Holy week resources

There are a lot of resources on this page to help you through Holy Week.

Please take time to scroll through. 

Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. All time belongs to him and all the ages. To him be glory and power through every age and for ever. Amen

May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.

After a few desperate days in [COVID-19] confinement, I started to appreciate the silence, admire nature through my window, pray more, rejoice in the small things, and find pleasure in caring for my husband, who is quite old and ailing. Bless the Lord! —L. Bernales

The Passion transposed into today’s situation

Who said there wouldn’t be a Holy Week?

Haven’t you seen the enormous procession of people, without tunic, belt or hood, having tested positive for coronavirus?

Don’t you see the Via Crucis of the care workers climbing the Calvary of the pandemic, overwhelmed by the power and pain of heartache?

Those who said that the Nazarene would not come out for this Holy Week haven’t seen the doctors with their white coats and their sensitive spirits, who carry the cross of the sorrow of those who are afflicted.

Can’t you see how many scientists are sweating blood and water, as at Gethsemane, as they try to find a vaccine or similar treatment?

Do not say that Jesus does not walk the streets this year, when so many people have to work in order to bring nourishment and medicines to the entire world.

Have you not seen the number of people from Cyrene offering themselves in one way or another to carry the heaviest of crosses?

Don’t you see how many people, how many like Veronica, have exposed themselves to the infection in order to wipe the face of people affected by the virus?

Who said that Jesus would not fall to the ground each time that we hear the chilling figures about yet more victims?

Isn’t it the vast quantity of care homes, filled with elderly people who are most at risk, and their carers, who are living the Passion?

Isn’t it like a crown of thorns for children who have to live through this crisis in lockdown, without really understanding and without being able to run around in the parks and streets?

Don’t they feel themselves unjustly condemned, all the schools, universities and so many shops that have been forced to close?

All the peoples of the earth, have they not been beaten and flagellated by the scourge of this virus?

Aren’t they just like the hand-washing Pontius Pilate, those in charge who are only looking to derive some political advantage from the situation?

Aren’t they suffering, powerless like the disciples without their Master, all those families confined to their houses, so many of them with problems, not knowing how and when all this will end?

The sorrowful face of Mary, doesn’t it reflect the faces of so many mothers and family members who suffer through the death and distancing of their loved ones?

Isn’t it like being stripped of their garments, the anguish of so many families and small businesses that are watching their finances vanish?

The agony of Jesus, isn’t it found in the lack of ventilators in the intensive care units of so many countries?

Do not say “there will be no Holy Week”, do not say it, because the drama of the Passion has surely never been so real and so true.

Miquel-Àngel Ferrés: Originally written in Catalan; this English version from a French translation                                                                                                       Fr Ferrés is Rector of St Peter’s Church in Figueres, a town between Perpignan (France) and Girona (Spain)

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Cardinal Vincent Nichols on ‘Easter Duties’ and the forgiveness of sins (02-04-2020)

At this time, we are coming nearer to Holy Week - to that most important week in our year. The week in which we celebrate with real solemnity, the final events of Our Lord's life. His entry into Jerusalem, His last supper with His apostles, His death on the Cross on Calvary, His entombment; and, of course, the glorious Resurrection of our Saviour from the dead.

Now, this year, with great distress and sadness, we know we will not be able to come together to celebrate these great days and we will have to do the best we can by the means that are at our disposal.

Now, I want to talk about a very important aspect of this.

You will know that it is an obligation on all Catholics to fulfil what is known as their 'Easter duties'. This is to receive Holy Communion at Easter time, or thereabouts, and it's often coupled, with the desire or the need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I want to say with all clarity that this obligation is removed from us this year - in the same way as it is not an obligation on us to attend Mass on Sunday, because these circumstances make it impossible. So, too, the obligation to our Easter duties is removed.

I would not want anyone to be burdened by the thought they are failing to fulfil their Easter duties. You are not. Now, also at this moment, we can recover another part of our Catholic tradition, a bit like the act of spiritual communion, which comes to our aid in times of great distress and difficulty.

It is the teaching of the Church that the Lord, in His mercy, will forgive our sins, even our grievous sins if we cannot go to Confession - go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation - as long as we make what is termed a perfect Act of Contrition, and resolve to confess our serious sins when we next have the opportunity to do so.

As I say, this is part of a deep Catholic tradition. It's not something new thought up for these very difficult circumstances.

So let me explain a little more.

What the Church teaches us, is that God in His mercy, forgives our sins when we are truly sorry for them. And when we turn to Him and express our sorrow in an Act of Contrition, it's called an Act of Perfect Contrition when its focus is on the mercy and the love of God rather than on the burden of our guilt.

So to make an act of Perfect Contrition, we simply need to turn to God and be, as it were, overwhelmed by God's mercy, and then express in our own words or in the words of the traditional Act of Contrition, the sorrow we feel for our offences against the goodness of God.

When we do that in all sincerity of heart, we may rest assured that God forgives our sins and that we come away from that Act of Perfect Contrition freed from those sins.

And, as I say, the only thing we have to remember is, when it is possible to make a Confession again, that we mention the grievous sins which were forgiven by this Perfect Act of Contrition.

You might say, well, why do we have to go to Confession and name our sins?

Part of the reason is often we don't really own them until we name them. And in the act of naming our serious sin, then we take hold of them and hand them over to Jesus on the Cross, because he takes on the burden of our sin.

And we, for our part, when we have that opportunity, name it to the priest who is there representing the person of Jesus and his mercy.

So we can approach Easter with a clear conscience.

And we can make use, under these extreme circumstances, of this great tradition of the Church. Through it, the Lord forgives our sins that we may enter fully into the joy of the Resurrection.

Let us just pray for a moment.

Lord,

I am sorry for the times I have sinned against you.

I am sorry because I've offended your infinite goodness

because I've turned my back on you.

I ask your forgiveness now.

Embrace me in your mercy.

 

Out of your love that I may pick up again in full joy,

the call of discipleship to follow your son, Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Amen.

Participating in Holy Week while Remaining at Home

The Bishop of Leeds, Bishop Marcus Stock, has offered some reflections and suggestions for Catholics as we follow the sacred events of Holy Week in an entirely different way this year. (Tuesday, April 7th, 2020)

The importance of the Liturgy

The most important aspect of all our Catholic worship and liturgy is that we celebrate the sacred rites not as individuals, but as members of the one Body of Christ, the Church.

It is important that we do this even in these difficult times:

“For if we continue to love one another and to join in praising the Most Holy Trinity – all of us who are sons of God and form one family in Christ – we will be faithful to the deepest vocation of the Church”.

This is a profound reality even if, or when, our circumstances force us to be separated from the other members of the church by physical space or time.

The word liturgy means a “common work” or a “service in the name of/on behalf of the people”. The ‘Mass’ or ‘Divine Liturgy’ is the common work of the Catholic Church. It is the official action of the Church, the participation of the People of God in the ‘work of God’. The liturgy is “the source and summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows”.

For Catholics, both of the Western and Eastern liturgical traditions, the solemn gathering of the People of God for the praise and worship of the Most Holy Trinity is not an ‘optional extra’ to our personal spirituality, or our individual life of prayer. No, the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is, “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit”. The celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is central to our lives as Catholics, and that is why it is so painful for us now not to be able to gather together in our churches as a family.

We know that our churches are not just buildings; they are a ‘sacred space’, the House of God. Indeed, even within a church, there are separate dedicated spaces: the entrance hall or narthex, which provides an area for the faithful to gather for visiting with each other both before and after the celebration of Mass; there is the main body of the church, or ‘nave’ which is reserved for prayer, worship, and for making a ‘visit to the Lord’; and there are chapels or devotional areas which honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph and the Saints and Martyrs of the Church. The sanctuary though, is the ‘Holy of Holies’, the place where the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered on the altar and the table from which we are fed the “one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ”.

How should we pray and participate at home?

Whether we are sharing in the celebration of the Mass through live-streaming or reading the sacred texts for the Liturgy of the Word and the prayers in our Missal, we should try to set apart an area of a room in our house that is given over to the Lord. This area does not have to be large; it simply needs to be the little ‘sanctuary’ of our home.

What should there be in this sanctuary? Pride of place should be given to a crucifix; this is the altar of our home, for “Christ, our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by His death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption.” On Good Friday especially, we can spend some time in prayer before the crucifix, praying the Stations of the Cross, and at 15:00 or thereabouts kissing the crucifix or touching it lovingly with our hand, recalling that it was at this hour that Our Lord and Saviour gave up His life for us and for the salvation of the world.

An icon or statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, should also be present. For as Our Lord hung dying upon the cross, nearby stood Mary His mother, to whom He entrusted us as her children, and her to us as our mother.

Live Online Liturgies

We also have to learn how to differentiate when we participate in a liturgy on our computer or television screen from the experience of watching other live-streamed events, videos or programmes. In church we have learnt, often from our childhood, how to watch and participate in the sacred actions of the liturgy in a ‘holy way’. Learning how to do this using the various forms of electronic media alone will be entirely new to most of us.

Part of this learning means being aware of how we might physically differentiate in our home the way in which we watch and participate in a live-streamed liturgy. This simple action, changing how we watch, can help us to make our spiritual participation more fruitful.

In the room where we will watch the liturgy, we must try to turn off and to remove anything that is likely to distract us. We should as far as possible use the same bodily postures that we would adopt as if we were in the church itself; this will give us a sense of being united with the sacred actions that are taking place in the church.

For example, if possible we should stand at the opening to make the sign of the cross and for the penitential rite; join in by making all the responses; sit down for the readings and stand for the Holy Gospel (and make the sign of the cross on our forehead, on our lips and over our heart); kneel or bow our heads for the Eucharistic Prayer and for the moment when we make a Spiritual Communion; and stand for the final prayer and the blessing.

We might also, provided we take care and it is safe to do so, light a candle for the duration of the celebration. The lighted candle, like those on the altar in the church, symbolizes that Christ is “a light to enlighten the nations”, and that His brightness shines out in the Church and throughout the whole human family.

Whether we are taking part in a liturgy online or in person in a Church, our “fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations” requires us to foster both an internal and external participation. Our participation is not really about us ‘doing things’ in the liturgy but means that we need to engage both our minds and hearts in the celebration. We are body and spirit; the expression of our love for God therefore will always be manifest in our worship of Him, both in our words and our actions.

We should try to remember too, that often there can be many others who are also participating in the same liturgy that we are watching; sometimes hundreds and even thousands! It is not just a case of our watching the priest or sacred ministers celebrating the liturgy remotely in the isolation of our home: we are joining other Catholics, sometimes from other countries around the world, to offer a period of time in prayer, worship and thanksgiving to God who is our loving and merciful Father.

Praying with the Word of God

For those who do not have access to the internet and online media, one of the ways we can unite our prayer with the celebration of the Mass and the liturgies of Holy Week is through the use of Sunday and Weekday Missals to read the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures as given in the Church’s lectionary and to make an act of Spiritual Communion.

Although the offering of these prayers may be separated by physical space from where the sacred liturgy is being celebrated in a church, eternity breaks through into human life whenever Christians are united in prayer, especially when this prayer is offered at the same time and when they unite their intention to that of the sacred ministers celebrating the liturgy.

Our constant desire for the Lord

Deep in our hearts we know, though, that neither watching and participating in a live-streamed liturgical celebration nor uniting ourselves in prayer with that liturgy, can ever replace or be a substitute for that ‘fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations’ which our Holy Mother the Church calls us to strive for when we are personally present at the sacred liturgy celebrated within a church.

As members of the clergy and faithful, may our constant desire to be close to and receive the real presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and to experience His presence in the community of the faithful gathered visibly and physically as one, burn within our hearts each day until together we can return to our churches to assemble again as the Church.

Until that time, let us do all we can to remain united in faith, hope and love. Let us pray throughout this time of tribulation that God our Father will drive all pestilence from our world, relieve the pain of the sick, give strength to those who care for them, welcome into His peace those who have died and grant that we may all find comfort in His merciful love.