Photo by Mrs. Kristine Bacich
Dressed up in her Sunday best, Cathedral Catholic High School student Lucy Bacich ’22 stands beside her siblings to celebrate Mass, but rather than sitting down in a pew, she sits on her living room couch.
“Our normal traditions for Holy Week are to go to Mass on Holy Thursday, Good Friday service, and Easter Mass,” Bacich said. “This year, we will be celebrating these days by watching Mass and watching the services as much as possible.”
Holy Week is back again, and while the most sacred week of the year in the Church has many unique traditions, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can feel particularly difficult to prepare your heart for Christ’s resurrection on Easter this year. Due to the California stay-at-home order, Catholics have had to go without weekly Mass, leaving many, like Bacich, worried Easter will not have as great of an impact this year.
In a time of social distancing and distance learning, Churches have been forced to find a place for distance ministry in order to keep people connected.
“I think that our online ministry has been far more successful than anything we could have ever imagined,” St. Thérèse of Carmel Youth Minister Mr. Harrison Trubitt said. “It is so cool to see that the Holy Spirit cannot be stopped by anything.”
Through various online events, such as online Praise and Worship nights over Zoom, Netflix Party Movie Nights, virtual lunch clubs with students from more than 10 high school campuses represented, and YouTube Confirmation lessons with Zoom Small Groups, St. Thérèse of Carmel Youth Ministry has worked to make sure teens feel as though they are not alone.
“I think we have successfully reminded and encouraged our community that we are doing everything we can to be available and that they are constantly loved by us and by God,” Mr. Trubitt said. “Going into Holy Week this year, I think that the best advice I have to offer is this – don’t lose hope. This whole week is one that reminds of multiple times that Jesus and his followers experienced a lot of pain, a lot of isolation, and a lot of hopelessness.”
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which celebrates Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, and features the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter.
Every Palm Sunday the Passion of the Lord is read from the Gospel, so that everyone hears the story that is the foundation of the faith and the lead up to Easter. Palm Sunday is named as such because the Church holds palms to welcome the priest into the Mass, as the people of Jerusalem welcomed Christ the week before they crucified Him. Because they are blessed, they cannot be simply thrown out. They may be kept or returned to the Church to become ashes for next Ash Wednesday.
Palms kept from the previous year can be used to celebrate at home this year, and they can be held for the procession the same way one would in Mass. If palms are not on hand, the abundant San Diego palm trees, or any leafy branch, will suffice to greet the Lord for Holy Week.
After Palm Sunday, the Triduum begins Thursday night.
The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum, from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten season and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil.
Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the sacrament of Communion, as well as sacramental priesthood. It is also the Mass most well-known for the ceremonial washing of the feet, which replicated the way Jesus washed His disciples feet at the Last Supper.
While most Catholics cannot attend Mass and have the priest ceremonially wash parishioners’ feet, Catholics can watch Mass at home and wash their family members’ feet in a similar way.
Good Friday, the day remembered as Jesus’ crucifixion and death, is a traditionally somber and reflective day. Eighteen-year-olds or older are expected to fast, which the Church generally outlines as one large meal and two small meals, as well as abstain from meat, like every other Lenten Friday. From 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Catholics must be silent, somber, and prayerful because the Church believes Jesus died around that time.
The events of Good Friday are often commemorated with the Stations of the Cross, a 14-step devotion and veneration of the Cross. Luckily, this is easily done at home. CCHS Mission and Ministry will be live-streaming a Google Meet reflection of the Stations of the Cross at 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday.
Holy Saturday is a day of silent waiting for Jesus’s resurrection, and Catholics reflect on the events of Good Friday and look to the joy of Easter.
Good Friday is and should be the most calm and quiet day of the entire Church year, a day broken by no liturgical function, according to CatholicCulture.org, a non-profit (501(c)3) corporation, whose mission is to give faithful Catholics the information, encouragement, and perspective they need to become an active force for renewal in the Church and in society.
While unfortunately, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults catechumens must wait to receive their sacraments, Catholics can still watch an Easter Vigil Mass at home with their families, despite the less-than-ideal circumstances.
“We are not controlled or defined any more by suffering, hurt, or even death,” Mr. Trubitt said. “Instead, we are a people defined by hope. So, if you are struggling right now–maybe you feel hopeless or that this suffering will not ever end–be reminded that the morning of Easter Sunday is coming. Our hope is rooted and defined in Christ and built into our bones and being.”
Easter Sunday will look very different this year, and while some find it disappointing to not be able to gather with extended family, celebrate Mass, or frankly just leave the house, Catholics still can rejoice in the Savior’s resurrection. Easter Mass is a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation, and while the living room may not have the same charm as a Church, the Mass can still serve as a joyous celebration.
“It’s sad that I’m not going to be able to go to Mass and be with my Parish to commemorate the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Savior,” Bacich said, “but I know that even though I may not be able to physically be in a church, or physically be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, God will still be with me. Honestly, this weird time of dryness because of not being able to receive Jesus is a really good opportunity for us to partake in Christ’s suffering this week and be united with him in his passion and death.”
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.