Friday, March 21, 2008

The Triduum ... Kidterrupted

I started this post yesterday, and then had no time to finish it.

I must've been kidterrupted in the middle of it.

I scrapped what I started yesterday, because today I see that Alicia noticed the same thing I was pondering, and in this post at Studeo, she shares some beautifully apt quotes from St. Francis de Sales on patience. And, really, I should just send you over there and leave it at that, because Alicia's post sums that up so nicely.

But, I'll take up my own musing again anyway.

I keep thinking about the idea that we envision a certain thing -- in this case, a certain thing about Holy Week and how it will, or should, play out -- and then we don't get what we wanted. We either don't get it at all, or we get some altered version of it, or we get frustrated with the final result.

Now that I've been through 13 Holy Weeks as a Catholic mom, I'm going to pretend that I'm an expert. And here's what I've learned over the last 13 Holy Weeks with kids:

* Very small children don't have to attend every liturgy of the Triduum. We have done it various ways, and each way we tried was simply what we needed to do that particular year. (The last two years it has actually worked for us to attend all of it, including the Vigil, and we've loved that. But that wasn't always the case.)

If the whole gang attending works well for your family, that's great. If it doesn't work for your family, for whatever reason (and please, people, let's not judge what the valid reasons are) then that's okay, too. Holy Thursday and Good Friday are sublime observances that can enhance one's celebration of Easter tremendously. But, the Church doesn't require you to be there. If you can't make it for some reason, don't be harder on yourself than the Church is. Do what works best for you and your domestic church.

* Very small children do not have to understand everything about Good Friday and all of its implications. They just can't always separate the solemnity of Holy Thursday/Good Friday from the approaching joy of Easter, and that's okay. They will learn to "get it" as they get older, with your teaching and guidance. That's why they're called children. They aren't grown up yet, and they don't get everything.

* Understanding that little children don't understand every nuance of Good Friday doesn't mean I'm sending you out to join in every local Easter egg hunt you can find. We happen to skip community Easter egg hunts that fall on a solemn day, but I don't keep Ramona from playing on Good Friday. As a matter of fact, I took incredible delight in her play this morning. We were outside on the swings, and talked about it being Good Friday and she belted out at the top of her lungs (to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It"): "If you love Jesus and you know it, shout Amen! Amen!"

She was pretty delightful yesterday, too, when, to celebrate Holy Thursday she drew a picture of Jesus and His apostles and then starting gift wrapping things she found around the house, because "people should have presents when we're happy." Did she understand all that we would feel and remember at last night's Mass? No. Did she understand that we were happy that Jesus gave us the Eucharist? Yes. The rest will come.

And that's what really got me started thinking about this post. I watched Ramona yesterday, when she drew her picture of Jesus. Her eyes were shining, and she was brimming with joy. And I thought, for a moment, that one of the reasons the Church wisely gave us Lent and penance, Holy Thursday and Good Friday, is that we grown-ups sometimes forget to shine.

We need reminders to shine properly. Lent is that reminder for me. The old cliche, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone?" It holds true for Lent. Loss brings renewal, and Ramona's shining eyes remind me that someday, God willing, I'll enter a paradise where I never again have to give something up in order to appreciate it. My eyes will shine all the time.

And I'll sing eternal praise that little children don't "get it" all the time, and that the many kidterruptions that happen in Mass, in Holy Week, and in life, were really small whispers from God, telling me how much He loves me.


  1. Oh, Karen, I'm so glad you decided to continue your post! I especially loved the little tidbits about Ramona (what a gal!) and I sincerely concur with your "expert" analysis of working with children through Holy Week.

  2. Thanks for this post! It is hard to keep all of that in perspective when you are a mom to little ones who truly don't get it yet, so I appreciate your wisdom. AND...I agree about giving us Lent so that we could appreciate the "shining" moments. At Holy Thursday when we sang the Gloria, I didn't realize how much I had missed singing it!

  3. I just survived a rather trying Good Friday service with my 2 year old (complete with comments from the people behind me *sigh* and he wasn't doing anything more than being wiggly and chattering softly!) but I'm still glad we went. My daughter (6) definitely got something out of it as the novelty of going to church without Mass made an impression.

    I did go to the Holy Thursday service by myself last night though, which was very moving. I'm not going to try and take them to the vigil service... largely for selfish reasons. As someone who just came into the church last year, I'm looking forward to seeing the vigil from the other side, so to speak.

    I was confused about the whole days of obligation thing... I looked it up on the internet and found this: which says that the whole Triduum is required, but then after reading your post I found the USCCB Canon law about it ( and found out otherwise. Like I said, so confusing! Being a convert makes me feel like I'm always a couple of steps behind. I wish there was a newsletter or something with reminders about all this for people who were recently received into the Church!

  4. One of my sisters, who knows I get all kinds of great ideas from blogs like yours, asked me if I knew of anyone who had come up with a way of preparing younger kids for Good Friday service, so that it wouldn't seem so long and difficult to them. (I didn't; but wouldn't *that* be a great resource!!)

    I told her I generally deal with such difficulties by staying home. (With two rambunctious little boys in the mix, Sundays are hard enough!) :)

    I love the things we are doing as a family to experience and celebrate the liturgical life of the church in our home. And I look forward to the day when we can share fully in that life by experiencing Holy Week liturgies together, too.

    But I have no problem deciding that this is not the year.

    Thank you for(another!)beautiful reflection!


  5. Boy we need to hear and be reminded of these things sometimes. I was holding my breath in stations yesterday with my 2 year old. Thank you for refreshing my spirit that they are only little now and soon it will change.

  6. And a huge *thank you* to all of you for taking the time to comment! I was afraid the post had ended up wandering and rambling, but am glad to know there was at least something helpful in this "expert" analysis. ;-)

    Yes, Eileen, I think there's only so much we can do to prepare very little ones. They certainly do "get it" to a degree (sometimes to a beautiful, surprising, tearjerking degree) but I've always found that I also need to be prepared, when I take them to a long Mass, to bring along some distractions that will help them. Mostly faith-related stuff, but not always. We do what we can do. :-)

    Amber, that page is VERY confusing in the way it's set up. He should have separated out the days of obligation into a separate list, to be clearer. I can see why you thought the Triduum was obligatory! I remember being told by someone, the year I was received into the Church at the Vigil, that I must also go to Mass the next morning. Not that I was against going to Mass as often as I could, but I found that there's a lot of misinformation out there! :-)

    I would love to write a "So Now You're Catholic" book, to address just those kinds of things!

  7. I have to admit I felt a certain pressure to attend at least one service this year, but my husband has been on call, which mean he works late and can't come with us. My kids are 15 months, 3, 4, and 7. I went to Good Friday anyway and asked a good friend's teenage daughter to sit with me should I need the help. I needed the help, and even with it the whole experience was overwhelming, for me and for her, and after an hour and a half, I had a very upset four year old and baby, not to mention an exhausted three year old. I left there thinking "What was the point of all that?" I was somewhat jealous of everyone else leaving afterwards, chatting, and seeming very happy. I felt like I had done the whole thing wrong. But, then I realized that I was pushing too hard, and I should have known that this was how it was going to turn out. Thanks for posting this. I needed to read it!