Holy Week @ Home

This year, with the Coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing, our bishops have made the momentous decision to suspend public celebrations of Mass. Every family will celebrate Holy Week in their own homes, connected to their extended family and Catholic community only through online liturgies and resources. Family Formation always promotes enriching ways to live the Faith within your domestic church and these practices are proving to be especially valuable this year. It is our hope that your Home Lesson resources along with the extra ideas here will make this a Holy Week filled with unique blessings.

Preparing

Painter’s tape or washi tape and washable paints

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is our entrance into Holy Week along with Jesus as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people shout Hosanna!

CELEBRATING AT HOME

  • This year, to avoid spreading the virus on the surface of palms, the Vatican has asked parishes to omit their blessing and distribution, but that doesn’t mean you should omit your Palm Sunday procession. One of the readings of the day says: “The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road.”

    Does that spark an idea? We are all used to the tradition of palms, but in other parts of the world parishes use whatever greenery is readily available. Do you have access to ferns? Pine or other leafy branches? You might even have some palms in your house from last year, or you could print this page for your little ones to color. UPDATE: This coloring page has more details and would work better with kids who are a little older. Any of these would be a great substitute to convey the spirit of the day. Hosanna!
  • Today’s liturgical color is red. Dress your priest paper doll and your family prayer center appropriately.

Holy Thursday

Lent actually ends at sundown on Holy Thursday when we celebrate the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Today, we remember the Last Supper and the roots of both the Eucharist and the priesthood.  We recall Christ’s washing of the disciples’ feet in tender humility, the betrayal by Judas, and the agony in the garden.  The Holy Eucharist is transferred out of the tabernacle and put away for Good Friday.  The altar is stripped.  The cross is removed.  A period of constant prayer and fasting begins.  A vigil is kept until midnight when the Blessed Sacrament is removed.  (This vigil reminds us of waiting in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with Jesus.)  At Holy Thursday Masses you will see these things:

  • Feet are washed in remembrance of Christ’s humble service (this will be omitted in most parish Masses this year)
  • We remember the institution of the Eucharist
  • We remember the institution of the sacrament of Holy Orders
  • The altar (a symbol of Christ) is stripped.

CELEBRATING AT HOME

  • Start with pages 1-3 in your Triduum and Easter Home Lesson.
  • Plan in advance to find a broadcast of this liturgy for your family to watch.
  • Today’s liturgical color is white. Dress your priest paper doll and family prayer center appropriately.
  • Hold your own family foot-washing ceremony by reading this day’s Gospel and reflecting on the ways you serve one another. This could be an especially beautiful custom this year as you are, no doubt, serving one another in new and perhaps more intense ways while you’re all home together.
  • Remember the events surrounding the Last Supper with this special meal.
  • To remember the altar being stripped, after Mass strip your own family altar and cover or remove all holy images from your home.
  • If you’ve been to this Mass in the past, you may remember that one of the most moving moments is the solemn procession at the end. Consider spending some time in a silent space of your home by candlelight in remembrance of keeping watch with our Lord into the night.
  • After Mass, sing or listen to Tantum Ergo or Pange Lingua together.
  • UPDATE: Tenebrae is part of the Liturgy of the Hours during the Triduum involving the reading of Psalms, music, and growing darkness as candles are extinguished. It all culminates in the strepitus – making loud banging noises to represent the earthquake after Christ’s death. If you ever get the chance to attend Tenebrae, don’t pass it up! Until then, you can find a family-friendly version here.

Good Friday

The second day of the Triduum is Good Friday, the day of our Lord’s Passion.  If you were to go to church today, you would find the Tabernacle empty as we commemorate Jesus’ dying on the cross.  This day, along with Ash Wednesday, are the two days of universal fasting and abstinence.  

Priests do not say Mass on this day, but we are all encouraged to “attend” a Good Friday service.  The service is a simple one where the story of Jesus’ death is read from the Gospel of John.  There are also prayers for the needs of the Church and the world.  We venerate the cross.  The Holy Communion received was consecrated on Holy Thursday.

Note: There is no Mass anywhere in the world on Good Friday.  There is no opening (greeting) or closing to this service as it is a continuation of Holy Thursday. There are three parts to this service:

CELEBRATING AT HOME

  • Start with pages 4-5 in your Home Lesson.
  • Plan in advance to find a livestreamed Good Friday service to watch.
    • Listen for a significant change: “At the conclusion of the usual ten Solemn Intercessions for various needs of the faithful and of the world, the Holy See has asked all bishops to add a special eleventh intention ‘for the sick, the dead, and for all who feel lost or dismayed’ amidst the pandemic. The wording will vary from diocese to diocese, but all the faithful can anticipate that moment of extraordinary solidarity.”
  • Today’s liturgical color is red. Dress your priest paper doll and family prayer center appropriately.
  • This is the perfect day to pray the Stations of the Cross together. You can find an online version of your Family Formation booklet here.
  • Do you have a crucifix at home? Your family can venerate this cross while at home. You could even cover it with a cloth (ideally purple) and unveil it at the proper time.
    • If your kids are too little to stay up to watch this entire liturgy online, consider just reading Psalm 22 together (or even just the first verses) and sitting quietly together with a crucifix.
  • You should have a pamphlet detailing the Divine Mercy Novena in your April Home Lesson packet. This novena traditionally begins today at 3:00 (the Hour of Mercy). You can also find the novena here.

Holy Saturday

This is a day of prayer and joyful expectation as Christians await the celebration of the Easter Vigil.  Described by Saint Augustine as “the mother of all vigils,” Holy Saturday’s rich symbolism and dramatic liturgical elements truly celebrate its place as the holiest night of the year.

During this vigil, the blessing of the fire and the lighting of the Easter candle take place.  The Paschal candle is lit as we celebrate Jesus’ presence among us again!  We sing “Alleluia” again, after abstaining from that word of praise through all of Lent.  We hear Scriptures that lead us through God’s great plan of salvation, culminating in those telling us that Jesus has risen from the dead.  Those joining the Catholic Church are initiated this night, and we all renew our Baptismal promises.  Finally, we are again able to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Note: There are four main parts to this Mass:

  • Service of Light
  • Liturgy of the Word
  • Liturgy of Baptism
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist

CELEBRATING AT HOME

Easter!

The celebration of the Resurrection of Christ is the highest Holy Day of the year –the “Feast of feasts,” the “Solemnity of solemnities,” “the Great Sunday.” The season of Easter begins at the Easter Vigil and continues for 50 days of celebration and thanksgiving.

CELEBRATING AT HOME

  • Look at the remainder of your Home Lesson.
  • Plan in advance and find a livestream Mass your family can watch. Perhaps you can watch remotely with extended family members, giving some sense of being together. You can watch the Holy Father’s Easter Mass from Rome here.
  • Today’s liturgical color is white (and gold). Dress your priest paper doll and your family altar in the appropriate colors and if you have some way to get flowers, add them to your home.
  • Uncover the Alleluia that you buried at the beginning of Lent and sing or shout Alleluias throughout the season!
  • This is also a day to renew Baptismal promises, so if you didn’t do it yesterday, this is the time.
  • Listen to the Church of Saint Paul Easter Praise! playlist on Spotify.
  • Start to think of ways you can continue your Easter celebration for 49 more days!

And finally, it’s good to acknowledge this:

There is no denying that this Holy Week will leave us wanting. Nothing can replace the incarnational quality of physically gathering to celebrate the liturgy and the sacraments. Yet beyond the virtual connections we are navigating, our communion as the Body of Christ remains very real. We know the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass continues, and that God always offers us an adequate source of grace.

The liturgy is meant to equip us to spread the joy of the Gospel out beyond the church doors, to wherever we are in the world. Our mission is not ended, and the words of Pope St. John Paul II are no less true: “We are an Easter People and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!”

Thanks to Brian MacMichael for some of these ideas on Active Participation from Afar.

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