(Photo by Oliver Augustijn Unsplash)

By Holly Gustafson

Last year, when, mid-March, the schools, stores, libraries, and churches all shut down, I assumed our collective quarantine would be a brief one, and we’d all be back in the pew with our fellow parishioners by Easter Sunday. I never expected to be watching the Easter Vigil on my TV from the comfort of my couch, and I certainly never expected to be doing it two years in a row.

Last year’s Easter was strange and awkward, as our family of seven, the majority of which are teenagers, attempted to adapt to this new way of worship. We tried our best to follow the same Triduum routine we’d always known, attending live-streamed Masses in our living room three days in a row, and convincing each other that this was absolutely fine.

You’d think that participating in the Easter Masses online would have been easier for us, now that we didn’t have to wake sleepy and sometimes surly teenagers to get to an early morning Mass, but it was not. Instead of having to get them out of bed and in the car so that we’re not late for Mass, we had to keep them from dozing off while they sat on a cozy couch instead of a firm, straight-backed pew, and remind them not to get up in the middle of our living room Mass to wander off to the kitchen, or check their phones. We tried to make last year’s Triduum the same as any other, except that we were participating from our couch, instead of the pew.

This year, we’ve got one year of pandemic living under our belts – we’re a little more adapted (and a whole lot wearier). Because we haven’t always being able to spend an hour a week at Church and feel that, in doing so, our Christian duty has been fulfilled, we’ve had to find other ways to feed our faith, and be fed. I read a lot more, ask more questions, and seek more answers. My husband has turned off the radio in his truck and listens almost exclusively to podcasts that ask hard questions about life and faith and meaning. And the kids are asking questions too, for which we usually do not have the answers, but in response to which we feel the responsibility to at least engage in open conversations that help them find some answers on their own.

This blog post was going to be about how your family can make another Holy Week at home special and meaningful and set apart from all the other weeks you’ve had to stay at home, and there are lots of great ideas: you can have a special meal on Holy Thursday, with recipes inspired by Jesus’ homeland; you can walk the Stations of the Cross outside as a family, reading the Gospel along the way (take some chalk with you, and illustrate the stations as you go); you can make an honouring space in your home, your little domestic Church, by creating an Easter display; you can dress up for Easter Mass (instead of attending in the lounge wear you usually don at home) and take a family picture.

These are all easy ways to set Holy Week apart when you can’t attend the usual events or Masses you normally would, and I plan to do all or most of these this week (convincing the teenagers to dress up and pose for a family photo might be asking too much after a year of wearing sweatpants!). But if you want to go a bit deeper, you can set aside time, as a family, to have an encounter with your faith, and ask yourself, and each other, some hard questions.

How has the past year been a spiritual desert: how have we struggled (individually or as a family), how have we thirsted, what have we lost?

How has this year been a little spiritual greenhouse: how have we grown, what have we learned, how has our understanding changed, what have we gained?

And, in the spirit of Easter, how can we, as a family, experience a spiritual springtime, our own domestic resurrection: what can we do to strengthen our family, our faith, and our hope in God’s abiding love and guidance throughout the next year?

Holly Gustafson lives with her husband, James, and their five children, in Regina, where they attend Christ the King Parish. Holly received her Masters in Linguistics at the University of Manitoba, and now pursues her love of language through art, writing, public speaking, and unsolicited grammatical advice. The best advice she ever received was from her spiritual friend, St. Faustina, who told her that when in doubt, "Always ask Love. It advises best."

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