgiving–and ways to grow in your faith during Lent.

During Lent, it is common for Christians to fast, make a sacrifice by abstaining from certain things, be prayerful and practice almsgiving. But how did these customary traditions come to be? 

Evidence of a Lenten preparation before Easter has been around since the earliest Church times, becoming more popular after 313, when Christianity was legalized by Constantine in Rome. The different practices varied between churches and locations. Lent officially became a 40 day time to fast at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

Lane reiterated, “Lent is preparation for the Resurrection; the 40 days represent Jesus’ days in the desert and his fasting and detachment from the world”. By the fourth century, Lent was a common 40 day practice before Easter including prayer and fasting, but fasting and penance regulations still were not standardized. 

Around the 6th and 7th centuries, some churches abstained throughout Lent from all animal products, including meat and dairy, while others allowed fish. It was also common for only one meal to be allowed per day. Over time, the Lenten rules have been simplified. At first, dairy products were allowed for people performing pious works, but this rule eventually relaxed completely. After World War II, strict Catholic fasting days and rules were also reduced to Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the abstinence from meat on Fridays. 

Fourth graders cut out crosses for their lockers to remind them of the Lenten season.

Although the fasting rules have been simplified and relaxed throughout the centuries, Christians are still encouraged to make a sacrifice, or give up particular pleasures in order to refocus on God. Nina Von Dolen ‘22 shared, “For Lent I try to give up something that I enjoy but don’t necessarily need, I also try to do something extra that will help me grow in a certain virtue”. 

Even though Lenten practices have evolved into what they are today, the meaning has always remained the same: repent for our sins, detach from worldly possessions in order to hear the voice of God more clearly, and renew our faith in order to celebrate our salvation.  Pope Benedict once reflected, “Lent is like a long ‘retreat’ during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the evil one”. 


Eureka! Aha! In other words, an epiphany, or a sudden, illuminating realization. Although this term can be used to describe any moment in which someone gains understanding, it is generally used for scientific or religious discoveries. In the Catholic church, the Christmas season continues through January 6th, the feast day known as “Epiphany”. This significant celebration focuses on the three wise men and their realization that Jesus is truly the Son of God. 

In many countries, Epiphany, sometimes called “Three Kings Day” is almost, if not more, celebrated than Christmas. In several countries, children put out their shoes to receive gifts representing the Wise Men’s gifts for Jesus. In Spain, for example, colorful parades march through the streets in honor of the magi’s journey to Bethlehem. 

Sidney Borland ‘22 reflected on the holiday, “Epiphany is an important feast day because it reminds us that Jesus draws people from everywhere to himself, no matter where they are from or what life they live”. 

In the late 4th century, Christians established the tradition of celebrating Epiphany on January 6th, 12 days after Christmas. The day commemorates the arrival of the three magi in Bethlehem to see Jesus. While western churches celebrate the epiphany of the wise men, the realization that Jesus came to save Jews and Gentiles alike, eastern churches, recognize the baptism of Jesus on this day.  Though two

Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Catholic Church in Minnetonka, celebrates Epiphany by adding the three wise men to their nativity scene.

distinct historical events (the arrival of the three kings and the baptism of Christ), both point to the divine and human nature of God incarnate.

Father John Bauer, current pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minnetonka, shared, “Epiphany is the feast in which we celebrate the fact that Jesus is savior for all people, not just the people of Israel. This reality is powerfully revealed when the magi from the east (people who had no connection with Israel and did not even follow God) came and bowed down before him.”

Providence Academy celebrates one last week of the Christmas season with the nativity scene by the Christmas tree at the front entrance.

Fr. John continued, reflecting on his own childhood traditions.“When we were growing up, I remember adding the three wise men to our family nativity display on the Epiphany. I’ve heard of others who have the magi figurines make a journey through each of the rooms in their home until they are finally placed in the nativity display”.  

The feast day of Epiphany, along with Easter and Christmas, is one of the three oldest principal celebration days of the church. Along with Christians all around the world, we remember the magi’s journey to Bethlehem and their revelation of Jesus as fully God and Man. 

Borland ‘22 concluded, “The wise men were ready and waiting for a sign to find the promised child and when they realized this sign they decided to follow it. We should also be ready for the second coming of Christ and look for him in our daily lives”.