This Lent has been like no other.
On Ash Wednesday, we began with a plan for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But less than three weeks into Lent, life turned upside down because of COVID-19 and the precautions we were asked to take in order to prevent its spread.
As life’s normal rhythms were interrupted, so were our Lenten plans. And we entered a Lenten desert we did not expect to experience.
A Different Kind of Holy Week
Our prayers shifted direction. Fasting suddenly included not attending Sunday Mass and enduring a new hunger for Jesus. We got creative with almsgiving, focusing on those within our home or how we could serve at a social distance.
Now, as Lent draws to a close, we anticipate the holiest week of the year. And we settle into the reality that we will spend it at home, too.
The good news is that, even under these unusual circumstances, Holy Week can still be one of the most prayerful weeks of the year.
Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Holy Week at Home
Below are simple and meaningful ways to draw closely to Jesus in His Passion and Death—all while staying at home.
Set a Schedule
Since we have already spent multiple weeks at home—and the days can run together—it is important to set Holy Week apart so that it feels special. Create a schedule for the week. Designate times for:
- Spiritual reading
- Simple meals
- Rest and recreation, including time outside
- Work (i.e. bigger projects Monday-Wednesday; only necessary work during the Triduum)
Create a Space
Set up a designated prayer space:
- Clear off a table and place a cloth on it.
- Move a chair close by or place big pillows on the floor.
- Add things that draw your heart and mind to Jesus: a Crucifix, candles, holy cards, a Rosary.
- Corral a Bible and other prayer books in a basket.
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Live-stream the Liturgy
Live-stream the Holy Week liturgies of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, through your parish, EWTN, or another source.
Pray with Scripture
Pray and reflect upon the daily Psalms and Gospel readings. This is a beautiful way to follow Jesus from Palm Sunday through His Passion on Good Friday. Magnificat’s online magazine is free right now. It includes all the daily Mass readings, plus morning and evening prayers.
Here are some simple guidelines for praying with Scripture:
- Spend 5-10 minutes settling down. Notice your cares and concerns. Jot down a few feeling words.
- Invite God to approach you. Notice His presence, and enter into it.
- Read the daily Scripture passage slowly several times.
- Highlight words or phrases that stand out to you.
- Notice what rises in your heart: thoughts, emotions, memories, hopes, fears, or dreams. Offer them to God.
- Listen for His response, through Scripture or a stirring in your heart.
- At the conclusion of your prayer time, thank God for this time together. Journal your experience, if you so desire.
Turn Down the Noise
During Holy Week, limit secular music, social media, and news programs.
Instead, enjoy sacred music, such as Lent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles.
Grow in Your Faith
Holy Week is a wonderful time for spiritual growth. Do something each day to enhance your faith.
- Read a chapter from a spiritual book.
- Watch a Blessed is She workshop (many are free right now).
- Download Formed for a free (for 40 days) treasure trove of Catholic content.
With the Kids
If you have children, enjoy a prayerful activity with them each day.
- Read aloud the Easter story from a children’s Bible.
- Print out faith-based coloring sheets.
- Bake Hot Cross Buns for a simple Good Friday breakfast.
- Watch a children’s version of the Stations of the Cross.
- MagnifiKid! is free this month and a great resource for kids’ spiritual growth.
Enter the Triduum
The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum. -United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Triduum lasts from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Holy Saturday.
Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, when he established the Sacrament of the Eucharist and instituted the priesthood.
Have a foot washing ceremony.
- Read John 13:1-15.
- Parents, wash your children’s feet. Roommates, wash each other’s hands.
- Share a time when someone showed you an act of service and what that meant to you.
- Brainstorm ways to incorporate the Works of Mercy into your life, especially during this time of quarantine.
Remain With Jesus
Consider Jesus’ loneliness during this week, but especially as He entered into His Passion. Tonight, spend time with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Unite your loneliness during this quarantine to His loneliness in the Garden.
- Add flowers or plants to your prayer space to give it that garden feel.
- If it is warm enough, take your prayer outdoors.
- Read Matthew 26:36-46 to set the tone.
Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus. On this day, follow the guidelines for fasting and abstaining from meat. Keep a period of silence from noon-3 p.m.
Venerate the Cross
Around 3 p.m., spend time before a crucifix.
- Read John 18:1-19:42.
- At the words, “And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit,” kneel and adore Christ Crucified.
- You can also pray the Stations of the Cross. This will be live-streamed from many places, or you can pray along in the digital version of Magnificat.
Have you noticed that Scripture is almost silent about Holy Saturday?
The Gospel of Luke gives the only clue about what happened that day: “On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56).
It’s as if, with the death of our Lord, everything stops … and the world rests, and waits, for the revelation of redemption. –Walk In Her Sandals
Rest and Wait
Life feels a lot like Holy Saturday right now, doesn’t it? We are waiting, barely holding on. At times, we don’t know what to do.
But Jesus’ own disciples teach us what to do. In the midst of tremendous sorrow and pain, in the midst of chaos, in the midst of uncertainty and fear, Jesus’ friends rested and waited.
And we are invited to do the same.
- Bring these questions to prayer: As you wait by Jesus’ tomb, how do you feel? Especially as you see similarities between the historic Holy Saturday and this unique time in our lives? How do you hear His still, small voice whispering to you promises of a new day, a new creation?
- Like the Apostle John, invite Mary into your heart and home (John 19:25-27).
Quietly and hopefully prepare for Easter:
- Dye eggs.
- Make Easter cards and mail them to loved ones.
- Go on an evening walk and write hopeful messages on the sidewalk with chalk. Place painted rocks in neighbors’ yards.
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