Each year as a priest I look forward to the celebration of Holy Week. The same is true this year, even though it will be a somber Holy Week, one like none other. Maybe your family has Holy Week or Easter traditions. How can we still mark Holy Week with faith and devotion during such a troubling and difficult time? Here’s a few suggestions.
People love Palm Sunday. You would go to Mass like any other Sunday, but Palm Sunday was different. Instead of just one gospel, two are read, one before Mass and then the long Passion narrative. And who doesn’t love the blessed palm branches you get to take home after Mass. During Mass, maybe kids tickle each other with the end or bother their brother or sister. Or the artistic person makes crosses and other décor from the branches. Then you go home and place the palm branch somewhere in the home, maybe behind a picture. Inquire with your local parish if the palm branches will be made available. If they are, see how you can acquire them, and place the branches together as a family. If not, find any branch outside and use it as a substitute for the time being. The palm branch reminds us of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as a King. On Palm Sunday, give Jesus permission to be the king of your family and home.
Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper and Jesus’ celebration of the first Mass with his apostles, when he took bread and wine, and gave it to them saying “this is my body,” “this is my blood.” The evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper involves the washing of feet, reception of the Eucharist, and then a procession with the Eucharist and adoration at an altar of repose, where we would keep watch with Jesus as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. This year as a family, live the Holy Thursday gospel to the best of your ability. Prepare a nice meal together, sit down as a family, share what you are grateful for, because the word Eucharist means thanksgiving. And at some point, during the meal, one of the parents, (perhaps the dad), rises from the table and washes the feet of his family. You’ll need a basin, pitcher, and a towel to dry the feet.
Sometime between the hours of 12 and 3, families would gather at Church for the liturgy of Good Friday. The priest enters the Church, lies prostrate before the altar, and then rises and leads the opening prayer. After hearing again the passion narrative, a time of intercessory prayer and veneration of the cross follows. As a family, gather together and one member of the family holding a crucifix out, allows for the family to venerate it. You may wish to pray together one of the traditional prayers before a crucifix like this one: Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before Thy face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul I pray and beseech Thee to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment; while I contemplate with great love and tender pity Thy five wounds, pondering over them within me, having in mind the words which David Thy prophet said of Thee, my Jesus: “They have pierced my hands and my feet; they have numbered all my bones.”
Holy Saturday recalls the day that Jesus was placed in the tomb. On that Good Friday, he was taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb that originally belonged to Joseph of Arimethea. If you are looking for something to do on Holy Saturday, visit a cemetery, maybe the grave of a loved one. Such an action, recalls the visits of Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene, and others who must have visited Jesus’ grave in those hours after he died. It also serves as a reminder to us that all the dead will rise from their graves. After sunset, the Church celebrates the Easter Vigil, and the Mass begins with the lighting and blessing of the Easter fire, from which the Paschal (Easter) candle is lit. You might not watch the Easter Vigil livestreamed, instead, if local law permits, you could have a backyard fire with your family and kids. And when you do, make it a teaching moment, and share about the Easter vigil and fire.
This Holy Week will be one for the books because we will be unable to gather together as a Christian community for prayer and worship. This year we have an opportunity to celebrate Holy Week in a more real way as the domestic church, in our homes. Let us continue to live the paschal mystery of Jesus, his dying and rising, during these days of quarantine.
For more spiritual resources from Fr. Looney, check out his article “Rosary Meditations for Prayer During the COVID-19 Pandemic” here on Catholic Exchange.
Also check out his latest book A Lenten Journey with Mother Mary.
Fr. Looney was recently our guest on our podcast. Strem it out below or search for Catholic Exchange on your favorite podcast app.