By Anne Metz
What is the Triduum and how can we celebrate it with our young children?
The United States Council of Catholic Bishops defines the Triduum (also referred to as The Three Days) as the period of time from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. They are the three holiest days of the holiest week of our liturgical year and contain many beautiful traditions that we only get to experience once a year. Let’s take advantage of all the Church offer us during this time and teach our kids to love it as much as we do.
Celebrating Holy Thursday with young children
The Holy Thursday mass is absolutely beautiful! We celebrate the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist, the priest washes the feet of the congregation, and the mass ends in silence as the altar is stripped and Jesus is taken out of the tabernacle and out of the church. The church swells with the smell of incense and notes of traditional hymns.
If at all possible, take your children to this mass. Yes, it is in the evening and is longer than a Sunday mass, so it may seem daunting, but if you can manage it, please do. Remember Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” Mass is as much for them as it is for grown-ups.
Activities to consider for Holy Thursday
Read books and watch videos with your children to teach them what we celebrate on Holy Thursday. Brother Francis has a great video portraying the Last Supper in a way that makes it easy for kids to understand.
Talk about why Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.
Read the gospel story from your Bible or a children’s Bible. (John 13, Matthew 26, Luke 22, Mark 14)
Teach them this verse: “I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. You, then, should wash one another's feet. I have set an example for you so that you will do just what I have done for you” (John 13:14-15)
Celebrating Good Friday with young children
Good Friday is the day Jesus was crucified and died. It is a sad day, but we know he will rise again, and there is the reason for hope. Not even death can beat our Lord.
There are many opportunities to remember Jesus’ Passion on Good Friday. Take your children to Morning Prayer, the afternoon Good Friday service, or participate in Stations of the Cross at your parish.
The Good Friday service is unique because it is not a mass. No consecration happens anywhere in the world on Good Friday because we are remembering Christ in the tomb. We receive communion however because our priests consecrate extra hosts during mass on Holy Thursday. Other differences you can point out are the veneration of the cross during the service and the fact that we do not genuflect when entering our pews, because Jesus is not in the tabernacle.
Activities to consider on Good Friday
Complete the Stations of the Cross as a family. Going through each station is a powerful way to teach your children about the Passion of Christ. Check out Brother Francis’ child-friendly Stations of the Cross to use at home.
Traditionally, Catholics remember the time Jesus was on the cross, from 1 pm to 3 pm, by observing a period of silence. This is a tall order for young children! Instead of complete quiet, let your children fast from noisy toys or video games during this time. Spend the afternoon reading books or doing coloring sheets or word puzzles about Good Friday.
Celebrating Holy Saturday with young children
Holy Saturday is our final day of waiting and preparing for Jesus’ Resurrection. Take the day to prepare your Easter celebration! Have your children help you clean the house, prepare the food, and lay out their fancy Easter clothes. Some churches offer a Blessing of Food at mass. Spend some time today talking about Jesus’ Resurrection.
Saturday evening offers the opportunity to attend the Easter Vigil, which again, is an incredibly beautiful mass that is only celebrated once a year. This mass can be very late at night and is longer than a Sunday mass, so it may be difficult to take very young children, but they are always welcome if you are willing to try it out!
The Triduum continues through Easter Sunday, but the purpose of this blog post focuses on the days leading up to the Easter Sunday celebration. During the days leading up to Easter, you have the incredible opportunity to teach your child about the core truths of our faith and the traditions that have been passed down to us since Jesus rose from the dead over 2000 years ago. Hopefully, spending Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday engaged with what was happening to Jesus at the time will make the Easter Celebration all the more joyous.
When she’s not writing about faith, Anne Metz works for Growing Catholics, whose mission is to bring Scripture to all, especially tweens and teens.