Five Ways to Observe Holy Week

Pope Francis baptizes a man at the Easter Vigil Mass. Photo: By giulio napolitano/Shutterstock
Pope Francis celebrates the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday. Photo: L’Osservatore Romano

1. Attend the Chrism Mass 

At Mass on the morning of Holy Thursday or another day near Easter, each diocese’s bishop consecrates the Holy Chrism that will be used throughout the year.

Two other oils are also blessed on this occasion; the Oil of Catechumens and the Oil of the Infirm. Holy Chrism is used for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. The Oil of Catechumens is used during the sacrament of Baptism. The Oil of the Infirm is used for the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.




Pope Francis celebrates the Good Friday liturgy. Photo: L’Osservatore Romano

2. Go to the Triduum Masses/services 

The Triduum is composed of three liturgical services: Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, and Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord. During the evening on Holy Thursday is the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Pay special attention to the Washing of Feet and the Transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

There are no Masses on Good Friday. Instead the Church gathers for the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord consisting of the Liturgy of the Word, the Adoration of the Holy Cross, and Holy Communion. The Adoration or Veneration of the Cross is especially poignant.

The most solemn Mass of the year occurs at night on Holy Saturday — the Easter Vigil, which St. Augustine called the “mother of all holy vigils.” Listen closely to the prayer the priest prays while cutting a cross into the paschal candle.


Photo: Jeff Wasserman/Shutterstock

3. Host or attend a Seder meal 

 A Seder meal is a Jewish tradition meant to commemorate the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt. The Last Supper is traditionally believed to have been a Seder meal. Some parishes or families host a Seder meal during Holy Week, or on Holy Thursday before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. However, a Seder meal is not a substitute for Mass on Holy Thursday. “It is wrong, however, to ‘baptize’ the Seder by ending it with New Testament readings about the Last Supper or, worse, turn it into a prologue to the Eucharist. Such mergings distort both traditions” (God’s Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic Preaching, 28, by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).

Photo: Public Domain

4. Pray the Divine Mercy Novena 

 The Divine Mercy Novena is a precursor to the feast of the Divine Mercy, which occurs on the Sunday after Easter (Second Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday). This nine-day novena begins on Good Friday. Jesus gave St. Faustina an intention for each day of the novena. Each day, we pray for different souls — that they may be immersed in God’s mercy. The novena can be found at





Photo: Zvonimir Atletic/Shutterstock

5. Observe Good Friday at home 

On Good Friday, Christ was on the cross from noon until 3 in the afternoon. If you can’t attend the Good Friday liturgy or if your parish’s liturgy is at a different time on Good Friday, there are other ways to acknowledge this sacred time. Spend these three hours in silence, shut off all electronics, reflect on Jesus’ last words, take time for spiritual reading, or pray the Stations of the Cross. You may want to work on a particularly arduous task during this time. Thank Jesus for suffering for you. “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Psalm 31:6).

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