How We Are Observing Holy Week

We are smack dab in the middle of Holy Week! Has this Lent gone by fast to you? It sure has for me – but I LOVE Holy Week, so I am savoring each day.

This year my family and I decided to give up screen time for the entire week. This doesn’t mean that I can’t work, but it does mean our TVs, game systems, tablets, etc. aren’t to be used for entertainment. My kids are actually doing quite well. Our older boys get it, the 4 year old had a bit of difficulty but is doing pretty well.

Instead of watching TV before bed my husband and I are reading – which is fantastic because I have started about 20 books and keep buying more.  It’s a problem, I know! But it’s books not boots so that’s okay, right? It would be one thing if I finished the books but most of the time I don’t. I am happy to report that I have completed one book from start to finish and I am half way through a second (but only because I had already read through half of the book before being distracted by another one). This might be something we need to keep doing, at least a few times a week.

As a family, we have also been listening to Father Rocky’s 5-part Holy Week Mission from Relevant Radio. It’s called Close to Jesus to the Last and is the Passion of Christ in 5 parts. It’s not too late to start listening. It is prayer, reflection, teaching, music – I just love it and it has really enhanced by Holy Week experience over the past couple of years. This is the first year we are listening to it as a family. We listen to the first half during dinner and the last half, 30 minutes before bedtime. In years past we have done something similar, by listening to an audio recording of the Bible that I purchased from EWTN.

Today, is Spy Wednesday and I came across a wonderful reflection on the Gospels reading. You should take a moment to check it out…

Spy Wednesday Offers Conversion To Everyone!

I may hide  30 pieces of silver (quarters) but even as I type this, I am still undecided. I just envision a big fight and something getting broken – but it could be really fun too. We’ll see.

Tomorrow for Holy Thursday, my older boys will be participating in a prayer service, followed by a re-enactment of the Last Supper. I also, for the first time ever, plan to do a small Last Supper/Passover meal. During CCD when I was a child, we did one – and it made a big impression because after all these years, I still remember it. I have read pros and cons regarding doing a Seder Meal, which I do not plan to do, but I think it will be a good learning/discussion time for our family to incorporate some of the foods that would be served during Passover and talk about the meaning behind them. This article has some good information connecting the Last Supper and Passover: How Does the Last Supper Relate to Passover?

The Last Supper is also when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (read: Evidence Christ Offered the Last Supper as a Sacrifice via, so that in and of itself is worth reflecting upon, which is another reason I thought it would be nice to do.

On Good Friday, we fast and abstain from meat. My children have a 1/2 day for Good Friday but in the morning the Middle School students participate in an absolutely AMAZING Shadow Stations of the Cross. It is so well done and something that school families (Catholic and non-Catholic alike), as well as parishioners, look forward to every year. It is a beautiful and emotional experience.  Below, you will find a YouTube video that gives you and idea of what Shadow Stations looks like but it isn’t from the school my children attend. This is a condensed version, less than 5 minutes, and still brought tears to my eyes!

We will attend The Passion of the Lord that evening at our parish and Venerate the Cross.

On Holy Saturday, I may try to make it over to Morning Prayer and later that evening, before the Easter Vigil, the Boy Scouts will build a Vigil Fire. My boys are new to Scouting, so this will be the first time we participate in it. We won’t be attending Vigil Mass because with a 4 year old, it could get a bit uncomfortable. However, when my boys are older I definitely want to start attending those regularly. Instead, we travel to my Mom’s Parish for Mass on Easter Sunday, which is always a wonderful experience.

So, that is how we are doing Holy Week! Nothing too crazy but hopefully starting some new traditions that will make this week even more meaningful to our family.

What are your plans?

May the LORD bless and keep you!

When I Met Mary at the Foot of the Cross

The LEnt I met Mary at the Foot of the Cross
Photo Credit: The Joy Filled Catholic ♦ The Grotto – National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother

I have a blog post in the works that I will post after we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord — and I think it will be a great post to kick off the Easter season!

Today is Holy Thursday. This evening will mark the end of Lent and the beginning of the Pascal Triduum. It is during this time that we should pause to reflect on all of those moments leading up to the crucifixion. All the actions, words, betrayals, tears, and the brutal sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.

Even though I grew up Catholic, Holy Week wasn’t really something we took time to pause and reflect on. All of that changed for me several years back.

My husband and I were struggling to conceive, my step-dad, and also a very dear friend and co-worker of mine, were both battling colon cancer. It was through my sadness, disappointment, and grief that I was starting to cling to my Catholic faith – which a few year before, I nearly abandoned. I was praying for the intercession of Saints, praying the Rosary, I went to confession which didn’t turn out as I had hoped (my fault – but that is a story for another day), visited my favorite sanctuary, and started going to Mass more often than I ever had in years.

So, that year, I decided that I would go to Mass on Holy Thursday. I had never been before and I really didn’t understand what was going on. It was long, and there was just a lot happening, and yet sometimes, nothing was happening. It’s even hard to explain that now. I felt like a stranger, somewhere that I typically felt (for the most part) like I knew what was happening and what to expect next. It left me wanting to know more. This was the year I dipped my toe into Holy Week.

Fast forward several years, our twins were almost 6 years old and we were expecting our third son. Two years before, my husband had gone through RCIA, we had our marriage Convalidated, and we became regular Mass attenders. Lent became more and more special each year. However, this Lent was different than any other for me and one which I will always remember. It was the Lent when I met Mary at the foot of the Cross.

I know that may sound a bit strange. Especially, since Holy Week and the Triduum are focused on Jesus, of course. But when I took a moment to look at Mary, I discovered something about Jesus that I hadn’t really thought of before – He is not only our Lord, Son of God. He is not only fully divine — but fully man as well. He is Lord – but he is also Mary’s son.

How often have I seen photographs, painting, or statues of the infant Jesus cradled in His mother’s arms. A tender embrace of love. She fed him, snuggled him, and taught him how to do all those things that faithful, Jewish mothers of her day, taught their sons. There is very little information about Jesus’ childhood – but I can imagine all those moments that they shared together. Many of those things I even share with my own sons.

But Mary had to witness the Passion and death of her only Son. She watched in gut-wrenching, heart-crushing, soul-piercing, horror as her precious baby was dragged through the streets. He was beaten, spit on, ridiculed, and died — all as His mother watched; helpless to save Him.

I don’t know what Mary knew – but I do know she had an unwavering faith. She trusted the Lord with all her heart, soul, and mind. However, that doesn’t make having to witness the brutality against her Son any easier to watch.

That day, I believe that a sword did pierce through her own soul…just as Simeon had foretold. (Luke 2:35) I believe it because if I even let myself think for a second, about how I would feel having to watch that happen to one of my boys – it brings me instantly to tears.

When I think of that moment in Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, where she and Mary Magdalene are taking rags and soaking up Jesus’ blood that was spilled out on the streets, that also brings me to tears.

I can’t begin to imagine what that was like for her. I can only look at her with my mother’s heart and meditate on what transpired that day. When I do I just want to hug her and hold her. I want to put my arms around her and cry with her…at the foot of the cross.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.    John 16:20

God’s Peace be with you!