Holy Week can often be an overwhelming time for families, especially as they prepare for Easter festivities. However, it is important not to gloss over Holy Week, especially the Triduum. While some liturgies – in length or depth – may be difficult for small families to attend, there are still other ways to experience Holy Week as a family.
Of course, the liturgies of Holy Week – the Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday – are often considered the height of the liturgical year and should be attended if at all possible.
The Chrism Mass is typically held at the diocesan cathedral and most, if not all, priests in the diocese attend. Such an experience is an incredible opportunity to teach children about the priesthood, why we have an all-male priesthood, as well as Holy Oils, which are blessed and distributed at the Chrism Mass.
The Mass on Holy Thursday celebrates both the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper as well as the institution of the priesthood. Families can take the opportunity on Holy Thursday to talk about the Eucharist, the history and Scriptural roots of the Mass, and the importance of the Last Supper. Perhaps an image of the Last Supper may help visual learners among us enter into the experience of Christ’s institution of the Eucharist. If you or your children have questions about the Mass, or even how to experience Mass, there are a number of books that can aid in understanding.
Good Friday, the day of Christ’s crucifixion, can be a challenge to present to children, especially young children. Still, Good Friday is central to our faith and bears addressing. Small children can experience the Stations of the Cross with Holy Heroes, a family devotional geared toward children, or even Stations of the Cross coloring pages. For older children, or even just for parents, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ can provide an opportunity to understand the depth of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
Together, even if only for Holy Week, consider sharing a time of family prayer, reciting prayers, taking turns leading each night. You may also consider printing off images (or using the coloring sheets mentioned above) of each station of the cross, placing them around the house, walking and praying with your family. Most parishes offer confession during Holy Week as well. Even if it has been a while since you’ve been to confession, be encouraged to return to the Sacrament and be washed by God’s mercy. Dr. Scott Hahn gives a wonderful talk on the healing power in confession in case you need some extra encouragement to go to confession. Young children can learn about confession from Brother Francis in Forgiven, a children’s movie God’s love and mercy.
If you have a prayer corner in your home, feel free to use a myriad of colors on the table during Holy Week: purple, red, and white are all liturgical colors that the priests will wear throughout the week. In honor of Christ’s sacrifice, a crucifix would be a wonderful addition to a prayer corner, or perhaps each room in the home.
Whether you spend Holy Week at your local parish, experiencing the richness of the various liturgies, or in your home (the domestic church!), using various prayer aids to draw close to Christ, be sure to honor the sacrifice Christ made for each of us. His love is poured out in a special way during Holy Week as He dies for the salvation of our souls.