Rebecca Frech is the author of Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us, co-host of the popular radio show/podcast The Visitation Project, Catholic speaker, and writes the award-winning blog Shoved to Them. She and her husband live just outside Dallas with their seven children and an ever-multiplying family of dust-bunnies. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at @shovedtothem.
Holy Week starts this Sunday, and with it the holiest time of the year. As I scan through the Easter pages on Pinterest and look at all of the clever crafts and ideas on the “Mommy blogs,” I notice that all of those ideas seem to run out once the children are too big for coloring pages and gluing popsicle sticks. How, then, do we make the week leading up to Easter one of greater meaning for our older children? How do we keep them engaged in what’s going on in addition to taking them to church?
Here are a few ideas that have worked for us over the years, and that we will be bringing back again this Holy Week:
Have you made it to Confession yet? If not, you have from now until Wednesday to fit it in. By Thursday, the priests will all be too busy until after Easter. Check online bulletins. Call local parishes. Set up appointments for the whole family. If you do nothing else to prepare for Easter, go to Confession.
Call the parish office for a list of homebound or shut-in parishioners. Have your driving teens call and offer these often-forgotten members of our community rides to the Masses this week. It can be hard for them to find a ride for a regular Sunday Mass, forget even trying to make it to the Triduum Masses.
The Triduum is coming with its marathon of Masses. Take Tuesday night to actually talk to each other about what’s going on in each other’s lives. Talk about the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world. Make a list of things your kids want to pray for, and what they want you to pray for. When was the last time you asked them if they had any personal prayer intentions and then prayed with them? Holy Week is the perfect time to start.
Take a care package to your priest(s) and deacon(s). The next few days will test their strength and endurance. Teach your children to take care of the men who take care of our souls. We usually include throat lozenges, hand sanitizer, coffee, Epsom salts for soaking tired feet, protein bars, Visine, a few baked goods, and notes and drawings from the members of our family. Our priests are thrilled that we thought of them, and it teaches our children to remember the humanity of the clergy.
The night before He died, Jesus and the disciples gathered in the Upper Room to celebrate the Feast of Passover. It was the night He instituted the Eucharist, and washed His Disciples’ feet. Go to Mass if you can. There is such simple beauty in seeing the priest wash the feet of his parishioners, so sit close enough that your kids can witness it (and maybe even participate.)
Passover is a reminder of the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt. Slavery is not a thing of the past, unfortunately. There are modern day slaves even in our own communities. Catholic Relief Services is doing an amazing job to help those, mostly women, who are trapped in modern slavery. Contact your local CRS office to see how you can help in your local area.
Have a traditional breakfast of Hot Cross Buns. Good Friday is a day of fasting, and Catholics often eat these dense, filling rolls in the morning as a way of helping them to make it through the day. You don’t have to make them Friday morning, this is a good make ahead for Wednesday or Thursday, or earlier if you don’t mind freezing them. Here’s our favorite recipe. I find that tormenting my older children with an off-key rendition of the nursery rhyme Hot Cross Buns adds to their penitential mood. For extra effect, I taught it to the 4-year-old who warbled it all day.
Watch ‘The Passion of the Christ’ together. Mel Gibson’s masterpiece is unflinching in its portrayal of the violence and brutality of crucifixion. The truth of what it looks like for someone to be hung on a cross is a shocking revelation for many people, teenagers included. While we’re used to seeing the corpus on the crucifixes in our homes, seeing such brutality inflicted on a living, breathing man helps to breathe life into the familiar Scripture story.
Attend the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, and point out the empty tabernacle at the end. From then until Easter Vigil, we are without the Real Presence among us.
Christ is in the tomb. Pay a visit to a local cemetery and clean off the neglected headstones. Talk about Purgatory, the Communion of Saints, and pray for the dead.
If you can make it to Easter Vigil Mass, it’s definitely worth the effort. It’s where you’ll see the full pageantry and majesty of the Catholic Church is on display. It’s a good thing for older kids to see the adults being Baptized and Confirmed, freely choosing to embrace the faith.
Go to Easter Sunday Mass, if you didn’t make it to the Easter Vigil. Let your older kids help with whatever you’ve planned for dinner, and take that time to share with them the stories of your childhood Easter celebrations. (Bonus points if you tell something silly or embarrassing that once happened to you.)
Put something meaningful in their Easter baskets – books are an Easter basket staple at our house, and as the kids have gotten older the books we select have gotten more meaningful. This year, our children are getting Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Past years have included The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, and Anne of Green Gables.
Cascarones! Nothing says Feast of the Resurrection in quite the same way as smashing your brother on the head with a confetti filled egg. If you’re in the Southwest, you can pick these up at the grocery store. If not, they can be ordered from Amazon or you can try making them yourself.
It won’t be that long before your kids are grown-up and no longer living at home, but they are still home this year, so make the most of it. Remember to slow down and enjoy this time with your almost-adult children. Make the most of the time you have left with them under your roof, and make this Easter a memorable one for all of you.