Holy Week is far and away the holiest time of the year and the more your family can enter into these riches, the more blessed you will be! Each day has a unique character and this lesson basically offers a mini activity packet for each of them.
To begin with, take a look at the big-picture overview. The My Holy Week Story Wheel is perfect for your little ones and you can refer to it over and over throughout the week. If your child likes to color, let him decorate the two pages before it gets assembled. If coloring is not her thing, either have another family member do it, or just assemble it uncolored. It’ll just take a couple minutes to cut out the two circles and poke the brass fastener in place, but seeing the succession of events will help your little one put everything in its place.
Palm Sunday – On this day we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and re-read the Passion story at Mass. You’ll each get a sacramental to take home (Lesson connection with last week!), and this is a good day to make church plans for the rest of the week.
Holy Thursday – The main focus this day is the Last Supper and the beginnings of the priesthood as we know it. If you go to Mass, you’ll see Father washing people’s feet as Jesus did during the Last Supper, and you’ll see that this Mass ends differently than usual (or, technically, it doesn’t really end at all). Watch for it!
These events took place as Jesus was celebrating the annual Passover meal with His disciples. You can learn more about this tradition at dinner time with the directions provided here. (Church of Saint Paul parishioners, email me if you’d like a printed copy of the booklet.)
You may also want to check into the Chrism Mass being celebrated in your diocese. It traditionally happens on Holy Thursday at your cathedral, but sometimes that varies a little. You can read what it’s all about from this 2015 article from the Catholic Spirit archives.
Good Friday – Begin the Jonah Project by reading his story from either your favorite story Bible or from his book in the Old Testament. (It’s short. You can do it!) Then, before you give away all the answers, have a family discussion on why Jonah is a prefigurement of the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Cut out the activity pieces and display them on your prayer table.
You’ll also want to attend the Good Friday service at your church, and check your lesson to find out why it’s a “service” instead of a Mass. It’s solemn and beautiful and an amazing culmination to all the sufferings you’ve offered to Jesus throughout Lent.
Holy Saturday – There are no Masses during the day on Holy Saturday, but after sundown some very memorable things happen at the Easter Vigil Mass. Thousands will become Catholic and many more adults will receive the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation for the first time. This liturgy is filled with drama and things we only experience once a year and you’ll come away with the feeling of just how great it is to be Catholic. (A word of warning though: all of this awesomeness takes time, so don’t expect this Mass to be over in the typical Sunday hour.)
This is how it worked in our family. For the first few years, when we started going to the Easter Vigil, it was a privilege reserved for kids old enough to stay up late and pay attention during a 2+ hour Mass, typically with one parent while the other stayed home with the little ones.
After a while, the scale was tipped and everyone went (sometimes with our youngest sleeping in the pew half way through). Today, we all still agree that this is our favorite Mass of the entire year, and we’ve been known to wait outside for several hours to get a seat at our favorite basilica. After Mass, no matter how late it is, we often celebrate at whatever local restaurant is open all night with as many friends as we can convince to join us. Jesus is risen! This simply MUST be celebrated!