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Holy Week Customs for the Home

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Palm crosses: Blessed palms are sacramentals (sources of grace), to remind us of Jesus’ victory over sin and death (palms have long been symbols of victory). They must be treated with reverence. Instructions for making simple palm crosses can be found here or here. Old palms (or scraps from making palm crosses), should be reverently burned or buried in a place that will not be disturbed–not thrown away.

Jonah and the Whale: Jesus said that as Jonah spent three days & three nights in the belly of the fish, so He would spend three days & three nights in the belly of the earth (Matthew 12:38-41; book of Jonah in the Old Testament). Make a scene including Jonah, the ship & the whale. At the beginning of Holy Week, Jonah is on the ship. On Good Friday, he’s thrown overboard & goes into the whale. On Easter morning, he stands triumphant on the beach (the risen Jesus appeared on a beach, see John 21). A cross on the mast of the ship reminds us that it’s a symbol of Christ’s Church, & the fish is an ancient symbol of Christ (& Christians).

Silence. Turn off TV, radio, ipods, etc. and focus on God this week. Trade amusements for prayer.

Assist at daily Mass throughout the week.

Meditate on the Seven Last Words of Jesus:
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34);
“Amen I say to you, this day you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43);
[to Mary] “Woman, behold your Son”, [to the beloved disciple] “Behold your mother” (John 19:26 & 27);
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46);
“I thirst” (John 19:28);
It is finished” (John 19:30);
“Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Meditate on the Penitential Psalms: Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 & 143

Read the story of Jesus’ Passion: Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, John 18-19

Spring cleaning: the Jewish people would scour their houses before Passover to remove anything that could possibly be leavened (all grains & baked goods). This was symbolic of purifying the soul of all corruption. We clean our homes, and our hearts in preparation for Easter.

Crucifixion/Easter scene: plant three crosses on a “hill”, make a cave for the tomb (paper mache works well) and either use figurines from a nativity or make your own (this gives you more options for soldiers, apostles, body of Jesus, etc.).

Spy Wednesday
the day Judas agreed to hand Jesus over, becoming a spy among the Apostles

Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday
(emphasizes the Eucharist, the priesthood, and service; “Maundy” comes from “mandatum”,
which refers to Jesus’ command–mandate–to wash each other’s feet)

Attend the Chrism Mass: the holy oils will be blessed for the coming year and priests renew their vows at the Chrism Mass at the cathedral in LaCrosse.

Eat green foods: “Green” in this context may be derived from the ancient Germanic “grunen” (to mourn) or from the bitter herbs of the Passover meal

Passover Seder: The Last Supper was a Jewish Passover Seder. Consider celebrating one with your family (we have scripts or you can find them online).

Wash the feet of the ones you serve (poor people, children, etc.) or perform some other act of service.

Attend the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This is the beginning of Triduum (literally “Three Days”), which is one big 3-day liturgy with intermissions for us to go home to eat & sleep. It’s also the official end of Lent (we sing the Gloria!). At the end of Holy Thursday’s portion of the liturgy, Father will process with the Blessed Sacrament to an altar of reservation and there will be Adoration until midnight (“You could not stay awake for even one hour?”-Mark 14:37)

Good Friday (marked by sorrow)

Fast & abstain from meat. “How can the wedding guests go in mourning, so long as the groom is with them? When the day comes that the groom is taken away, then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15). Jesus is our Bridegroom, and He has been taken away, so we fast. When you do eat, consider hot cross buns (use a special recipe or just cut a cross in the top of ordinary rolls) and/or something made with vinegar, in memory of the vinegar Christ was offered on the cross. Eat standing or sitting on the floor, in silence, or with someone reading the Passion

Fast from the use of lights (remember the darkness when Jesus was crucified–& the tabernacle candle is not lit today)

Uncover the crucifix if you’ve covered it for Passiontide (remove other decorations)

Plant seeds in memory of Jesus’ Body being planted in the ground (John 12:34, 19:38-42)

Display a picture of the Shroud of Turin or a picture of Christ laid out for burial (maybe draw your own). Think of it as a “wake” for Jesus.

Attend the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

Pray the Stations of the Cross

Pray the Divine Mercy chaplet or litany

Read II Maccabees 7:20-29 in light of Our Lady under the Cross.

Read Psalm 22 (prayed by our Lord on the Cross)

Thirst: allow yourself to become thirsty, as Jesus did on the cross

Pray through “The Reproaches” (Improperia)
Antiphon 1 and 2: We worship You, Lord, we venerate Your cross, we praise Your resurrection.
1: Through the cross You brought joy to the world.

1: (Psalm 66:2) May God be gracious and bless us; and let His face shed its light upon us.

Repeat Antiphon by (sides) 1 and 2:

The Reproaches:


1 and 2: My people, what have I done to you How have I offended you? Answer Me!

1: I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Savior to the cross.

2: My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: Holy is God! 2: Holy and strong! 1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: For forty years I led you safely through the desert. I fed you with manna from Heaven, and brought you to a land of plenty; but you led your Savior to the cross.

Repeat “Holy is God…”

1 and 2: What more could I have done for you. I planted you as my fairest vine, but you yielded only bitterness: when I was thirsty you gave Me vinegar to drink, and you pierced your Savior with a lance.

Repeat “Holy is God…”


1: For your sake I scourged your captors and their firstborn sons,

but you brought your scourges down on Me.

(Repeated throughout by Choir 2) 2: My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you?

Answer Me!

1: I led you from slavery to freedom and drowned your captors in the sea,

but you handed Me over to your high priests. 2: “My people….”

1: I opened the sea before you, but you opened My side with a spear. 2: “My people….”

1: I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud, but you led Me to Pilate’s court. 2: “My people….”

1: I bore you up with manna in the desert, but you struck Me down and scourged me. 2: “My people….”

1: I gave you saving water from the rock, but you gave Me gall and vinegar to drink. 2: “My people….”

1: For you I struck down the kings of Canaan. but you struck My head with a reed. 2: “My people….”

1: I gave you a royal scepter, but you gave Me a crown of thorns. 2: “My people….”

1: I raised you to the height of majesty, but you have raised Me high on a cross. 2: “My people….”

Holy Saturday (marked by quiet, hopeful waiting)

Continue the Good Friday fast if possible (our Bridegroom has not yet returned).

Blessing of food: bring Easter foods to church to be blessed (watch the bulletin for the timing or ask Father)

Prepare a container to bring home some of the Easter water (Holy Water blessed at the Easter Vigil). A jar labeled “Holy Water” is fine. Consider bringing a lantern to bring home the Easter fire (also blessed) if you’re ambitious! See how long you can keep it burning.


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