Five Holy Week Suggestions for Famillies

Written by Burning Hearts Team on .

Holy Week @home

During Holy Week, the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of his earthly life, beginning with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. For nearly 40 days, the Christian faithful have practiced the disciplines of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Now the Church invites us to an even deeper spirit of prayer as we follow Christ on his journey to the Cross.

Traditions - especially those children can see, hear, feel, smell and taste -- provide vivid and lasting impressions for all members of the family. Take advantage of all the 'smells and bells' of Holy Week to help everyone in your family celebrate the holiest time of year.

Here are five suggestions for families to use this week as an opportunity to grow in holiness as individuals and as a family.

    1. What do you do with the palm branches you bring home from Palm Sunday Mass? Consider a simple ceremony to place them in your home. See our Palm Sunday post for a suggested ritual.

    2. During the week, pray the seven Penitential Psalms together (Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143). These are especially appropriate during Lent. Prayerfully reciting these psalms helps us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow, and ask for God’s forgiveness.

    3. Celebrate the Sacrament of Penance if you haven’t already done so during Lent (www.foryourmarriage.org/why-do-catholics-go-to-confession/). Many parishes have extra hours and/or communal penance services during Holy Week.

    4. Attend a service together on Holy Thursday and/or Good Friday. On Thursday, the Church recall the Last Supper and Jesus’ gift of his Body and Blood. On Friday, parishes hold services to celebrate the Passion of the Lord; many have Stations of the Cross as well.

      What about little ones?  Can they sit through these sometimes long services?  This liturgy director offers some practical insights and suggestions: Children and the Triduum.

    5. On Holy Saturday, pray for those who will be received into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil. Pray, too, for a deepening of your own faith and the grace to endure the suffering and celebrate the joys of married life.

Additional Suggested Resources:

    • Your Guide to Holy Week (PDF)  Download this great guide offering brief explanations of the history, traditions, and symbols of Holy Week along with 12 practical suggestions for making Holy Week meaningful.
    • Stations of the Cross  The Stations of the Cross are a great prayer to do as a family.  This guide will help you find the right tool to participate even if you've never done them before!

Adapted from an article originally published on the For Your Marriage website.

Copyright © 2015, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Used with permission.


What to Do With Palm Branches

Written by Kristin Bird on .

A Simple Ritual for the Home

“On this day the Church celebrates Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery” (Roman Missal).

“Entrance” is the key to understanding the liturgy of Passion (Palm) Sunday. We enter into Jerusalem with Christ. We enter into our holiest week. We enter into our final preparation for the Easter feast.

Ordinarily when we go to Sunday Mass we enter the church one by one, as we arrive. On Palm Sunday, we enter the church together -- a grand entrance.

Usually, the community gathers in another location (outside the church, for example, or in the school hall). One of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem is proclaimed.

Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.  Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:

“Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!”

(Mark 11:8-10).

And then we “enter into” the Gospel. We go with Christ into Jerusalem. We process into the church.

Procession with Palms

This is one of our most joyful and triumphant processions of the entire year. As we gather on this Sunday we receive a branch of palm or olive (or other green plant).

What do you do with the palm branches you bring home from Palm Sunday Mass?

The branches are blessed by the priest before the procession and often kept as blessed objects in peoples’ homes. Please don't throw them (or any scrap pieces) into the trash. The proper way to dispose of blessed items is to bury them, burn them, or return them your church so they can burn them and use them next Ash Wednesday.

Palm Crosses

palm crossOne of my fondest memories of Palm Sunday as a child is the quick palm cross my mom would whip each of our palms into as soon as we sat down at church.  The palm crosses were a sign of how quickly our love and adoration for Jesus can turn to rejection of him through sin.   Our shouts of "Hosannah!" turn to shouts of "Crucify him!" during that Mass almost as fast as my palm turned from a branch into a cross.

There was another, more practical benefit to her talent as well.  Palm branches that wave during the procession quickly turn into swords, lightsabers, sky writing pens, lassos, and objects of torture in the hands of young children.  The compact crosses my mom whipped out during the First Reading were not nearly as easy to poke my siblings with!

Stations of the Cross

Written by Burning Hearts Team on .


The Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.  

All Catholic parishes have depictions of Christ’s Passion and death called the Stations of the Cross, The Way of the Cross or Via Dolorosa (way of suffering) In many churches, the Stations of the Cross are depicted in stained-glass windows, but other media are used as well, including paintings and stone or wood carvings and sculptures.  Often on Friday evenings during Lent, you can find a parish that’s open with Catholics meditating and saying prayers in unison before each of the 14 stations.

The Stations of the Cross is a Lenten devotion that offers witness to Jesus’ Passion and Death. Often, the Stations of the Cross is an action prayer. Catholics walk to the fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross and stop to pray at each one.  At each station we use our senses and our imagination to reflect prayerfully upon Jesus’ suffering, Death, and Resurrection, and to simply experience the visual images to reflect on Christ’s love for us.

We've listed the best Way of the Cross prayer resources for...

Journey to the Cross: Almsgiving for Lent

Written by Burning Hearts Team on .

It just makes sense

If you've read the other articles in this series, it should be obvious  that almsgiving is simply a response by us to God - a response to the insights we have gained through prayer and fasting.  We do not give because we are required to give or because we feel guilty if we don't, but because we are so greateful for all that God has given us. 

Ultimately our journey of Lent may begin with by reflecting on "me and God," but our prayer and fasting lead us to the realization that none of us are walking this journey alone - that the needs of all are the responsibility of all in the Body of Christ.

In his Message for Lent 2015, Pope Francis asks us to reach out to those in need:

"...we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations. Lent is a favorable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family."

Mike Aquilina breaks down the challenge of almsgiving and explains why it is the most neglected of the three pillars of Lent:

Many Americans today enjoy a better standard of life than any Byzantine emperor ever knew. Central heat, central air conditioning, electric lights, consistently safe food and water, antibiotics, and even aspirin — these are luxuries beyond the dreams of our ancient ancestors.


We are living high, but are we giving high?


It's a good question to ask ourselves during Lent. It is a scandal, after all, for Christians to have closets overstuffed with clothing when there are families who are shivering because they can't pay their heating bill. It is a scandal for Christians to be epidemically overweight when they have near neighbors who go to bed hungry.


We need to give to God — whom we meet in our neighbor — until these problems go away.


Journey to the Cross: Fasting for Lent

Written by Burning Hearts Team on .

Practical Suggestions for Fasting

More than a 40 day diet

Fasting is an act of self-denial.  Often it refers to food, but broadly speaking it is giving up something that is good for the purpose of deepening our spiritual life and making acts of reparation for our sin or the sin of others. 

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff at Integrated Catholic explains:

[Fasting] also serves to be a penance or a sacrifice - for the purpose of strengthening us. When we don't eat, for even a little while, we get hungry. When we get hungry, we have a heightened sense of awareness. If, when we eat too much, we have a sluggish feeling, when we fast, we have a feeling of alertness. Fasting is a wonderful exercise whenever we want to sincerely ask for an important grace from God. It is not that our fasting "earns" God's attention, but by fasting, we clarify our thinking and our feeling. It is purifying and prepares us to pray more deeply.

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