Archbishop: Resurrection demands witnesses to proclaim Jesus to the world

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron baptizes a young girl at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament during the Easter Vigil on April 15. The cathedral welcomed 11 new converts to the faith — including seven newly baptized — while hundreds of others entered into full communion throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit. (Photos by Mike Stechschulte, The Michigan Catholic)

Cathedral welcomes 11 new converts during solemn Easter Vigil celebration

Families hold candles in the darkness as the readings are proclaimed from Genesis to the Gospels.

DETROIT — Even the flames danced for joy in the windy twilight as the hearts of those present rejoiced at the words of the first disciples: “He is risen.”

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron began the celebration of the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament by lighting the Easter candle, signifying a new year and new birth for the Church in Detroit.

As embers flickered around him, the archbishop led a procession with a single candle into the pitch-dark cathedral, followed by those who would join him in the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death. As the light slowly spread from person to person, the fragrant flowers that filled the air with the smells of Easter became visible, adorning the altar with a burst of color.

“Most reverend Father, I bring you a message of great joy: A message of alleluia,” said Deacon John Bettin, announcing the Gospel passage during the vigil Mass, to which the archbishop replied with a three-fold “Alleluia!”

The Easter flame illuminates the plaza outside the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament as the Easter Vigil begins.

The Easter Vigil, the most solemn Mass of the Church’s liturgical year, was marked with joy in parishes across the Archdiocese of Detroit on April 15, signifying the culmination of the three-day sacred Triduum following the 40 days of Lent.

Across the archdiocese, pastors welcomed hundreds of new Catholics into full communion with the Church, with some being baptized for the first time and others receiving the sacraments of confirmation and first Communion.

Welcoming 11 new converts into the cathedral parish, Archbishop Vigneron reflected on the role of witnesses in spreading the good news of the resurrection, starting with Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning.

“Mary Magdalene, in the tradition of the Church, is called an ‘apostle to the apostles’ because Jesus sent her to the apostles; he told her to tell them what she had seen,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “They, too, would become witnesses that he who had been crucified and humiliated is now alive, and it was all true,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

Jesus’ resurrection showed the world definitively that “he was and is the son of God,” Archbishop Vigneron said: “Pilate was wrong and Annas was wrong and Caiaphas was wrong and the soldiers were wrong to slap him. He’s alive, and this witness that started with Mary Magdalene continues in the Church today.”

Archbishop Vigneron affixes symbols to the new Easter candle as he prepares to lead the Easter Vigil.

The successors of the apostles — including the successor of Peter, the bishop of Rome — are called to continue to proclaim this truth along with the whole Church, Archbishop Vigneron said, but the most powerful witness to the truth of the resurrection throughout the ages is the Holy Spirit, Archbishop Vigneron said.

“He’s the One who moves in our hearts and says, ‘You know, all this Jesus stuff is worth paying attention to.’ It’s not a fairy tale. The Holy Spirit helps us understand that there really isn’t anything else that makes sense of the world except for the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Continuing his recent reflections on the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman, Archbishop Vigneron said Cardinal Newman once pondered why, after the resurrection, Jesus didn’t simply show himself in the temple to all those who had doubted him.

“Newman points out that Jesus already had done miracles, and that hadn’t led other people to believe in him,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “They would have explained him away — a mass hallucination, perhaps, that doesn’t really mean anything.”

Archbishop Vigneron anoints the heads of new converts during the sacrament of confirmation.

The worst part about this approach, the archbishop said, is that no one’s heart would have been changed by such a display, “and it is for a change of heart that Jesus Christ came and died and rose from the dead.”

Today’s witnesses must grab the right kind of attention, not seeking to capitalize on celebrity, but to confess Christ by the way they live and act, Archbishop Vigneron said.

“If we love our neighbors and our families, we have to tell them about Christ’s resurrection and what he offers us,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “How could we not be witnesses if we love Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wrong for us to be the obstacle to someone who could have known him?”