Friday, 29 April 2011

The Easter Octave and a Royal Wedding!

Christ is Indeed Risen! We were privileged to be at an Easter vigil in Manchester, sharing the joy of a family of seven as they came into the Church under the Ordinariate. Then it was home to share more of the joy of the Risen Lord with our own family. Today we witnessed the joyous wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton along with most of the nation and many others around the world.
After quoting from St Catherine of Siena, whose feast day it is, "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire”, the Anglican Bishop of London outlined the blueprint for the goal of marriage,
“A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.”
The fullness of life is eternity with God. Married couples love, work and pray to bring their spouses to heaven. Awesome and scary!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Sharing the Triduum with children

It is important to bring the Triduum to life for children growing in the faith. When our children were small and not so small (in fact we still do a lot of this even though our youngest is almost 20!) we started on Holy Thursday with our family passover meal, reading at table the Bible story of the plagues and the Israelites escape from Egypt from Exodus then the story of the Last Supper. We'd eat lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs and roast egg etc and in the centre of the table, a chalice and more unleavened bread to use for acting out the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. After Mass we'd stay to watch (the time increased with age!) at the altar of repose. When we got home the house was silent. Reading and quiet talking only was allowed. We always had appropriate religious pictures placed on the wall.
On Good Friday we always went and still go to Stations of the Cross as well as the Service at 3pm. Again this is a quiet day although in recent years we have introduced watching the Passion of the Christ or other devotional programme. Between visits to church today the children make an Easter garden in the rockery and prepare the tomb. We place one of our crucifixes there and two home made crosses either side. The figure of Jesus is carefully removed from the cross, wrapped in white material and laid in the tomb after we return from the 3 o'clock service. On our table is a piece of thorn branch formed into a circle. We are fasting and abstaining and our evening meal together is a simple fish pie.
Holy Saturday is the most difficult of the Triduum we found. We know Jesus is at work and yet for children he is lying quietly in the tomb. Morning prayer is a must, either as a family or in church if this is offered. The purple ribbons we have had on our religious pictures and statues for the whole of lent are removed. Children are encouraged to spring clean their rooms worthy to greet the Risen Lord and Easter biscuits are made - I found a lamb shaped cutter which is much more appropriate than bunnies or even eggs. Later today parents can roll the stone from the easter garden, removing the figure of Jesus and leaving the white linen along with a small Easter egg for children to find on Easter Sunday morning along with other eggs left here and there in the garden (wrapped of course!) and/or inside the house. While children are in bed the house should be transformed - vases of daffodils, white ribbon to replace the purple and  at least one decorated Easter candle. They should know when they awake that Jesus has risen. If they have followed a Lenten pathway (see earlier post) it should have an Easter message added. Don't say good morning today, say 'Christ is Risen' Children respond with 'He is Risen Indeed' and/or 'Alleluia' If the family has been to the Easter Vigil then the celebrations can start after that. And what a celebration it should be! 

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Evidence of the Passion

 My mind goes back a year, to Turin where I had gone with my husband to see the shroud. Exposed usually only once or twice a century, it wasn’t due an airing until 2025 but the Bishop of Turin had asked Benedict XVI for permission to put the shroud on display in 2010 and the Holy Father agreed!
We flew to the city, duly got our tickets and queued to view. Having seen pictures in books I was not really prepared for the clarity of the image. A few moments close to the burial cloth of Jesus - so moving, so intimate, but so little time available. Happily the following day at an early morning Mass in the Cathedral we were given a longer and unexpected opportunity, before Mass began, to go once again up to the shroud and venerate its Holy image. The wounds of the Passion and the horrors of crucifixion there to see, the trickles of blood, the marks of the scourging and the nails, the cap of thorns, the heart pierced through for our sins. What better way to begin Passiontide than by meditating on this evidence of Jesus’ suffering.

Friday, 1 April 2011

A Lenten Pathway

At the half way point of Lent our prayer, fasting and almsgiving should be well established in whatever form. We are on our journey to Easter, a pathway of learning about ourselves and exploring ways to renew our old self in time for Easter and its grace.
When children are small (and not so small!) it can really help to make a pathway. A large piece of paper, a path which twists and turns and is divided into squares for each day, maps out their personal  journey. So each child has their own pathway. At the end of the path we see the Holy Eucharist (Maundy Thursday), Calvary (Good Friday) and finally the empty tomb. Along the way and written on each day are little reminders, daily activities, deeds, gestures, prayers e.g. help mummy lay the table, put my toys away, do my homework without having to be told, say a prayer for grandma, don't eat between meals, no sweets today, write a letter to a lonely person, help a younger sibling, get up willingly. Children can make these up with help. As the child completes these, the squares are coloured in, usually in Lenten colours. Feastdays, however, can be coloured brightly and expressed with a symbol (a green shamrock for St Patrick and a lily for the Annunciation) and do not need a penitential exercise. On Holy Saturday the child can decorate the pathway with daffodils, Easter eggs and frolicking lambs. Parents can write something like 'well done - Christ is Risen Alleluia!' on each child's completed journey.
Ah how I'd love to be still a child!