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Monday, June 17, 2024
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What Easter means to me

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Three well-known Catholics reflect on what this special time has meant to them down through the years.

Margaret Cunneen SC

Lent was a long and arduous liturgical season for a Catholic child in the 1960’s. It started with the grim reminder of our mortality, that smudge of ash pressed onto our dewy foreheads in church.

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Meat was forbidden on that day and Fridays, and the money for that Paddle Pop had to go into the Project Compassion box, and a treat had to be “given up” … until Easter.

Easter, as we were taught, is the highest feast in our Catholic calendar. Relegating Christmas to second place, it is our Saviour’s Resurrection that proves His divinity.

Easter, when it dawned, meant chocolate Easter eggs and a longer holiday for parents and kids together than could be counted on any other time of the year.

Each day commemorated such significant milestones in the life of Christ that the mood of the particular feast evoked the mood of the day we’d have.

Sad and moving Stations of the Cross on Friday, to absolute awe and rejoicing, on Easter Sunday.

Easter is still a time to celebrate and marvel at the miracle of Easter.

And it’s a time when all the family, my husband Greg Wyllie, our three sons Steve, Matt and Chris and their families, including one granddaughter, Blaise, and a second on the way, will all get together.

We are so fortunate to be very close, with shared values, and we treasure each other’s company.

There are enough days off to pray, to party, to keep house and to rest. The weather is clear and brisk with the promise of Winter. For me, there’s time to slow down from a fairly gruelling schedule, this year, of representing young men with no criminal record who have somehow fallen foul of the criminal law. Much energy must be given to these cases.

Thank God, much energy is returned to me in gratitude and love from them and their families. The Passion of Christ is something of which I have often spoken about with my clients. And the triumph and vindication of Easter inspires them too. Christ is risen! Happy Easter!

Margaret Cunneen SC is a barrister and President of the Rule of Law Institute. She was also s a NSW Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor and Commissioner of a NSW government inquiry

Margaret Cunneen, at right, with her family: sons Steve and Chris Wyllie, husband Greg Wyllie,and son Matt Wyllie. Photo: Supplied
Margaret Cunneen, at right, with her family: sons Steve and Chris Wyllie, husband Greg Wyllie,and son Matt Wyllie. Photo: Supplied

Greg Sheridan

One of the things I liked most about Easter as a kid was that it was the end of Lent. We were moderately conscientious about giving up something for Lent and so Easter was literally a day of feasting and rejoicing.

One year when I was quite young I gave up sugar in tea and have never taken sugar in tea again, perhaps the only genuinely healthy habit I’ve stuck to my whole life.

This is a bit theologically unsound, but I have to admit that Easter, though a big deal in our childhood, was not quite as big a deal as Christmas. But I did like the lead up to Easter Sunday, especially Palm Sunday. It seemed to bring the gospels straight into the church.

I also understood early on that Easter was all about the physical resurrection, not only of Christ, but ultimately of every human body. The editor said not to get too serious in this little reflection, but if I’m honest about Easter I have to say that pondering the mystery of the physical resurrection has always been part of it for me.

Christianity is a paradox because it’s both the natural home of humanity and also truly, deeply weird. I’ve always agreed that weird religion is the most attractive—weird being something beyond our experience and understanding, and yet almost there just over the horizon of our consciousness.

The physical presence of the resurrected Christ is explicit in the gospels. And all over the New Testament the resurrection of the body is affirmed. But that’s a paradox, because it seems in the very nature of the body that it grows and decays, that it changes. How will our body be through eternity?

Of course, that’s a mystery, not a problem.

Perhaps you speculate about these things more when you’re a kid, and again when you grow old. One looking at life through the forward windscreen of anticipatory wonder, the other looking back with the wistful wonder of time.

Hot cross buns and ginger beer when we were kids, an extra cheerfulness at mass, thoughts of eternity and the knowledge of Christ’s friendship and solidarity and, on the TV, on Easter like every Sunday, B.A. Santamaria’s Point of View, Vincent Serventy’s Nature Walkabout, and Mario Milano in World Championship Wrestling. A Catholic Easter.

Greg Sheridan is the foreign editor of The Australian. His latest books, Christianity – the urgent case for Jesus in our world; and God is Good for You, are published by Allen and Unwin.

Lasagne or ... something else? It’s an annual Easter question for the Gaetani family, especially for Mark who is National President of the Society of St Vincent de Paul— and of Italian heritage. Photo: Supplied
Lasagne or … something else? It’s an annual Easter question for the Gaetani family, especially for Mark who is National President of the Society of St Vincent de Paul— and of Italian heritage. Photo: Supplied

Mark Gaetani

For as long as I can remember Easter, particularly Easter Sunday, has always been a special day for me, spent with extended family, parents, aunts, uncles, sisters’, nephews and nieces.

Whilst in my twenties and thirties, I recall the total acceptance of a few of my extended family who were not Christian, of the importance of Easter to me and my family. We are a tolerant lot.

As my own family grew, our Easter Sunday celebrations were held at our family shack on the north coast of Tasmania with my parents, sisters and their families.

The beach was an ideal spot for our kids to run around, swim and build up an appetite for the food that followed. This place holds special memories for all of us.

My family—three adult boys and their partners, together with my wife Mary and I—now celebrate Easter at our family home in Launceston. Mary and I especially look forward to Easter as two of our sons and their partners reside in Melbourne and their return home is a joy for us.

We are spoilt for choice here in Launceston for mass centres, but more often than not we end up at the Church of the Apostles over the Easter weekend, including Good Friday. This year was no different.

Food is an important part of the day for us and this year we gathered for lunch. Given my Italian heritage I push for lasagne but ultimately give way to Mary who takes great delight in cooking, especially when the boys are home. I am not surprised if a crumble baked dessert, including ice cream is on the menu

We are fortunate to be in a position to enjoy the trimmings that Easter Sunday brings us as a family but let’s not forget to remind ourselves that there will be many in our communities that do not.

The St Vincent de Paul Society continues to support anyone that reaches out to us and provide hope to those in need.

Mark Gaetani is National President of the St Vincent de Paul Society.

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