CHELSEA — For the 2-year-old in the multicolored pastel dress, Sunday morning in a packed church pew wasn’t her idea of fun. But to her family, Palm Sunday was a day of spiritual rebirth — and of gratitude.
Loren Monteagudo held the squirming toddler in her arms throughout the Mass at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, as she gave thanks for her daughter’s life. The little girl had recently pulled through eight weeks of chemotherapy for an immune system disorder, and her mother felt God’s providence, and the support of the church, carried the family through that difficult time.
“She’s strong,” said Monteagudo of her daughter in Spanish. “We felt God was always with her.”
It felt like an appropriate day to celebrate renewal, as outside the church, the sun’s warmth gave the promise of spring’s long-awaited arrival. A chorus of singers, children eating ice cream, and parishioners carrying the traditional palm fronds, representing peace and victory, greeted Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, who officiated at the Spanish-language Mass.
Palm Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent and the beginning of the Holy Week for the Roman Catholics, who recall Jesus Christ’s triumphant arrival in Jerusalem. The week ends in Good Friday, which commemorates Christ’s crucifixion and death, and Easter Sunday, which celebrates his resurrection.
Worshippers filled the pews and stood in the aisles, and many appreciated O’Malley’s visit.
“Today is a day of joy and celebration and happiness,” said Alex L. Zelaya, 68, a resident of Chelsea and member of the Nueva Experanza or New Hope chorus.
O’Malley spoke of Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, some of whom hid as Jesus was taken away by Roman soldiers. The cardinal spoke of remaining faithful despite challenges.
“Many times we try and do the same,” said O’Malley as he delivered the homily in Spanish. “We want to follow Christ but at a safe distance. We don’t want to get too close. It’s too dangerous. Today God is inviting us to be his disciples, to hold the cross with him, and to walk by his side.”
After church, Monteagudo celebrated the holiday by sharing a meal with family, but her husband Saul Monteagudo, 38, stayed to direct a rehearsal of “The Passion of Christ,” which will be performed Wednesday at the parish’s school.
In light of the suicide bombings Sunday morning at two Coptic churches in Egypt that left 44 dead and nearly 100 injured, Saul Monteagudo said it’s crucial to come together.
“What’s most important is to pray for those are suffering,” he said in Spanish. “And to remain in prayer.”