When classes at Thomas Aquinas College, California, ended last Wednesday, students began their preparations for the Paschal Triduum, the annual commemoration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. Beginning the next morning, the campus fell silent for three days, as students attended a retreat directed by alumnus priest, Norbertine Sebastian Walshe, (’94), highlighted by the liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.

This year, Fr. Sebastian’s retreat focused primarily on scriptural exegesis and its bearing on one’s spiritual life. Participants attended several conferences to aid their contemplation. “Even though the talks were mainly about Scripture,” said Estevan Henderson (’26), “what really affected me were Fr. Sebastian’s smaller points — how understanding Scripture better helps me understand my relationship with God better.”

On Holy Thursday evening students came to Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, with Fr. Sebastian joining the campus’ three regular chaplains at the altar. In commemoration of the Last Supper, where Our Lord instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood, the Mass included the traditional washing of the feet: Twelve men took seats at the Communion rail, where the priests washed their feet, reflecting the Gospel narrative. During his homily, Fr. Sebastian turned his attention to what this episode shows us about Christ and the priesthood. “He loved His own in the world, and He loved them to the end,” he said. “The Word was toward God; that is what it is to relate to Christ; it is the heart of the priesthood. My whole being is to be toward the Father.”

The next day brought Good Friday. That afternoon, the service was held with great solemnity as the congregation entered the Passion narrative. The Thomas Aquinas College Choir sung the crowd’s portions of the Gospel’s Passion narrative, with acolytes serving as additional speakers, and Rev. Jorge Lopez proclaiming the words of Christ. Fr. Sebastian gave the homily, reflecting on the many human failures seen in the narrative; yet these failures — denial, betrayal, death — are turned to great good under the Hand of God. “We have our own Passion narrative. We should not expect it to be one triumph after the other,” he said. “It will look like failures, but every failure will contribute to His glory. Let us live our Passion with His passion so that we, too, may share in His resurrection.”

Finally came the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. Though it rained some, the altar party processed into the Chapel from outside, bearing the light of Christ into the darkened building. The acolytes distributed candles to the congregation, and, one by one, the space shone. The Scriptures took everyone through Salvation History, until at last the nave lit up all at once with the thunder of a beautiful choir, light and sound both at once penetrating the entire building.

Head Chaplain Rev. Robert Marczewski gave the homily, reminding the congregation to recognize the importance of Christ’s death. His descent unto the dead was a beautiful one, saving the souls of the faithful while those who survived Him mourned. “Earth was in dismay, except for Mary. She alone maintained the faith of the Church on Earth; though pierced by sorrow, she did not give into the emotional drama, but in hoping against hope, grew in her faith.” He added, “Flying by faith while dealing with sight, a peculiar tension between confident hope and emotional turmoil — a typical experience of grace at work. There is holy darkness in our lives when we are discouraged, but it is holy because it is the forge of faith.”

The Mass included glorious entry of six students into the Catholic Church: Austin Tewalt (’24), Kayla Wang (’24), Daniel Wanderley (’24), and Gavin Lyons (’27), the former two being baptized and the latter two receiving conditional baptisms. All were confirmed alongside Miguel Colmenares (’25) and Dorothea Bonadeo (’27). With their sponsors and mentors, these six were the first to receive the Eucharist — to everyone’s joy. The Mass ended, and all went in peace and joy to celebrate Eastertide.

Students convened in the St. Joseph Commons for a celebratory brunch — crepes, steak, breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and more filled students’ plates. After dining concluded, they cleared the tables to begin dancing the night away.

The dance lasted until daybreak, at which point students drove to Sulphur Mountain and watched the sunrise together. Though the clouds obscured the sun, still the students delighted at the bright dawn and Christ’s resurrection.

From Thomas Aquinas College