By Laura Kelly Fanucci
“THIS IS OUR NIGHT for telling stories.”
The priest moved slowly through the shivering crowd, huddled around a roaring fire on the steps of the church, bracing ourselves against the biting wind.
“This is our night for telling stories. For remembering who we are.”
His voice boomed as he made his way to the fire, altar servers trailing behind, ready to start the Easter Vigil.
But even before the Mass began, the pastor spoke to us of the power of the stories we were about to hear. Ancient stories of our faith: creation and covenant. Mysterious stories of our hope: resurrection and salvation.
I shivered again, not from the cold but from the truth of his words. Since I was a child, clutching a small candle in the dark church, listening to familiar Scripture turned strange and new, I loved this night of telling our most sacred stories.
Every year when Holy Saturday dawns, this priest’s words echo in my head. This is our night for telling stories.
But what if we entered every night with Easter in our hearts, hungry for stories that would shape us and save us? What if we told stories like this tonight?
My children love stories. Our youngest has learned their power: how he can toddle to the nearest adult, board book clutched in his fist, and demand to “read.” He delights in the rhythm and the repetition, flipping pages to see what’s next, pulling another book off the shelf to keep going.
Our older kids sprawl across the floor each night, begging for one more chapter as we read aloud. Though they spend hours each day wrapped in their own worlds of reading, this ritual of coming together to share stories in the darkness has become their favorite moment of bedtime.
We understand by instinct what we deepen with practice. Stories matter. Stories define us.
But what if we remembered – each time we picked up a book to read, to another or for ourselves – the sacred power of stories?
What if every night held a memory of Easter Vigil?
From its earliest days, the Christian liturgy has understood what anthropology, sociology and psychology came to discover: humans need stories.
Stories have the power to shape us. For better or for worse, we are influenced by the stories we hear, read and share.
This is why our Catholic Mass, rich in Scripture and stories of faith, has a deeply formative power. Over time, as we encounter the real presence of God in the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we become what we receive.
But just as the Eucharist is meant to change every meal we share outside of church, our stories of faith are meant to transform the way we hear and read every story we encounter.
So what if each night, as darkness settles and we prepare for a new day, we turned to stories that remind us of who and Whose we are?
What if we let our rituals of reading echo with the power of hearing God’s word?
I look at our toddler learning the delight and wonder of reading with another. I listen to our kids ask for one more chapter as we close the day with stories. I remember the power of this simple, sacred act: sharing a story that helps us understand ourselves, our world and our God.
What if reading every night, to others or ourselves, could glimmer with the memory of Easter Vigil?
This is our night for telling stories. A night for remembering who we are.
Fanucci is a mother, writer and the director of a project on vocation at the Collegeville Institute in Collegeville, Minn. She is a guest columnist for Catholic News Service.