Milwaukee-area priest concelebrates with Pope Francis for Holy Week Mass

CREATED Mar. 29, 2013

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ROME - A first-year Milwaukee-area priest has the thrill of a lifetime this week, concelebrating a Mass during Holy Week with the new Pope.

Fr. Jacob Strand, who is studying at the Vatican, assisted among thousands of priests at the Chrism Mass with Pope Francis.

"That was a really special experience.  It's something I've looked to do for quite a while," Fr. Strand told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Gene Mueller during "Wisconsin's Morning News."

"There were about 2,000 priests saying Mass together...it was a great symbol of unity...seeing priests coming together from around the world with their primary shepherd to celebrate the Eucharist."

He says that as Holy Week gets into its biggest days with Good Friday and Easter Sunday, more pilgrims may be coming for that than the number of people who came to celebrate Pope Francis' tenure beginning earlier this month.

"The crowds for the conclave left Rome, but they have returned, perhaps in greater numbers," said Fr. Strand. 

"This Holy Week is the most sacred time of the Church's year.  These are the times when we celebrate the Lord's entrance into Jerusalem, His  passion, death and resurrection.  Those are the most sacred things.  A lot of people are coming to Rome during these days."

Fr. Strand sees Pope Francis' example of choosing to live without the perks a head of state usually enjoys as a wake-up call to his fellow priests, and in general.

"It's a challenge to each and every one of us.  The Pope?  You think he could live a higher standard, he can live a more luxurious life.  He's not at all. He's living like anyone else."

Fr. Strand believes that the Pontiff's example is not the only way he's reaching people during Holy Week.

"He's really inspiring people, both by the way he lives - Pope Francis is living simplicity and humility very authentically - but also by the words he's really inspiring us with.  He's offering a great example of how to live the Gospel," said Fr. Strand.

"He talks a lot of about Holy Week, what does it really mean to live it?  He's encouraging people to enter into God's logic, one of self-giving, going out to the other in love."

Fr. Strand is a big Marquette fan, and the team's biggest game in 10 years comes Saturday night (Rome time), the same time as arguably the biggest Mass said at St. Peter's Basilica ever year.

"Tomorrow the game, it's the exact timing of the Easter Vigil Mass with the Pope.  We'll have to take this one to prayer and see what God wants."