Holy Week is upon us, and one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, our sacramental celebrations remain impacted. In some regions, restrictions on public Masses have been eased, while in other regions churches are still experiencing strict limitations.
No matter the circumstances you find yourself in, there are many ways you can prepare for and observe the Easter Triduum. Msgr. Luke Sweeney, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Scarsdale, N.Y., and a member of Rev. John A. Keogh Council 2108, shared several ideas.
Knightline: How do the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving help prepare us to fully participate in Easter?
Msgr. Sweeney: The Lord wants to fill us with his new life and many blessings and graces. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving allow us to work with God’s grace to create the space in our souls for him to fill us with his life.
Prayer increases our desire and our yearning and our faith and belief in the Lord. Almsgiving helps us trust the Lord more, as well as opening our horizon to the needs of others. And fasting allows us to take a pinch out of ourselves so that we’re not relying on the consolations of this world but preparing ourselves for the presence of Jesus.
Knightline: What general principles would you offer someone who is unsure if they should return to church in person and receive the sacraments during this time, due to concerns of health and safety?
Msgr. Sweeney: If there is a prudential reason for a person to limit his or her exposure to others due to personal health or someone who’s vulnerable at home, that’s something that needs to be considered. But if there is no serious reason to preclude oneself, start with daily Mass to get a sense of things at your church. If parishes are following the recommended precautions, with people masked and socially distanced, we must not allow fear to keep us away.
Knightline: Why is it important to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist during the Easter season? For those who may be unable to attend Mass or receive the sacraments, how can they stay close to the Lord?
Msgr. Sweeney: As part of what it means to be a practicing Catholic, our Church calls us during Lent and the Easter season to confess our sins, be they serious sins, and to receive holy Communion at least once a year. With the pandemic there are countless people who have not been to the sacraments for over a year. In the United States and many other countries, there is now a wonderful opportunity to take that next step — to make a good confession and to be able to receive Jesus sacramentally, which will bring to completion all of these spiritual acts of communion that we’ve been making these past months of the year.
For those who are homebound, families should reach out to their parish and ask for a priest to visit in a safe way so that the person can receive confession, anointing and holy Communion.
Knightline: What other advice do you have for Knights and their families as we approach the Easter Triduum?
Msgr. Sweeney: During Holy Week, I strongly encourage all Knights to bring their families to Mass and to the Good Friday liturgy. Allow your lives to orbit around the mysteries of Christ this week: On Palm Sunday, make palm crosses with blessed palms, and try to visit a cemetery, placing palms on the graves of loved ones. On Spy Wednesday, follow the readings of Holy Week and enter into the drama of when Judas is going to betray Jesus. On Holy Thursday morning, where possible, tune into the chrism Mass, at which your bishop blesses the holy oils to be used throughout the year. Later that evening, following the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, spend time in adoration before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. On Good Friday, consider turning off all music, TV and radio, especially between 12 and 3 p.m., allowing those three hours to be a time of reflection. On Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, remember and prepare to renew your baptismal promises.
With their councils, Knights are urged to participate in the Knights of Columbus Good Friday Family Promotion Program, organizing promotional campaigns to educate their parishes on the importance of Good Friday and the plight of Christians suffering in the Middle East.
Knights can also participate in the Order’s Sacramental Gifts program, working with their councils to purchase gifts for those who are receiving the sacraments of baptism, first Communion and confirmation.
Share what you, your family, and your council are doing to mark Holy Week and Easter with firstname.lastname@example.org.
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