This is Holy Week, and we have a gargantuan issue of The Bread to help you prepare for it, including lists of things that your kids should watch for in the liturgies of the Triduum, a video overview of Holy Week, several recipes (including a pizza suggestion for Holy Thursday — really!), and ways to put a Christian twist on April Fools’ Day.
That and a lot more is in The Bread, your family faith formation planner for the coming week. Subscribe to get it in your inbox each Friday.
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Sunday, March 29
Read and reflect on the Sunday Scriptures [ages 3+]
This Sunday is Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion; the Mass usually begins with the assembly’s procession into the Church bearing psalms, recalling Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem.
Prior to the procession, we hear the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem from Mark 11:1-10.
The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
. . . he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
The Passion of the Lord
Talking Points: Holy Week
Palm Sunday kicks off Holy Week. Talk about some of these points with your kids to prepare them to fully participate in the events of the week:
- What part of the Palm Sunday liturgy stood out most for you? What part of the reading of the Passion of the Lord stood out most for you?
- Father Robert Barron notes four odd details about Mark’s Passion narrative. Can your older kids and teens guess what they might be? (Click through to his homily to find out.)
- During Holy Week, Catholics remember and re-enact the events of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.
- Lent ends on the evening of Holy Thursday and Triduum begins (see below for more about Triduum).
- Many families eat special foods and observe special practices during Holy Week. Have a conversation (in the car or over a meal) about what practices or traditions you’d like to observe for Holy Week beginning this year. Plan out what services you will attend, and how you will otherwise observe the holy days.
Holy Week in Two Minutes
Give your kids a two-minute overview of Holy Week with this short primer from Busted Halo:
The Word for This Week
Post a line from this Sunday’s readings on your refrigerator or in another prominent place. Our suggestion?
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (Psalm 22:2)
What to eat on Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday is also known as “Fig Sunday” in some places because the Gospel of Mark records that Jesus cursed a fig tree after entering Jerusalem (Mark 11:12-14). Given that he cursed the fig tree because it didn’t produce any fruit, I don’t know why we would eat figs on this day (seems a bit unfair to partake when Jesus couldn’t), but that’s tradition for you. In any case, you can try this nice Stuffed Fig Appetizer over at Grace Before Meals.
The fig tree incident, by the way, was a prophetic action describing the fate of those who do not produce fruit in the Kingdom of God.
Activity: Making palm crosses [ages 4+]
It is traditional to burn or bury your old palm fronds on Palm Sunday…you don’t throw them away because they are blessed. You can also make crosses from your new palm fronds following these directions at Fish Eaters, where you can also read about other Palm Sunday traditions.
Activity: Reading the Passion narratives [ages 12+]
Try reading and comparing the Passion narratives of the four Gospels this week. (Read one each night; take turns reading.) What details are the same? Which are different?
Practice a little lectio divina as you read. What details speak most to your kids? What details are most surprising to you?
Get more help comparing the four Passion narratives from Felix Just, S.J.
Monday, March 30
ISIS and the Cross [ages 10+]
In his latest video commentary, Father Robert Barron offers a powerful reflection on the recent ISIS video of the execution of 21 Coptic Christians in light of the power of the cross. Fr. Barron reminds us that the cross was no mere symbol to people of the first century Roman Empire; rather, it was a powerful form of state-sponsored terrorism. It is only in that light that we can understand how powerful it would have been to hear Paul and other early Christians hold up Christ crucified as they preached the Gospel; they could only do so because of the equally real and physical reality of the resurrection. “The cross, from ancient times to the present day, is a taunt to all the powers of the world who want to use violence to control people,” Fr. Barron says.
This video would be an appropriate way to kick off Holy Week for mature older kids and teens.
Tuesday, March 31
Prepare Your Kids for Triduum
Technically, Triduum spans three days—from the evening of Holy Thursday until the evening of Easter Sunday—but liturgically, it is “one day,” one long celebration of the Paschal Mystery. Triduum culminates in the Easter Vigil, which is the high point of the entire lirugrical year.
As with the Sunday liturgy, reviewing what will happen at the liturgy in advance is a good way to help your kids participate with understanding and reverence. Below, you’ll find an overview of what to expect at the various liturgies of the Triduum (look under the entry for each day). In the meantime, here are three resources that provide an overview of what to expect during the liturgies of the Triduum:
- The Liturgies of the Triduum is an excellent overview of the liturgies from Commonweal magazine.
- Six Things You Need to Know about Triduum from NCRegister.
- The USCCB has compiled information on Triduum, including a section answering 18 common questions.
Wednesday, April 1
April Fools’ Day
April Fools’ Day is not a Christian holiday, but maybe it ought to be. “We are fools for the sake of Christ,” St. Paul said (1 Corinthians 4:10), a maxim that quite a few saints embraced wholeheartedly. Help your kids be “fools for Christ” this April Fools’ Day with some of the ideas in the Peanut Butter & Grace article “Put a Christian Twist on April Fool’s Day”—and then read about the “holy foolishness” of six saints. For even more “holy fools,” see Jim Forest’s entertaining essay, The Way of the Holy Fools.
Thursday, April 2
What to eat on Holy Thursday
Catholic Cuisine has a lengthy article (Holy Thursday in the Home) on the traditional celebration of Holy Thursday, including some great meal suggestions (scroll to the bottom of the page for these) inspired by the Last Supper. Some Christians eat a modified Passover Seder meal on this day; you can find detailed instructions for preparing a Holy Thursday Seder meal at CatholicCulture.org. In any case, Holy Thursday is a festive day in the Church (the liturgical color at Mass is white), so choose something festive to serve. Wine (and sparkling grape juice for the kids) is definitely on order.
At our house, the most “festive” food is pizza. Pizza for Holy Thursday??? Well, why not? Especially if you use a yeast-free pizza dough recipe (get an easy one on Cooks.com) to imitate the unleavened bread eaten at the Passover meal…and if you use appropriate toppings (real olives to represent the olive grove in the Garden of Gethsemane; red grapes, cut in half, to represent the cup of wine; spinach and onions, to represent the bitter herbs)…and if you shape the ingredients to make a kind of cross.
Rushed? Get thin bagels at the store and have your kids decorate them with the toppings; bake at 425 for about 5 minutes or until brown.
Use your meal time to talk about what to expect at the Holy Thursday service, or to read the liturgical readings for Holy Thursday.
8 things for your kids to look for at church on Holy Thursday*
The Mass that the Church celebrates on Holy Thursday, it contains some special elements. Give your kids a heads up, and ask your older children (ages 5-10) to be on the lookout, about these special aspects of the Holy Thursday Mass:
- Reception of the Holy Oils. Before Mass begins, you might participate in a short ritual to receive the holy oils blessed by the bishop during the Chrism Mass. These oils—the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the holy Chrism—will be used by the parish in the sacraments of Anointing, Confirmation, and Baptism throughout the year.
- Focus on the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. Point out to your kids that it is at this Mass that we remember in a special way the night that Jesus gave us the Eucharist. You can read the Gospel in advance, perhaps during your family meal.
- Washing of the feet. The Gospel of John recalls how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as an example of the sort of charity and service they should practice in his name; in this way, the Gospel intimately links the Eucharist with service. Your parish may or may not include a washing of the feet ritual. In some parishes, the priest washes the feet of twelve individuals representing the twelve apostles; in other places, parishioners wash one another’s feet as a reminder of our baptismal call to imitate Jesus’ example.
- Gifts for the poor. The Church has traditionally collected gifts for the poor on this day. Your parish might have a special collection, or collect your CRS rice bowl donations (see below).
- “Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est.” You may sing this ancient hymn during the washing of the feet or the collection for the poor; the words mean, “Where true charity is, there is God.”
- Transfer of the Eucharist. In most places, after communion, the Eucharist is transferred to a closed tabernacle or pyx in another specially prepared place, where it is reserved until the Good Friday service. Typically, the Blessed Sacrament is carried through the church in a procession while the hymn “Pange lingua” is sung.
- Stripping of the altar. After Mass, the altar cloths will be stripped, and any crosses in the church may be covered with a red or purple veil.
- Eucharistic adoration. When the procession bearing the Blessed Sacrament reaches the place where it will be reserved, the assembly is encouraged to remain in the place for some time in prayerful adoration. Never tried Eucharistic adoration before? Check out Ways to Do Eucharistic Adoration with Kids.
Giving: Turn in your CRS rice bowl
Many parishes collect CRS rice bowls on Holy Thursday. Find out when your parish will be collecting Catholic Relief Services rice bowl donations and remember to bring yours in. Alternatively, you can send your rice bowl donation to CRS through their online rice bowl donation portal.
Friday, April 3
Fasting: What to eat on Good Friday
Most of us adults won’t be eating much on Good Friday—one full meal, two small meals (not to equal one full meal), and no snacks in between, plus no meat. (Adults who are sick or over age 65 are exempt…find out more at the USCCB Fasting & Abstinence page.) Kids age 14 and older are called to abstain from meat.
Be sure to have Hot Crossed Buns as part of your Good Friday meal, though; you can find a recipe at Catholic Cuisine.
Six things for your kids to look for at church on Good Friday*
Many families have difficulty getting to church on Good Friday, but if you are able to attend, give your kids a heads up about what to expect:
- No Liturgy of the Eucharist. Although you will probably receive Eucharist, the consecrated hosts are those reserved from Holy Thursday. It is an ancient practice of the church to not celebrate the Eucharist on Good Friday.
- A silent beginning. The service begins without music or singing; the atmosphere is one of sadness and grieving for the sins of humanity and the suffering and death of Christ.
- The prostration of the priest. Notice that the priest prostrates himself before the altar, a sign of the grieving of the Church and the abasement of man.
- Extended general intercessions. The general intercessions or Universal Prayer, following an ancient tradition, is extended in a way that signifies that Christ died for the whole world. (Can your kids remember which groups are mentioned specifically in the intentions?)
- Veneration of the cross. During the veneration of the cross, the assembly is invited to approach the cross and offer some form of veneration—kneeling in prayer, kissing the wood of the cross, etc. We venerate the cross because this instrument of suffering and death was transformed by the blood of Christ into the means of our salvation.
- Stripping of the altar. The altar is stripped bare at the end of the service, and everyone leaves in reverent silence.
Ask your kids this stumper: Given the nature of the day, why do we call it “Good” Friday?
Giving: Collection for the Holy Land
For hundreds of years, Christians around the world have taken up a collection on Good Friday to support the activities of the Church in the Holy Land. The collection supports the maintenance of Christian shrines and holy places; charitable and social activities; schools and educational activities; biblical archaeology; pastoral activities in 29 parishes; and communications and worship activities. Find out more about the collection at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America.
Saturday, April 4
Fasting: What to eat on Holy Saturday
The Church recommends continuing the Good Friday fast through Holy Saturday, in order to make the celebration of Easter more meaningful.
Prayer: The Seven Sorrows of Mary
The Seven Sorrows of Mary, traditionally observed in the days leading up to Good Friday or on September 15, might also be appropriate for your family to observe on Holy Saturday. Doing so reminds us of the grief Mary and the apostles must have felt in the wake of Jesus’ death. Catholic Relief Services has a ready-made Seven Sorrows of Mary service that you can use with older children and teens. It helpfully connects Mary’s sorrow to the sorrow of all those suffering around the world.
Seven things for your kids to look for at the Easter Vigil*
If you can make it to your parish’s Easter Vigil service, do—it is the high point of the entire liturgical year, and much different from the Easter morning services. The service is longer than a typical Mass; expect it to run between one and a half and two and a half hours, depending on your parish and how elaborate the liturgy is. If you are bringing younger children, consider bringing a small pillow and blanket for them to sleep in the pew.
Give your kids a heads-up about these elements of the Easter Vigil:
- The dark. The Easter Vigil takes place after sunset on Holy Saturday, to highlight the Church’s vigil, or waiting, for the resurrection of the Lord. The darkness of the night and of the church symbolizes sin and death, and echoes the Hebrews’ night time waiting for the passover of the Lord on the eve of their liberation from slavery in Egypt.
- The fire. in most places, there will be a large fire burning outside the doors of the church. The service begins with the blessing of this paschal fire and the lighting of the paschal candle from the fire. (Paschal is a Latin word meaning “Easter.”)
- The procession of the paschal candle. The paschal candle, representing the light of Christ rising from the tomb, is brought into the darkened church. The smaller candles held by the assembly are lit from the paschal candle as it makes its way into the Church, symbolizing the new life each of us receives from Christ. This makes a great allegory for kids: Point out to them that just as the church brightens as the light of Christ spreads from person to person, so too is the world transformed when we spread the light of Christ in it.
- The Exsultet. Once the church has been fully lit, the priest or a cantor intones the Exsultet, an ancient hymn of praise for God’s saving work in human history, culminating in the resurrection of Christ. You can preview the text of the Exsultet with your kids, or learn more about the origins and significance of this hymn from Fr. Michael Flynn.
- The Liturgy of the Word: Seven readings. The Easter Vigil normally includes seven readings, five from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament, each interspersed with a sung psalm. That’s a lot of readings! In some places, the number of readings is shortened to five. Point out to your children that each of the readings relates to another stage of salvation history…that is, the history of God’s saving work among his people.
- The blessing of the baptismal waters. The waters of baptism are blessed and sprinkled on the assembly.
- Rites of initiation. Those who have been preparing to enter the Church (catechumens) usually do so at the Easter Vigil, so your kids may also get to witness the baptism and.or confirmation of one or more children or adults. The whole season of Lent had its origins around the preparation of catechumens for reception into the Church.
In some places, the Easter Vigil is followed by a festive celebration; but if this isn’t the tradition in your parish, you can celebrate in your own way at home…or just collapse into bed and celebrate the next morning!
* The explanations of what to expect during the liturgies of the Triduum are loosely based on the relevant texts listed on the Triduum page at the USCCB and the Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts from the Congregation for Divine Worship.