Although Christians will celebrate the solemn rites of Holy Week this year while social-distancing, this sacred time is an invitation to grow closer to God.
If the isolation of the grave could not hold Jesus, then social-distancing cannot keep the faithful from him and the graces of Holy Week.
The following are some resources and suggested activities to assist in a meaningful and reverent celebration of Holy Week during the coronavirus outbreak and its restrictions on public gatherings.
Consider preparing for Palm Sunday by reflecting on the Scripture readings for the Mass on the previous Friday and Saturday. All Mass readings are available in English and Spanish, and audio-recorded on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.
RENEW International has created a Palm Sunday Scripture reflection with the current pandemic in mind.
Participate in a livestreamed or recorded Mass on Palm Sunday at an archdiocesan parish or the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. Despite the suspension of public Mass, the faithful can still meaningfully worship God at home. As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, when we pray the Mass, we do so with everyone throughout the world.
Many parishes will livestream Mass and other Holy Week liturgies. See a list of local parishes here, which will be updated during the week. (Send your parish’s Holy Week schedule to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Setting up a sacred space in your home to worship may help you engage more fully in the Mass and other devotions. This can be done simply, with items you already have.
Consider lighting a candle. Set a crucifix or holy image where it is visible. Perhaps place an open Bible on a table. If no holy images are available, pull one up on a phone or laptop screen.
Next, actively participate. Respond as usual during the responsorial psalm, intercessory prayer and other parts of the liturgy. Some parishes provide lyrics to hymns and the readings. If not, Mass readings can be found on the USCCB’s website.
If you are able, sit, kneel and stand as usual. When it comes time for holy Communion, make an act of Spiritual Communion, asking Jesus to come into your heart.
Since braiding palm with loved ones might not be possible, video chat or call loved ones and find creative ways to praise God together. Draw or paint a picture while a friend is on speaker phone. Play an instrument and sing worship music together over the Facetime app.
God often speaks through music, and another way to prepare for Holy Week is to create a playlist of praise and worship music. Free platforms like Spotify and YouTube offer a large music selection.
Share your playlist with a friend. Listen to these songs throughout Holy Week and sing them to God. St. Augustine tells us, “A song is a thing of joy; more profoundly, it is a thing of love.”
You can incorporate music into your daily prayer time or create custom playlists for each day of the sacred Triduum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
The weekdays leading up to the Triduum can be spent preparing our hearts by spending time in daily prayer. This could include simply reading Scripture, and perhaps using the lectio divina method.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown offers livestreamed eucharistic adoration weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Publications like “Give Us This Day” offer reflections, prayers and Scriptures, and are available online for free during the current health crisis. You can find them here, along with other resources in English and Spanish compiled by the USCCB.
Check out the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s page for spiritual resources during coronavirus restrictions here, including a free 40-day subscription to Formed.org.
On Monday, April 6, all are invited to join the livestreamed Chrism Mass with Archbishop Nelson Perez. See the entire Holy Week schedule of liturgies he will celebrate at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, here.
Holy Week is also a time to reach out to others, perhaps by contacting distant family or friends. Consider calling someone who might be lonely or anxious during the pandemic.
Email a thank you letter or Easter card to your parish priests and staff. Post a note in your driveway thanking postal workers and trash collectors for their work. Find ways you can serve people in need in the archdiocese during the coronavirus pandemic here.
As the Triduum approaches, people can still join in traditional liturgies at home. Triduum liturgies will livestream from various parishes — see a list here (add hyperlink).
In addition, below are other activities specific to each holy day.
To heighten anticipation for Easter, the faithful can follow the lead of their church by putting away all sacred art or simply veiling their crucifix before going to bed on Holy Thursday.
Consider sharing a meal with loved ones on Holy Thursday via video chat or phone.
On Good Friday, utilize one of many online stations of the cross. Try a YouTube version from Ascension Presents, which prays the stations using the Psalms. Virtually gather a group to pray this scriptural way of the cross via Google Hangouts. Find more Stations of the Cross in English, Spanish and audio-recorded here.
The Divine Mercy Novena will be livestreamed in English and Spanish, beginning on Good Friday and continuing until Divine Mercy Sunday, April 19. Directions for how to participate are here.
For Holy Saturday, consider making a holy hour for deceased loved ones, the souls in purgatory, or those who have died from COVID-19.
Anticipate the Resurrection with hope by using chalk to decorate your sidewalk with images and messages about the Risen Jesus. This can engage people of all ages, and spread the love and hope of Easter to passersby.
Finally, prepare to unveil and reinstate any religious art on Saturday night.
No matter the unknowns of the future, this truth remains: Jesus Christ is risen, a truth in which all can celebrate and rest in this Holy Week.
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