In light of the strange events that will cause mass amounts of Catholic faithful to enter into the holiest days of the year without access to a church, we are publishing an excerpt from our April edition of our Liturgical Look-Ahead email service below, so anyone (not just our subscribers) can access it and read about our Church's beautiful traditions for this month and how to celebrate them at home. View the entire April edition here. Subscribe to this free, once-a-month email service here.
Important Dates for April
Passion Week (through April 4)
Passion Week begins a time of increased fasting and almsgiving that will continue through Holy Saturday (both Passion Week and Holy Week compose Passiontide). It would be great to plan a charitable activity as a family for this week, be it anything from a family trip to the soup kitchen or compiling one or two favorite toys to give to those in need. Read more about Passion Week & Holy Week spent in quarantine here.
Seven Sorrows (April 3)
Today make sure you pray 7 Hail Marys for Our Lady's seven sorrows. You can find a short, beautiful meditation for each one here. (While you're there, check out the promises for those who do this every day—today would be a great day to begin that short, daily devotional!) Another traditional thing to do as a family is to sing the Stabat Mater and to make your own Viat Mater—this is like the Way of the Cross, but based on Our Lady's seven sorrows. Assign a child one or two of her sorrows and have them illustrate it on some construction paper. Hang them around the house and all walk through, stopping at each one to pray an Ave and read a short meditation.
Palm Sunday (April 5)
There are a couple of things to do with the palms you receive today (and hopefully you are able to receive one!). You can hang them over crucifixes and holy images, place one in a sick call set, weave it into a cross or something beautiful to display (a great quarantine craft!), or set aside a piece of one to burn (while praying to St. Barbara) for relief in times of storms or natural disasters (an Italian and French custom). If you want something to do with last year's palms to make room (and your parish doesn't ask for them to burn for Ash Wednesday), bury a piece in the four corners of your property for protection. As for food, the customary food to eat for Palm Sunday is figs.
Holy Week (April 6 through 11)
Traditionally, this is not only a time to increase Lenten penances, but many used to abstain from all servile labor this week (it used to be obligatory). This week there was a total suspension of ordinary routine, and that time was normally spent in prayer at the church, where people would keep long vigils. Consider making this week as special as you can by removing unnecessary work and entertainment and picking up extra prayers and readings (the Divine Office would be good here) and visiting the Blessed Sacrament where possible. This is also a time (on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) to get the house spotless for Easter so that the Triduum can be completely focused on prayer.
Spy Wednesday (April 8)
Tonight begins the haunting Tenebrae services, where the next day's Matin and Lauds are sung in a kind of funeral service for Our Lord. If you can't get to one in person, there are lots to watch online as a family.
Maundy Thursday (April 9)
An old folk's tale that would be fun for children begins today. After the bells ring at Mass for the Gloria (the last time they will be rung until Easter), they all fly away to Rome to visit the Pope, staying on top of St. Peter's. When they return on Easter, ringing wildly, they bring back decorated Easter Eggs (these could appear in your children's Easter baskets.) Today also begins the custom of visiting seven Tabernacles (each in a different church) from now until Holy Saturday. This would be a great activity to do if the family seems to be going stir crazy—you could even do it if you are unable to get out of the car (if the church is locked). Just park as close to the Tabernacle as you can and spend a little time in prayer before leaving for the next one. Remember that the idea of this tradition is to keep vigil with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, a good thing to remind your children of. Finally, recite a Tantum Ergo today for a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions (new conditions that temporarily apply can be found here).
Good Friday (April 10)
Today has an air of somber silence. If you can't get to any church services, here's what you can do at home. It's tradition to wear black today, a great reminder of today's importance for those quarantined. It's also tradition to cover mirrors and extinguish votive candles. Socializing, entertainment, and even talking are kept to a minimum, especially from the hour Jesus was nailed to the Cross (noon) to the time He died (3 p.m.). Try to observe an even more extreme silence and somberness for those three hours—no talking, phones and computers put away, etc. It's tradition to eat Hot Cross Buns in the morning, kissing the cross on the top before eating it. It's also tradition to perform the Way of the Cross—if you can't go to a church, do it at home, even just by printing out the pictures and using painter's tape to hang them around the house. If you want to perform an adapted Veneration of the Cross (because you are unable to get to church), here is a possible way to do it: the father of the house will say "Venite adoremus", and the whole family will kneel three times, one for each time Jesus was mocked (in the high priest's courtyard, in Pilate's house, and on Calvary). Then everyone will kneel and kiss the cross, men first and then women. During this, the Improperia is sung. You can find it on YouTube here and directions to say the English translation yourself here. Finally, end the day by putting on a Passion play in your home or watching Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ.
Holy Saturday (April 11)
Depending on your parish, Easter baskets full of items to be eaten on the Easter feast will be blessed today or after the Easter Mass tomorrow (there are special blessings for eggs and bread). If you cannot make it to Easter Vigil, light candles or pray around a bonfire that evening. The father of the house can read the Exultet. A good activity for children on this day is to make Resurrection Cookies to be eaten on Easter.
Easter Sunday (April 12)
Today begins an entire season of rejoicing, and an octave lasting eight days. Everyone and everything should be decorated its best, from new Easter clothes (if you can afford it—if not, try reserving your nicest outfit to wear this day each year) to a beautifully decorated table. Even if you can't go to Mass, we highly recommend dressing up as you normally would. The centerpiece of your table should be a Paschal candle that will stay up until the Ascension. You can adorn it with flowers (as we mention in our Liturgical Gardening post) and decorate the candle as they do in church (instructions here—another great quarantine craft). For more decorating ideas, here are a few of the season's symbols you can use: lilies, bells, eggs, butterflies, and peacocks. The food eaten today is everything traditionally foregone during Lent: eggs, dairy, and of course, lamb! Another tradition is to watch the sunrise this morning to see if you can catch the sun dancing for the Resurrection. Also, from now through the Saturday in the Octave of Easter the Regina Caeli will replace the Angelus.
Major Rogation (April 25)
Rogation Days (especially the Major Rogation) are days to ask for God's mercy, specifically in the ways we are dependent on nature (farming, gardening, etc.) and in averting His wrath made manifest through natural disasters. We ask for this specifically through prayer and penance. If the novel coronavirus is still a global threat, now would be a great day for penance to seek an end to it. Today is also the Great Litanies. Normally there is a procession held where the Litany of the Saints is recited. If this is not done at your church (or you are not able to attend), this can easily be adapted at your home, by reciting the litany and maybe even processing around your house.