I've been struggling with myself for the last week, wondering how I could make these holy days stand out and be meaningful to my family and I. As much as I yearn to isolate my family, it won't work for us this year. In fact, the older the kids get, the more difficult it is. They have commitments that can't just be dropped. (Although part of me wonders if it is just the devil making life difficult for us!)
Although I have more flexibility with my daughter, whom I homeschool, I'm stuck a bit with my son's schedule. My son will be missing three days of school next week so I really shouldn't take him out this week. Our schedule is pretty full with sports activities for the next few days. As much as I wish we could skip them, it isn't realistic since my husband is the coach for one of the teams. In addition, we both have the philosophy that if a person commits to a sports team, he has a responsibility to his team and coach to attend practices and games as much as possible.
In addition, I'm a bit overwhelmed with cleaning the house and baking not only for Easter, but also for my daughter's First Communion (which is a week from Saturday). Next Monday is the anniversary of the day our adopted daughter officially became part of our family, so we always try to do something special on that day, which I still need to plan. (Yes, I'm suffering from a bit of the "Martha" syndrome.)
Needless to say, I regretfully can't isolate my family this year. So for the last week, I've been asking myself "what are some simple things I can do to make the days stand out?" Here are some of my plans. Maybe some of these ideas can help other moms who are also feeling overwhelmed right now:
1) Attend Eucharistic Adoration on Friday morning
The church near us has Perpetual Adoration Chapel. It's a very special place for us. My son and I were regular adorers when he was in kindergarten, but unfortunately we haven't been able to do this for several years. On Friday morning, instead of sleeping in on this "no school" day, I'll get the kids up and we will spend some time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament during a time that I know there are no other adorers. We will pray the rosary together, spend time in silent prayer and I'll just encourage them to "talk with Jesus."
2) Read a book about Jesus' Passion, Death and Resurrection out loud each day
We are slowly building up a library of beautiful picture books related to the Triduum and Easter. I'll allow each kid to pick out a book and we will cuddle up and read them each night.
Some of our favorite books include.
The Jesus Garden: An Easter Legend by Antoniette Bosco
A gentle portrayal of Jesus' death and resurrection, as told from the point of view of the animals in the garden.
Benjamin's Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs by Melody Carson
(Sometimes we read this without using the resurrection egg set)
The Very First Easter by Paul L. Maier
Beautiful full-color illustrations in this book!
The Easter Cave by Carol Wedevan
The Legend of the Sand Dollar: An Inspirational Story of Hope for Easter by Chris Auer
This book also has beautiful illustrations. In it, a girl learns how a sand dollar illustrates the story of Jesus death and resurrection.
3) Attend as many Triduum services as possible.
When we have conflicting activities that we can't get out of, I will use Mass Times to find the times of various services at other Catholic churches in the area. (Easter Sunday is a "no outside conflicts" allowed day!)
4) Watch religious movies instead of secular ones
I do have control over what goes on in the house, so we're going to "fast" from secular TV and movies. Instead, we will dig out our favorite religious VHS tapes and DVDs:
For Holy Thursday, we like to watch a movie called The Last Supper by Mirkam Productions. Filmed in the Holy Land, it explains the origins of The Last Supper and how a Jewish family would prepare a Seder meal.
The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus by Family Home Entertainment
The Easter Promise by Tommy Nelson/Christian Broadcasting Network
Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible: The Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection by Good Times Home Video (hosted by Charlton Heston)
The Miracles of Jesus produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Turner Home Entertainment
Jesus: A Kingdom Without Frontiers: Temptations in the Desert by CCC of America
The Easter Story Keepers by Zondervan Publishing and Porchlight Entertainment
The Beginner's Bible: The Story of Easter by Sony Wonder and Time Life Kids
There you have it, my scaled-down plans for this year's Triduum. If our plans change (i.e., sports and other activities are canceled!) I'll add a few other activities. I will try not to feel guilty because I can't fill our days with meaningful religious activities. Instead, I'll just try to grab a moment here and there to remember and thank Jesus for what He did for us.
And I'll try to remember that despite what's happening in our lives, I can always turn my attention toward God by silently praying The Jesus Prayer*. I love the fact that the prayer can be said unceasingly while I clean, bake or do other necessary chores in preparation for Easter!
2667 This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is the invocation, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners." It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light.18 By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior's mercy.
2668 The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases,19 but holds fast to the word and "brings forth fruit with patience."20 This prayer is possible "at all times" because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus.