Patrick Coffin is the creator and host of The Patrick Coffin Show at patrickcoffin.media. The former host of Catholic Answers Live is also the author of Sex Au Naturel, Stay Cool When the Argument Heats Up, and Once Saved Not Always Saved.
Each year, I try to “lean in” during Holy Week, to focus my attentions on the last days of our Lord’s earthly life, and to make connections between the events of the paschal mystery and my own life.
One thing that helps me do this is repetition. Each Lent I repeat previous activities that I have found helpful in nailing home the great mystery that God loves me and in Jesus Christ went to an absurdly extreme length to demonstrate that love.
Veteran Christians—those who have lived through a couple of decades of Mass attendance—have become somewhat inured to the climax of the story of our salvation. Since we know how that story ends, we can be tempted to listen passively and knowingly to the events of, say Holy Week. After the joyous “Hosannas” of Palm Sunday, we hear the nasty “Crucify Hims” that mark the lead-up to His passion. Then there are the two trials (before Pilate and Herod), the scourging, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion and the death. Christian art has marinated our consciousness with images depicting the sorrow mysteries of the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross.
We are too familiar with the drama, the players, and the outcome. In the case, familiarity breeds, certainly not contempt, but a kind of ennui or “meh.” We need to be shocked out of our lethargy. The rejection, torture, and murder of God for our salvation provides that shock. The question is, are we open to being shocked? Much easier to be passive pew sitter and remain untouched and unmoved by the liturgical readings our Mother the Church serves up for us in the coming days.
Here are some resources that can help us get into the right frame of mind as we approach the Triduum. They represent what I do each Lent.
The Mental Sufferings of Our Lord In His Passion by Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman. This is a tour de force description, moment-by-moment, of the first person singular experience of Jesus in His unutterable pain and sorrow during His passion. You can read it in a single sitting. A master of English prose, Newman is at the height of his powers in this text from a homily given at Oxford. Just wow.
The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life by Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, a minor classic by the man who directed (one of) Father Karol Wojtyla’s doctorates. This is a distillation of two large tomes. The great Dominican doesn’t waste a word in this pithy summary of the dark nights and the beginning of heaven on our souls through grace.
The Passion of the Christ, directed by Mel Gibson starring Jim Caviezel. That is all.
Jesus of Nazareth, second half of the six-hour British movie, directed by Franco Zefferelli, the performance of Robert Powell as Jesus shaped the imaginations of two generations of moviegoers. And talk about a powerhouse cast: Sir Laurence Olivier, Olivia Hussey, Rod Steiger, James Earl Jones, Stacy Keach, Anthony Quinn, Anne Bancroft (oh, dear, how many of my readers know who these people are?)
Calvary, directed by John Michael McDonough, starring Brendan Gleason. (Potty word alert). This Irish tale, set in the present, chronicles a week in the life of a hard-working priest (Gleason), beginning with the disclosure in the confessional that the priest will be killed within the week as punishment for the pedophile priest who abused him and is now deceased. I know, I know, gnarly topic. But in McDonagh’s hands, Calvary depicts what good priests are up against in post-Christian Ireland. Not for the faint of heart, Calvary explores the hidden power of forgiveness and the heroism of an ordinary cassocked man with a humanly impossible pastoral context.
I like iBreviary, a free daily prayer app. Best way to start the day… 12 minutes or less of intentionally sitting in the presence of God.
A blessed Holy Week to you.