We had a very nice Easter Triduum.
On Holy Thursday we prepared a very simple "seder" meal as we do every year. The funny thing was that I realized how very much the kids love this ritual. I roast lamb and we pick up parsley (to dip in salt water) and radishes (bitter herbs) as well as a fake haroseth (applesauce, raisins and peanuts mixed together) and both store-bought matzos and home-made unleavened bread. We generally put out a tablecloth and read a little from The Year and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland. The kids were just raving about how much they love this meal. Terri told me she had been looking forward to this meal for months and Gus said it was the best meal of the year that we eat at our house (he wasn't ready to have it top Uncle Mike's Thanksgiving feasts).
John took the older four kids to Mass at Holy Hill right after dinner (it always seems somewhat appropriate to be rushing off to Mass - at least keeping in the spirit of the first Passover). I didn't think the little ones could handle two late Masses so close together.
John had to work Friday morning, but the kids were very anxious to visit our usual Good Friday morning spot - the beautiful, life-size outdoor stations of the cross at Holy Hill. This year Archbishop Dolan led the stations and the kids really loved it. He's so friendly with the little ones and they managed to get fairly close to each station despite the big crowd (Ria - who was leading our bunch - realized she could follow right behind him and get everyone in fairly close). It really is a beautiful place of pilgrimage - many people drive up even from the Chicago area for Good Friday. It's gives us such a lovely sense of being Catholic that you don't always get in the United States. Not only is it a beautiful shrine (now officially a basilica!) but people visit from all over the world and speak many languages.
Friday afternoon, John and I watched the Passion of the Christ while the kids watched Jesus of Nazareth. It was the first time I watched it (at least in its entirety) since we saw it in the theatre. At the theatre, I found it so overwhelming that it was almost distracting. It didn't move me in the way I expected - kind of a sensory overload. I'm really glad I saw it again because I found it very beautiful and moving this second time through.
Saturday was busy with baking and cleaning until we left for the vigil Mass at our nearby Schoenstatt shrine. The Schoenstatt movement originated in Germany and has had a strong presence in Wisconsin for many years. Ria, Terri and Bernie have all been involved in girls' groups and retreats there. The vigil Mass is simple and very beautiful. It's really quite a small crowd, just a few families in addition to all of the Schoenstatt nuns and postulants. The sheltered location, the darkness, the cold, and the very simple architecture made it feel like we were swept away to some mountain hamlet in Europe for the night. The kids love the ritual of the Easter fire, the candles, the readings and singing of the psalms (and we all loved the harmonies that the sisters sang with each of the psalms). Frank was in awe when they sang the gloria with the bells ringing and lights being turned on one at a time. I had to spend most of the mass with him outside in the hallway (he had a nap that afternoon and was exuberantly joyful!), but it really was a beautiful night.