A Sacred Time at Home: Celebrating Holy Week with the Family

Thomas Griffin 4/14/22

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The holiest week of the year is upon us. This is a sacred time – what the entire season of Lent has been preparing us for. A true challenge for the average Christian is to be attentive to the mysteries of this week so that they do not pass us by without shaking us up.

My wife, Joanna, and I have recently been motivated to do our best to make essential aspects of our day opportunities to grow deeper in faith. From taking an extra moment of silence at grace before meals to saying a prayer as we make the bed or wash the dishes, there are certain activities we perform every day that can be made holy by becoming more intentional about inviting God into the ordinary.

After having conversations about how to best pass down what is most important in our faith to our children, we realized that this same approach can be applied to Holy Week. These are days that we will journey through and there are small things we can do to make them set apart from other days. Here are some ideas that can easily be put into practice, but can be profoundly impactful.

Holy Thursday is the celebration of the first Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and a defining moment for Jesus to portray what it means to serve (by washing the feet of the disciples). Attending Mass on Holy Thursday evening would be the best way to do something extra, but if there are little ones at home, the family can add a lengthier prayer before and after dinner that highlights how Jesus offered everything for us the night before he died. We plan on implementing this practice for the first time this year.

When the dishes are being cleaned after dinner, the kids can help dry the clean dishes and a casual conversation can be made about the invitation by God for each one of us to serve others in small and tremendous ways. From praying for our coworkers and extended family to calling family members that we haven’t seen in a while, there are so many ways to reach out to others. Then, once the kids go down, my wife and I will take turns heading out to the local parish for some time in prayer before the Eucharist on this special night. The silence of this evening always sparks great experiences of prayer.

Good Friday can be a great opportunity to pray together in the home by walking the family through a short Stations of the Cross, inside or outside depending on the weather. Often we will watch a version online that takes clips from famous movies about Jesus. Attending the 3:00 p.m. service at your parish may or may not work, but either way, there can be ample time to speak about the seriousness of Jesus’ suffering on this day and how our faith is grounded in real, historical moments.

Holy Saturday morning is a good time to remind our family that Jesus’ mother and closest friends would be waking up to something that can be explained as the most difficult time of their lives. Mary’s son and the closest friend of the disciples, who they believed was God, has been brutally beaten and killed. They thought it was all over. A morning prayer with some extra silence together as a family can be a thoughtful reminder of how real the loss was on that first Holy Saturday. We do this by focusing on Mary, but we also remind the family that this is an in-between time when we are still waiting for Jesus to rise.

Finally, Easter Sunday is the day to celebrate in every way possible. Easter baskets and egg hunts along with spoiling ourselves with desserts are all great ways to join in the celebration. Another practical tip to cap off Holy Week on Easter Sunday would be to pray for all of the family members and friends who have passed away with a special focus on the fact that because of today, we know they live. If there is time in the morning to make a visit to the graves of one or two of these loved ones that would be ideal. Even though we cannot see their empty tomb, we can remind ourselves that Jesus can.

With the help of these tips or other creative ideas, find ways to implement faith into everyday activities this week and be amazed by how much we can grow from making contact with the greatest love story ever told. Holy Week can truly change us, all we have to do is be intentional about it.

Thomas Griffin teaches in the religion department at a Catholic high school on Long Island where he lives with his wife and son.

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