As a mother of five young children, I can attest to the fact that by the time Holy week comes around I am usually in a bit of a state of denial. Did Lent really go by that fast? Then there are the usual excuses, “Oh, if I only had some quiet time, I would have said more prayers, or finished that spiritual book.” The beautiful reality of our vocation as parents is that we are called to be holy within the context of married and family life. True Lenten penance for us is accepting the daily trials and joys God gives. With that being said, I know I need to look to my family’s needs and offer a meaningful Holy Week to God. Our faith is rich in tradition and we need only search little in order to make this possible. Here are some very basic ideas to bring a meaningful Holy Week to your home.
The great liturgy of the Passion of our Lord. After mass, pull out the costume bin. Give your children little instruction and they should be able to reenact the story of the Passion. They will get even more out of it if you and you husband participate as Mary, Veronica, Pilate or Simon of Cyrene.
Make simple crosses out of our palms branches, or just place them behind the family crucifix. Explain to the children that they are blessed and should be kept safe until they are burned the following Ash Wednesday.
If you have older children you may want to consider watching the Passion of the Christ with them. Younger children could watch Jesus of Nazareth which is less graphic.
Monday through Wednesday
If possible, attend daily mass with your children. The best Lenten practice we can teach our children is given to us in the sacred liturgy. If this is not realistic, then pull out the daily Gospel readings to find out exactly what Jesus would have been doing during His last days. Consider even drawing up a timeline to give the whole family a visual reminder of Christ’s last days.
Go to confession, either individually or as a family. Most churches will still have confession times available through Wednesday. It is an understatement to say that the graces received from this sacrament will enable you to make a beautiful Holy Week and Easter offering to our Lord. And what a powerful lesson to teach your children.
Make a Holy Week Candle. There is something magical that draws children to the light of a candle and keeps them from other distractions. At dinner time turn off all the lights and light a simple candle with a small crucifix or other passion reminder placed on the table. You can then recite a simple prayer from the heart, or learn a new prayer such as the “Anima Christi”, or “Prayer Before the Crucifix”. Do this every night until Easter Sunday, at which point you can transform it into an Easter Candle!
Clean house. I’m serious. In order to get ready for the Passover, it was Jewish tradition to scrub and tidy the house several days prior. Think about how practical and symbolic this is! Cleaning house is an outward sign of the “cleaning” done in our hearts through our Lenten penance. It is also extremely practical in the sense that the work will not be left until 9pm on Saturday night.
Attend evening mass together. If that is not possible, consider having your own
Seder meal like Jesus and His apostles would have ate. Read the passage from the gospels of the last supper and the agony in the garden.
Make the story come alive by washing the feet of your children and spouse. While washing, talk about obedience and service. You and your spouse can alternate this role each year. Bring it together with love.
Make a list of all the priests who are dear to you. Post that on the refrigerator and add them to your night prayer. Explain that Holy Thursday is when Christ instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Take some time away to pray alone without the children. Whether it is at the evening adoration given by your parish, or just in your bedroom, take the time to be with Jesus during His agony. Remember, we cannot give to our children what we do not have ourselves.
Remember to fast and abstain.
Attend noon service is possible. If not possible then venerate the cross yourselves in your home by having all kiss the feet of Christ.
Shroud the statues in your home. We have done this several years and it is very powerful to the children. Cover all religious statues and/or pictures that you have displayed. Keep them covered until Easter morning.
Attend Stations of the Cross at your parish or do them in your home. Tape up pictures of each station (maybe even ones your children have colored), and go all throughout your house in prayer.
Begin the Chaplet of Divine Mercy Novena which can be found at http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/mercy/dmmap.htm
Set your cell phone alarm for 3pm. At that time instruct everyone to kneel in silent prayer as they recall the moment of death for Christ.
I laugh as I realize that this is supposed to be a somber, silent day! Yes, we must set the tone for a less hurried, busy day, but we cannot expect our children to be quiet all day long! Instead, make this a day of preparation. Dye your Easter Eggs, set out the Church clothes, do any food prep or last minute cleaning. We have to do these things to make our family life function, so make them all a prayer.
All of Lent has led us to this Holy week. Incorporating a few of these ideas can be a marvelous way to enrich your family’s experience of Christ’s sacrifice. In that we help bring out the glory of Easter.