FAMILIES preparing to enter into Holy Week at home due to COVID-19 restrictions have been encouraged to pray together as “the little church” alongside clergy who are celebrating the Triduum rites privately.
Liturgy Brisbane director Fr Tom Elich said parishes have been distributing a prayer resource to allow families to spiritually connect with the celebrations of Holy Week, which begins this Sunday, April 5 with Palm Sunday.
Families are encouraged to gather over Holy Week to pray from the resource and read the Gospel of the day.
The resource originally included an opportunity for parishioners to visit their church across Holy Week to receive concrete elements of the liturgy, including Palm Sunday palms, holy water, and to venerate the cross on Good Friday.
However with the closure of all parish churches across Brisbane, including St Stephen’s Cathedral, Fr Elich said parishioners would be unable to physically attend their parish during Holy Week.
“That’s a pity really because to maintain that connection with the parish is really quite important, but at the same time, when that’s not possible the idea is for people to take those concrete elements and do it at home with their families,” Fr Elich said.
Fr Elich encouraged families to find in their home those concrete items normally offered to a congregation during the liturgy and include them in the family’s Holy Week prayers.
“There are good things that might come out of horrible situations, and if people can learn to sit down together and say a prayer together, I think that would be a great thing,” Fr Elich said.
Fr Elich said despite the increase in views of live-stream or recorded Masses such alternatives “are still a spectator event”.
“If they sit down and read the scripture, do something together for those holy days, I think it’s much more immediate and much more helpful,” he said.
“At least the little church, the family, can come together and do it together.
“It’s like the old catch cry of Fr Peyton, ‘The family that prays together stays together’.
“It is a good thing to try to learn in a difficult time as this.”
The resource from the Archdiocese of Brisbane follows the suggestions made in an updated decree released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome on March 25.
The decree stated that since the Easter date was not transferable, it was permissible for Bishops and priests of countries that had imposed restrictions around social gatherings, including the suspension of public Masses, to celebrate the rites of Holy Week “without the presence of the people”.
It also said the faithful should be informed of the times of the celebrations, with a preference for live recordings and not pre-recorded liturgies “so that they can prayerfully unite themselves in their homes”.
Fr Elich said this Easter season would be “the weirdest and most horrible Easter I’ve spent in my entire life”.
“The liturgy is the lifeblood of every Christian,” he said.
“It’s a great pity that just at a time like this when people need spiritual support, because of the social isolation, it’s not possible to have the liturgy in a normal way.”