Accepting Holy Week

Lent can be a strange liturgical season for mothers. There is much wisdom and tradition to impart, and also it’s pretty much impossible to make it to stations of the cross, because 7 PM is a time of day which renders most preschoolers what the French call les incompetent.

I entered into Lent this year with some trepidation, mindful of years past spent crashing and burning, having bitten off a choking mouthful of penances only to end up with a month-long plague of rotavirus ripping through the house and an angry, under caffeinated mother overseeing triage.

Taking a page from Servant of God Dorothy Day, who was reported to have finally abandoned her repeated attempts at giving up smoking for Lent after members of her community begged her to stop trying, so unpleasant did nicotine withdrawal render her, I made no grand efforts this year. Don’t canonize me yet; though I did give up social media, which I mostly stuck to until Monday of this week, at which point the Notre Dame blaze tempted me into a Twitter binge that lasted almost 24 hours.

Applying a little mindfulness to how I felt after said binge, sitting on the couch last night having read perhaps my dozenth hot take on the previous day’s events in France, I felt almost as sick as if I’d taken down a half gallon of ice cream solo. Not that I have any idea what that feels like, mind you.

Maybe Twitter is too toxic for me to consume, I mused, closing my laptop with a disgusted thud.

This morning I was awakened by an excited 8 year old whose nose, inches from mine, fairly quivered in excitement at having an unexpected, citywide day off from school.

“A crazy lady wants to do bad things to schools, so we have a day off! Can I go check if (neighbor kid) is home today, too?”

I mumbled something incoherent about not bothering the neighbors before 7 am and rubbed sleep from my eyes as I contemplated what he’d said. And I wished my 8 year old wasn’t growing up in a post-Columbine world.

Just a few minutes ago my phone lit up with a stream of messages: ‘suspect is apprehended. Suspect is dead.’

Eternal rest unto that troubled soul, I mumbled, texting as much to my fellow school moms. Self-inflicted gunshot wounds. A chilling conclusion to a bizarre saga.

This Holy Week has been heavy with uncontrolled circumstances, the weariness and tragedy of the world seeping in and disrupting my optimistic plans for marking the most important week of the Christian year as something remarkable to my kids.

Having a house full of excited children home on what was meant to be my big spring cleaning day, the calm before the storm of Triduum, has largely derailed those plans.

Now I’m fumbling through my to do list distracted, anxious, looking at my phone every few minutes and wondering if we’ve done enough, if I’ve done anything, truly, to impress the solemness and meaning of this week, of this season, of the Christian life.

Nothing puts me into melancholic introspective mode more effectively – or reliably – than major holidays.

Are we showing the kids a different life? A more excellent way? Do they get that it’s more than what the culture tells them, more than candy and presents and imaginary customs? Do they know Jesus through me?

Days like this, I think not. Grateful that parenting is a season comprised of hundreds of ordinary days, thousands of unremarkable moments, I push aside my fears and holiday anxieties and ask for the grace of acceptance, of being willing to take the week I’ve been given and not pine for the one I imagined.

God is in reality. God suffered and died in battered human flesh. He is not confounded by my weakness and He is not repulsed by my failures to Get it Right.

Silly me, I tend to forget that this week – this universe – hinges on a Savior. I must need Him, still. We all must. We all do.


  • Ruth

    Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU. I needed to hear this today. With four out of five household members sick, different nap schedules, and the general hubub that is three kids four and under, I’ve been feeling blue about our Holy Week. Praying for God’s grace to cover us all and to remember he meets us in our mess.

  • Mary

    I love your reflections. Thank you! Les incompetent. Our priest asked if he could wash my feet at Holy Thursday mass and my mind immediately went to my three-year old running up to the altar grabbing the water and flinging it on everyone in the first three rows. . . um sorry Father, I can’t commit this year 🙂

  • Bella

    Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been going through. I feel less guilty for not doing enough. God Bless you and your family.

  • jeanette

    Jenny, here is something we did for a number of years for the Stations of the Cross:

    When my children were over 5 years old, I wanted to share the devotion with them, but we couldn’t go to the parish Stations of the Cross weekly, so I had them draw the various Stations of the Cross. Then we would locate them around our home in different rooms and make our own “Way of the Cross” procession, using a children’s prayer version of the Stations. I actually found it to be a very special thing for our family. It’s not the same as going to the parish, but it does the internalization of the devotion that you are hoping for. Just the act of drawing the stations is very helpful for your children as they “contemplate” in their own way how to portray that station. In their beautiful simplicity, it is really something powerful to look at these unique stations.

    Parishes are also usually open during the daytime, so if you cannot go to the parish during a scheduled time, you can always go in with your children and make a simple family procession around the church from station to station, using simple reflections that meaningfully convey to your children what the station represents, having them genuflect at each station and pray, and if they are old enough to read the words, perhaps singing the Stabat Mater verses as you process. It’s perhaps easier to do that way than the evening event.

    You could also see if there are multiple families in your shoes who find 7pm burdensome, and see if the parish would offer an additional afternoon devotional time (ours does). Or check another nearby parish for their schedule.

    Lenten sacrifices are not about doing what comes easy to us, but maybe challenging ourselves to do something that helps us overcome or weaknesses. So, the evening event is a good way to push oneself to make a sacrifice (i.e. getting it together, having dinner on time, etc). So doing things that way has its own particular spiritual purpose for even the busiest of families.

    Of course to make it turn out that way, we actually have to ask God for the graces, because left to our own frail ways, we are more likely to show the stressed version of trying to make it there on time, and that will overshadow the internalized devotional attitude we are really hoping to convey to our children.

  • Lisa

    Thank you. After a failed attempt at many Lenten challenges,I was feeling so defeated. Thank you for reminding me how dearly I need a savior, which is the point of it all. And thabk you for your honesty. Blessed triduum to you and Easter blessings.

  • Jenny

    Jenny- I love this article. I actually was hoping you would comment on the Notre Dame fire and the school closing. Thanks for keeping it real.

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