ST. PAUL, Minnesota — It snowed, but it didn’t matter.
It was windy, wet and cold, but people piled into their cars April 12 and waited bumper-to-bumper in a line that stretched eight or nine blocks from I-94 to the street in front of the Cathedral of St. Paul to accept an Easter blessing from Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The blessing was extended in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that has suspended public Masses in the archdiocese since March 18. It occurred in the midst of an order from state health officials to keep a social distance of about 6 feet from one another, to work at home, avoid mixing in groups of more than 10 people, and closed some businesses such as movie theaters while not allowing certain activities such as dining in restaurants.
“Happy Easter,” the bishops called out to people in each passing vehicle, which by the end of two hours numbered in the hundreds, perhaps more than a thousand. “May Almighty God bless you, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
“That goes double for those in the back,” Hebda called out, smiling, to one car filled with family members.
They didn’t expect to cause a traffic jam, the bishops said. But their joy at seeing people was infectious. The archbishop lost his miter to the wind and picked it up from the sidewalk at least twice, and joked about it. They braved the cold and said hello to everyone.
The bishops issued the invitation to the blessing in St. Paul in a video on YouTube that included Cozzens saying, “We really want to wish you a blessed Easter Triduum. And actually, this coming Easter Sunday, as we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection, we would love to see you, in person.”
The archbishop recounted how in his youth in Pittsburgh his family each Easter drove to receive the bishop’s blessing. “We’d love to have the opportunity as you drive by to offer you an Easter blessing,” the archbishop said in the video. “See you there.”
Ruff is news editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.