The Hispanic families of Rusk County Catholic Community gathered at St. Mary’s Church in Bruce on Holy Saturday morning to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to remember the burial of Jesus.

The official rite is called the Veneration of the Holy Shroud, and is celebrated by the Byzantine Catholic Church on the evening of Good Friday. It memorializes the removal of Jesus from the cross by Joseph and Nicodemus, preparation of his body for burial, placing it in the cloth (shroud), and carrying it to Joseph’s tomb, where Jesus was buried immediately following his death on the cross.

Servite Sr. Cecilia Fandel, a leader in diocesan Hispanic ministry, became familiar with that ritual while working in Chicago’s north side. The Veneration of the Holy Shroud ritual is celebrated every Good Friday evening at Madonna del la Strada Chapel, located at Loyola University. The celebrant has faculties to officiate at any Byzantine or Roman Catholic service.

The ritual begins with the blessing and incensing of the large cloth representing the shroud; after which, amid periodic sung chants and incensing, the burial cloth is lifted high, and accompanied by the entire congregation, carried to an area below the chapel. It is laid upon a burial mount, and in silence, each participant reverences the shroud and departs in silence. A flower is given to them, a sign of hope.

Since the Hispanic dairy farm workers, due to their work hours, had no opportunity to attend Holy Week Triduum Services, they whole-heartedly participated in the Communal Reconciliation Rite and Burial of Jesus ritual.

The Readings for the Reconciliation Rite were taken from the Good Friday Scriptures, after which the examen, based on the commandments, was done. After receiving the sacrament, penitents went to the cross and placed a nail in the metal bucket, indicating repentance for their part in crucifying Christ.

Then, four men came forward, and taking the burial cloth, began the procession, led by two candle bearers. Three times in the procession they stopped and loudly proclaimed, “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One” and the followers answered “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.” The procession proceeded down the steps to the basement, where a darkened room was prepared with a bare table, upon which the two candles and burial cloth were placed. Each participant reverenced the cloth with a bow or a kiss. When all had finished, they silently left the area, and the door to the room was closed and a bucket of fresh flowers was placed in front of it.

The community then said a common prayer before meals, and shared the simple non-meat dishes prepared by each family. It was a joyous gathering of hope-filled people. As they left, each took a fresh flower home as a reminder of Christ’s resurrection.