Dear St. Martin’s Parishioners,
On September 14, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. A couple years ago, I went with two of my nieces to Spain, and we happened to be in Granada on May 3. May 3 was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the old church calendar, and in Granada they still celebrate it on that day. What we beheld was extraordinary. The whole city stops and celebrates, with everyone taking to the streets and plazas. At various houses, businesses and prominent city locals there were set up elaborately decorated crosses. The crosses were surrounded by beautiful scenery, displaying regional customs—olive farming, flamenco instruments and dresses, local flora and fauna and scenes of people engaging in everyday activities. Each display of the cross amidst an elaborately detailed scene was more magnificent than the next. It was somewhat reminiscent of our American Christmas tradition of outdoing one another with our Christmas lights and decorations. In Granada’s central plaza, the city’s orchestra played a free concert for all to enjoy. At various neighborhood street corners impromptu flamenco music and dances sprang up. It couldn’t have been a more celebratory, music-filled, or life-giving atmosphere.
American Christian culture tends to imagine the cross as a sign of suffering, pain and shame. For the Catholic Spaniards, it was totally opposite. The cross stands at the center of all human history as the new Tree of Life. Every good aspect of human culture is rooted in the cross of Christ, as the displays powerfully demonstrated. St. Paul reminds us that after the Resurrection, the cross is a source of joy: “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). When our minds have been sufficiently transformed by the Christ’s grace, we see even in our personal crosses the radiant splendor of God’s glory. We will be able to say with St. Padre Pio, “Crosses are the necklaces of the Spouse and I am jealous of them. My sufferings are pleasant. I only suffer when I don’t suffer.”