Planning for Holy Thursday

Besides holding a Seder Meal reenactment and the other ideas in your Holy Week packet, there is another Holy Thursday tradition that we’d like to bring to your attention.

The Seven Churches Visitation is an ancient tradition in the spirit of Christ’s request to “watch with me for one hour.”  It involves visiting seven different churches after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.  Obviously, this is probably not going to work well with your preschoolers, but if your kids are a little older and would appreciate being up late at night, it’s a beautiful devotion.   There are detailed instructions on this site.

The pilgrimage to each church corresponds to the seven “stops” or “stations” of the via crucis that were made by Jesus on his way to Calvary:

  • Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22: 39-46)
  • 2nd Visit: Jesus bound and taken before Annas (John 18: 19-22)
  • 3rd Visit: Jesus taken before the High Priest, Caiaphas (Matthew 26: 63-65)
  • 4th Visit: Jesus taken before Pilate (John 18,35-37)
  • 5th Visit: Jesus taken before Herod (Luke 23: 8-9; 11)
  • 6th Visit: Jesus taken before Pilate again (Matthew 27: 22-26)
  • 7th Visit: Jesus given the crown of thorns and led to his crucifixion (Matthew 27: 27-31)

Especially if you live in an urban area, the Holy Thursday visitations are an excellent grace-filled way to end Lent and enter into the Triduum. Here’s the simple devotional exercise that Romans have been practicing for centuries. Upon entering each church, visit the altar of repose, kneel, make the sign of the cross, read the appropriate scripture reading for each “station” (above). Each visit ends with five Our Father’s, five Hail Mary’s and five Glory Be’s. After this, spend a few minutes in private prayer and adoration before moving on to the next church. Finally, at the seventh church, you can end the pilgrimage with a holy hour and prepare to enter into the Easter season in three days time.

Obviously, this is going to require a little research but it is definitely doable, especially in a metro area with a number of parish options.  You can read about the experiences of two Family Formation families on this post from our archives.  (Scroll down to just below the pictures.)

The other thing I want to bring to your attention is happening closer to home.  At the conclusion of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, there will be a short procession to the chapel where all are invited to stay for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for any length of time until midnight.  Your entire family is invited to participate.

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