Having a "holy" Holy Week
Updated: Mar 26, 2022
Ah, Holy Week. The most centered, holiest week of the year.
Unless you work or volunteer for a Catholic parish.
For the last 10+ years, Holy Week has been, well, a little less than holy for me, largely due to my parish responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong – I loved working for my parish, but for parish workers and volunteers, Holy Week is just a marathon of Masses and services that never seem to end and require lots of planning, coordination, and working with others, all for very little thanks and no breaks.
Apparently Jesus wasn't thinking of the liturgical consequences of having all of the major events of His public ministry happen in one week.
Personally, I’ve been behind the scenes for just about every part of Holy Week over the last decade: organizing the youth group Passion Play (and trying not to have nightmares about the kids dropping “Jesus”); handling the technical end of a concert Stations of the Cross; setting up and decorating the church for processions and simultaneously-occurring Masses in the main church, chapel, and social hall; coordinating all liturgical ministers (and priests) for all of the Masses we do once a year and can never remember the order of; and so on. So for the last few years, my favorite part of Holy Week has been when it was over.
So, if you work or volunteer for a parish, how can you make this Holy Week a holy experience, not just for the parishioners, but also for yourself?
First, take time to pray - and probably not at the parish. Whether it's participating in Lectio Divina, spending a few moments in the Adoration Chapel before heading to work, or even praying in the car as you drive to the store for lighter fluid for the Easter Vigil fire, taking time for personal prayer outside of your parish responsibilities will allow you to connect with the Lord one-on-one this week. If you feel like there's no time to pray this week, take some advice from my friend Amy over at Prayer Wine Chocolate.
Even better, consider praying as a staff or group. It's always blown my mind how few churches actually start out their days with a staff prayer. It’s a great way to center everyone, and remember the common goal that you’re all working towards. If you don’t work for the parish, take the initiative to ask the priest for a quick moment of prayer with the other volunteers before you begin your task or Mass, or lead one yourself. Here's one for each day of Holy Week.
Second, consider an extra sacrifice for Holy Week. I know what you're thinking - giving all of this time to the church isn't a sacrifice enough? No, and here's why: It's easy to forget why we are putting in all of this effort for Holy Week - to give glory to God and to hopefully inspire a few "Easter Catholics" to come back to Mass even after the season. In the midst of the chaos of planning and execution however (especially when it goes unappreciated), it is so easy to lose sight of the real reason for our work. So, during the week, when you desire whatever you're giving up (perhaps sweets or meat), you can remember all of those for whom you are doing this work, and the real reason for your labors.