While most of us are aware that on the third Sunday of Advent we light the rose colored candle and so we may remember that the priest may wear a rose colored vestment at Mass, that also goes for the fourth Sunday of Lent. This Sunday is referred to as Laetare Sunday, laetare being the Latin word for rejoice and the first word of the opening antiphon for Mass, ‘Rejoice Jerusalem….’.
The main reason for rejoicing is because while we are still in a penitential period of Lent, we are over half way to Easter. Recognizing that we can use a little break and encouragement in this period and also a reminder of what we are preparing and looking forward to. I know some people continue their Lenten practice for all days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, and others choose not to follow it on Sundays, if you were going to just choose one Sunday to excuse yourself this might be an appropriate one.
Another connection that has been made to the wearing of the rose colored vestments on this Sunday was the tradition of the Pope carrying a rose in their hand when returning from Mass on this day. The tradition went from him carrying an actual rose, to carrying a rose made of gold, to his blessing a branch of roses made of gold that would then be given to a Catholic king or to a shrine or a church in a particular city to be kept there.
A final tradition that is sometimes connected to Laetare Sunday is that it has also been known as “Mothering Sunday”. I have to admit that I never knew this, but apparently this was connected to a practice of visiting the ‘mother church’ of the diocese, or the cathedral, on this day. Another way this was celebrated was to go to your ‘mother church’, or the church you were baptized in. For many families this could mean a trip back home to where you grew up where you would see other family members. In England the tradition translated into a practice comparable to what we celebrate as “Mother’s Day” on this Sunday. Doing a little Google search I found out this is when the British celebrate Mother’s Day.
So I guess I better wear the rose vestment this Sunday, and rejoice, we are over half way to Easter.