Young Adults Gather for ‘Vespers with the Bishop’ on Laetare Sunday

Bishop Alfred Schlert presides at “Vespers with the Bishop” March 31 at Holy Guardian Angels, Reading. (Photos by John Simitz)

By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer

“I’m grateful to be with you this evening on Laetare Sunday – even in Lent, the Church calls us to rejoice, Easter is near,” Bishop Alfred Schlert told young adults during “Vespers with the Bishop” March 31 at Holy Guardian Angels, Reading.

Young adults ages 18 to 35 were invited to a solemn vespers with the Bishop during the evening sponsored by the Diocesan Office of Youth, Young Adult and Family Ministry (OYYAFM).

Assisting Bishop Schlert were Father Robert Finlan, pastor of Holy Guardian Angels; and Father Mark Searles, director of the Diocesan Office for Vocations Promotion and chaplain of Allentown Central Catholic High School.

Providing music during vespers were cantor and organist Kolbe Eidle, younger brother of seminarian Keaton Eidle; and Franciscan Sister Martha Zammatore, liaison with the Diocesan Office of Prison Ministry, who alternated with Eidle on the organ.

David Yingling, parishioner of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Easton served as lector.

Confessions were available after the service.

Those attending included Mary Fran Hartigan, Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Life and Evangelization; Alexa Smith, director of OYYAFM; Father Stephan Isaac, assistant pastor of St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring and chaplain of Berks Catholic High School, Reading; and Rick Dooley, assistant director of the Diocesan Office of Adult Formation.

A social followed at the parish for an opportunity to meet Bishop Schlert. Alanna Boudreau provided music, and hors d’oeuvres by Boscov’s Catering were provided for noshing during the time of fellowship.

“Even in our sinfulness, our Lord attends us, drawing us near,” Bishop Schlert said in his homily.

The Bishop said Scripture and the teachings of the Church lead us to a joyfulness.

“It’s not the kind of joy a child has opening presents on Christmas morning – that fades. It’s not the joy of not having your bracket busted,” he said, referring to March Madness. “It’s not the kind of joy that’s fleeting. It’s the joy of knowing the Lord is near us, attends us.”

Bishop Schlert said in the Gospel of the Prodigal Son we see how joy can be fleeting. The son who spent his inheritance, by grace came back; the faithful son felt put by the wayside. “The joy of the father is the joy we hope to have. The father loved both his sons, even in their sinfulness.”

The Bishop said loneliness can be part of the life of millennials, and this leads to seeking joys that are fleeting and passing to assuage that loneliness.

“When there is faith, there is the joy we speak of tonight.”

“Tonight our rejoicing comes from the depths of faith, from knowing we have a loving father,” said Bishop Schlert.

“It’s important for each of us to have a spirit of joy, which leads to faithfulness, which leads to hope.”

The Bishop said today’s world is increasingly cynical, and people are divided.

“Tonight we offer to the Lord our joyfulness, and in return ask him to always make us faithful to him … and be the joyful person we were created to be.”

The Bishop thanked Father Finlan for opening the parish to vespers, and to OYYAFM for organizing the event.

“Thanks to all of you who have come out tonight on this Sunday of rejoicing to worship God in the Liturgy of the Hours.”

Vespers, also called Evening Prayer, is part of the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office. In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church fulfills Jesus’ command to “pray always” (Luke 18:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Through this prayer, the people of God sanctify the day by continual praise of God and prayers of intercession for the needs of the world.

The Liturgy of the Hours includes several specified times of prayer. The most important times, called the “hinge hours,” are Morning Prayer (which takes place upon the rising), and Evening Prayer (which takes place as dusk begins to fall).

The other hours are the Office of Readings (a service with a biblical reading and a reading from the Fathers or Church writers or a reading related to a saint which may take place at any time of day), a Daytime Prayer (which may take place at midmorning, midday or midafternoon), and Night Prayer (said before going to sleep.)

Bishops, priests, deacons and many men and women in consecrated life pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day. Their work is organized around this prayer, which orients their daily living of their vocations.

Lay people are encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours as well, especially Morning and Evening Prayer. Many parishes in the United States schedule communal Morning and Evening Prayer on a regular basis.

Evening Prayer gives thanks for the day just past and makes an evening sacrifice of praise to God (Psalm 141:1).