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On Palm Sunday, bishop reminds faithful of lessons to be learned

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 01. 2012 11:07PM
From left, Vivian Robins, 7, Jillian Price, 9, and Sydney Price, 7, listen intently as Bishop Peter Libasci speaks after blessing palm fronds during palm Sunday services at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Manchester. Robinson is from Bedford and the Prices are from Derry. (JAY REITER/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - Humility, patience, truth and service. Those were the lessons Bishop Peter Libasci taught Sunday as Catholics and other Christians celebrated Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter.

This was Libasci's first Palm Sunday at Cathedral of Saint Joseph since taking over duties as bishop of the Diocese of Manchester from the Most Rev. John McCormack.

The new bishop's homily hit home for Kayla Cooper, a 17-year-old Manchester resident who attends Mass weekly at the cathedral.

'It makes me feel closer to God, and that he's trying to help me with my problems,' she said.

Victorine Munzimi brought her twin sons, Sullivan Masuku and J.T. Masuku to Mass. They have been going to the cathedral since coming to the United States from the Congo.

'It was wonderful,' Munzimi said of the service.

Elaine Baillargeon and her husband, Dennis, brought their children Michelle, 10, and Daniel, 8, from Dunbarton for Mass at the cathedral, part of a family tradition for Holy Week. Elaine Baillargeon took Libasci's message about materialism to heart.

'You don't need a Porsche, or whatever,' she said. 'As long as you believe in the Holy Spirit.'

Norm Lemrise is a parishioner at the cathedral, and is pleased with Libasci's work.

'We have an excellent bishop,' he said. 'It's a Godsend.'

The Palm Sunday service is traditionally when the story of the Passion of Christ is read at Mass. That story includes the final 12 hours before his crucifixion, and his crucifixion and death on the cross.

Within that story, Libasci found four points he asked Catholics to meditate on during the week before Easter.

'Think of the donkey, the kiss, the cloak, and the cross as we enter, with Christ, on the road to the resurrection,' he said during his homily.

Palm Sunday gets its name from the palm leaves the faithful carry during the Mass that recalls the Gospel accounts of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem.

According to the Gospels, Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, and the people celebrated by throwing down palm branches before him in a procession.

The donkey Christ rode represents his humility, the bishop said. There also is a lesson in Jesus' response to the kiss of greeting by his betrayer, Judas.

'We do not retaliate, but like Jesus, we simply ask 'Why,'' Libasci said.

Libasci likened the purple cloak Roman soldiers put on Jesus after he was beaten to people's materialism and a desire to fit in.

During the hours Jesus hung on the cross, he was again taunted and humiliated, the bishop said. Instead of retaliating, he submitted to death and opened up salvation for the world, Libasci said.

'It was the extreme humility of the human being's limitations and the certainty of death,' the bishop said. 'By entering into our death, he brings forward everyone.'

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