April 12, 2024

Early Spring over the Jim River in South Dakota.

By Father Michael Griffin

During my second year as a priest, Father Tom Heck, the pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul in Pierre, was gone on sabbatical in Rome and left me in charge of the parish. This time included Lent and Holy Week.

I wasn’t nervous, exactly, because I was 29 years old, full of zeal and energy and alive with wild ideas. I handled anointing services, lectures on each of the four Passion accounts each Wednesday, heard hours and hours of confessions and even woke up on Tuesday of Holy Week in a panic remembering I had forgotten to order an Easter candle.

Father Michael Griffin is pastor of Pastorate 1.

Then I celebrated the full Triduum on my own for the first time, with a few Easter Sunday Masses for good measure—so many homilies, so many details, so much joy. After the last Mass, I was overwhelmed with, what can only be called, glorious exhaustion.

I still had to drive home to Aberdeen for Easter with the Griffin family. I was sleepy, but giddy, and grateful that the holiday traffic was extraordinarily light. It was also wet. It had been a wet spring after a winter with some good snow amounts. Water was flowing everywhere.

As I left Pierre, I was thinking about my first Easter Vigil and how wonderful it was to light the fire and sing the Easter praises, to quiet myself to listen to the beautiful Scripture readings, and to receive new members into the Church and offer them the gift of the Eucharist.

Of course, the Easter Vigil is a celebration of Baptism and the full living of that gift in dying and rising, in love, in oil, in becoming one with Christ and then becoming one with Christ at the eucharistic altar. For the first time I had solemnly consecrated the water of Easter and renewed the People of God in this on-going, life-giving gift.

I was giddy. How could I not be giddy?

I decided as I drove down the empty highways of South Dakota to bless the water around me. Driving past rivers and lakes and creeks, standing water in the fields and water filling the ditches on either side of me, I blessed it all.

I was joyful at the thought of all this water seeping in its slow spring-like way into the soil to bless the grass and crops and livestock, everything and everyone being nourished by this Easter gift of life. I slowed down as I crossed the awesome James River basin to more thoughtfully bless that water, now become a river of grace flowing through the heart of the diocese as it made its way to Yankton.

Easter is a day, of course, and a season. Easter is a time marked on our calendars and the heart of the liturgical year. Easter is also a living fountain. Each year, we drink from this fountain and live again; each year, we are filled with this flowing grace that it might flow out of us into the world again. What a joy it is to remember that St. Augustine declared us to be “an Easter people,” not a people who celebrate Easter, but a people who are Easter.

Every paschal season, we are solemnly renewed in the water of holy Baptism; each time we dip our fingers into the fonts at the door of our churches, we become an Easter people. This is our dignity, birthright and challenge.

We love deeply, dangerously, in the world because we have been reborn in love. Like the James River, we flow powerfully through the heart of the world, transforming everything with the love God has, unimaginably, given to us.

Be an Easter people, and flow.