’Tis the season of Advent

Services abound as parishes prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ

By Dan McWilliams

Holy Ghost Parish in North Knoxville marked two feast days in late October with a eucharistic procession and a healing Mass to help its community mark the coming of Christ that will be celebrated diocesan-wide through the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Parishioners marked the feast of Christ the King on the Traditional Latin Mass calendar on Oct. 29, one day after observing the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, which falls on Oct. 28 in the traditional and Novus Ordo calendars.

With St. Jude being the patron saint of hopeless causes, Holy Ghost held a healing Mass on Oct. 28 that gave parishioners and visitors an opportunity to take part in the water gesture of Our Lady of Lourdes, washing their faces with and drinking the water from the shrine in France.

priest offers Eucharist to kneeling parishioner

Father Michael Hendershott, associate pastor of Holy Ghost Parish, center, is assisted by Deacon Kevin Martinez, left, and subdeacon Robbie Bauman in distributing Communion on Oct. 28 at Holy Ghost. (Dan McWilliams)

“We begin the entrance into November, which is the month of the dead. Christ coming in kingship then will remind us of our own death, in November, and the beginning of Advent,” said Holy Ghost associate pastor Father Michael Hendershott, who led the eucharistic procession Oct. 27 and presided at the healing Mass.

The procession went from the church north down Central Street as some 100 parishioners took part. A procession was called for by Pope Pius XI when he instituted the feast of Christ the King in 1925. The Holy Ghost procession went through its “Happy Holler” neighborhood and passed a North Knox landmark: the Freezo’s ice cream and burger restaurant.

“Freezo’s was closed, so nobody was able to get any ice cream,” Father Hendershott said.

The procession was followed by a Latin rosary and a solemn Mass.

A bilingual healing Mass took place the next day. Before and during the early part of the Mass, parishioners and visitors venerated relics of St. Bernadette and St. Jude and a relic of the Veil of Our Lady as they knelt and prayed before a statue of Christ.

Father Hendershott at the beginning of Mass said that “there are many cures and healing due to this holy water of Lourdes,” citing a Holy Ghost parishioner who had stage-four melanoma that had metastasized and who was given three to six months to live. He went to Lourdes and washed in the water there, then returned home and was soon found to have no cancer in his body.

“The same thing can happen for you and for me,” Father Hendershott said.

Outside after Mass, those who took part in the liturgy stood before a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and imitated the water gesture as instructed by her.

“You’ll stand before Our Lady of Lourdes and ask her what you want,” Father Hendershott said. “Then you’ll wash with the Lourdes water that we have, your hands and your face—that’s what Our Lady asked Bernadette to do. Second, drink some water. Then, you’re welcome to come back into the church. Adoration will be going on. You can come back and thank the Lord for the grace that He wants to give you today.”

In his homily, Father Hendershott said that “Christ comes to give grace today. Whatever grace you seek … ask today, for every grace comes through Him, through Our Lady of Lourdes’ hands.”

Woman kneels in front of statue and relics

A parishioner kneels before the relics of Sts. Bernadette and Jude and the Veil of Our Lady at Holy Ghost Church on Oct. 28. (Dan McWilliams)

After Communion, Mass-goers knelt at the altar rail as Father Hendershott carried the monstrance to them. He encouraged them to bring “all your intentions in your heart” as he followed a practice with the monstrance used at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Ala. Parishioners and visitors also received individual benedictions at the altar rail.

Mary Ann Briggs of Holy Ghost Parish said she came to the Mass to seek healing for medical problems and “also for a lost family member.”

“It was beautiful—the relics and the healing and the mercy and Mother Mary interceding for us,” she said.

Kristen of Holy Ghost, who did not give her last name, is a Latin Mass attendee there and said she was pleased to take part in the healing Mass.

“It was beautiful. I’m just glad for the opportunity and feel blessed that I get to go here and that we have this opportunity and blessed to have these wonderful holy men and women serving our parish,” she said.

She became emotional as she talked about kneeling before the relics and standing in line to receive the Lourdes water.

“It was very special. It’s hard to talk about healing and what you bring before the Lord,” she said.

Martine Mayo, who moved from New Jersey to Maryville seven months before, took part in the events at Holy Ghost on Oct. 27 and 28. She has attended Latin Masses in New Jersey and at Holy Ghost.

“I was here even yesterday, and I was just moved to tears,” she said after the healing Mass. “We’re so blessed to have this. What a blessing because I’ve never gotten to Lourdes. I’ve been to Medjugorje, but I’ve never gotten to Lourdes or Fatima, so this was even more special.”

Father Hendershott talked of the two feast days coming together in one weekend and the celebration of a Latin high Mass for healing.

“We had St. Jude and St. Bernadette’s relics, Our Lady of Lourdes’ statue, and the Veil of Our Lady. So, we would say this was a Mass dedicated to the healing of souls certainly and even of bodies, so we washed with the holy water as well, the water of Lourdes, after Mass,” he said.

The veneration of relics before and at the start of Mass imitated a practice from Acts 19, Father Hendershott said.

“They were picking up the relics and kissing them. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul touches the handkerchiefs, and then they take the handkerchiefs and they touch others, and they’re healed. God uses the physical things to be instrumental causes of healing,” he said.

More than 150 attended the healing Mass, the Holy Ghost associate said.

“I’m very pleased with the turnout,” he said.

Procession of people walking down sidewalk led by priest with Eucharist under canopy

Father Michael Hendershott, associate pastor of Holy Ghost Parish, holds the monstrance in leading a eucharistic procession along Central Street in Knoxville on Oct. 27 to mark the feast of Christ the King. (Bill Brewer)

Assisting Father Hendershott at Mass were two seminarians, Deacon Kevin Martinez and subdeacon Robbie Bauman.

Father Hendershott said the day made him think of his youth at St. John Neumann Parish in Farragut, where then-pastor Father John Dowling led a healing service.

“This is something that reminds me of Father Dowling when I was young. He asked all families to bring their prayer intentions to the church for a healing service or a prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He put the monstrance on a little table with a white cloth and had all the families put their hands on the bottom of the monstrance, and then he put his hands on top of their hands and prayed for their intentions and their healing,” Father Hendershott said.

He added that parishioners of Holy Ghost knew of the healing power of the water at Lourdes and encouraged him to have a healing Mass.

“We had some parishioners who have recently been struck with cancer. Rather than going to Lourdes with everybody who is ill, we can bring Lourdes here,” he said.

Holy Ghost’s high altarpiece, which depicts Christ the King and the four evangelists, has a special connection to the institution of the feast of Christ the King. The feast was authorized Dec. 11, 1925, by the Quas primas (“In the first”) encyclical of Pope Pius XI. The current Holy Ghost cornerstone was laid in late 1925 and the church was dedicated on April 25, 1926. Early photos of the church show no high altarpiece, but the Christ the King piece that it soon acquired may have made it the first in the world to have one, Father Hendershott said.

“The construction of the church was begun before the high altar was chosen to be dedicated to Christ the King,” he said. “Once the feast was proclaimed, I understand that Holy Ghost then commissioned the high altarpiece to be dedicated to Christ the King, thus the probable fact that Holy Ghost has the first high altarpiece or reredos dedicated to Christ the King.”

There is another unique fact about Holy Ghost’s altarpiece, Father Hendershott said.

“Christ the King is standing there, and he has the face almost of a lion. St. Mark is known as the evangelist represented by a lion,” he said. “We have four evangelists up here, and one of them is Mark looking one direction, whereas the other three are looking in the other direction. Mark looks different than the rest, because perhaps it’s to tell us that the feast of St. Mark was April 25, 1926, when the church was dedicated. That makes Mark unique. St. Mark is the lion, and the Kingship of Christ all ties these things together beautifully.”

At the Traditional Latin Mass celebrated on the feast of Christ the King on Oct. 29, Holy Ghost followed another request of Pope Pius XI. In addition to eucharistic processions for the feast, the Holy Father asked for “the act of dedication of the human race to Christ the King to be said in front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed, so we’ll do that at the end of Mass tomorrow,” Father Hendershott said.

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