What happened to Laetare Sunday this year? We attended Mass, as usual. Father wore purple vestments as is appropriate during Lent . . . but a look at the prayer book and the calendar reflected the fact that it was Laetare Sunday . . . and no mention happened before, during, or after Mass.
Although Latin is still the official language of the Catholic Church, the Novus Ordo has taken over and Latin words in the Mass are usually few and far between. However, on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the day is referred to Laetare Sunday. Laetare means “Rejoice” in Latin. The Introit is Isaiah 66:10-11, “Rejoice, O Jerusalem” or, in Latin, “Laetare, Jerusalem”. In honor of this moment of joy in the Lenten Season, purple vestments and altar cloths are replaced with rose ones and there is a spirit of joy in the air before the final onset of Lent with the Passion and Crucifixion. Even in our homes, it is a time to lighten up on our Lenten offerings.
At Mass, this didn’t seem to take effect. The sermon was fine but no mention of the day. The church was, as always, decked out in it’s best . . . but not a rose vestment in sight. It was kind of a flat line in what should have been a lift in Lenten spirits.
It did remind me of a story about Laetare Sunday in a friend’s parish. They had an elderly priest who loved Laetare Sunday and he had a favorite vestment he looked forward to wearing every year . . . in a very pink shade of pink. No subtle rose vestments for him. The ladies of the Altar Society dreaded ‘pink Sunday’ every year so decided to do something about it. They ordered a beautiful, handwoven vestment in a very liturgical shade of rose and substituted it for the very pink one in the sacristy. Well, the priest wasn’t happy but wore what was on hand – the new, rose one – and celebrated Laetare Sunday in proper form. He retired the next year due to failing health and resided in a rest home. My friend developed such a sense of guilt that she went out and purchased some ‘very pink satin fabric and sewed the him a gorgeous bathrobe to wear. And, wear he did and quite happily. Since he was now wheelchair bound, it was his favorite attire day in and day out. My friend asked him how things were going when she visited him and saw him in his robe. He said things were fine but people kept looked askance at his new robe. My friend asked if that was a problem. He replied, “No, they are just a toffee-nosed* bunch and jealous!”
*People who are toffee-nosed consider themselves to be better than other people…