Holy Week 2024: Lent's prayerful finale

By Melanie Sisinni and Anne-Marie Welsh

              Holy Week, the seven days leading up to Easter, is among the most sacred times of year for Catholics. Beginning on Palm Sunday and ending with the Easter Vigil, the entire week is spent reflecting on the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

At the 2023 Chrism Mass at Erie's Saint Peter Cathedral, Bishop Persico
blesses the oils and chrism to be used for
sacraments in the coming year. 
Photo/Melanie Sisinni

              This year, Palm Sunday falls on March 24. On this day, we recall Christ’s journey into Jerusalem. He was greeted by crowds of people waving palms and laying them at his feet. To visualize this, palms are blessed by the celebrant and distributed to the faithful. Palms may be brought home and returned to the church the following year to be burned for that year’s Ash Wednesday services.

             The Chrism Mass will be celebrated on Monday, March 25. At St. Peter Cathedral, Erie. Bishop Lawrence Persico will bless the holy oils and sacred chrism that are used in the celebration of baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick. The oils will then be distributed to every parish across the diocese for use in the coming year. This Mass also includes the opportunity for all diocesan priests to renew their promises, although it is open to the public and all are encouraged to participate.

              On Holy Thursday, celebrated this year on March 28, the church remembers when Jesus celebrated Passover with his 12 Apostles. This is commonly called the “Last Supper,” as this was the night Judas betrayed Jesus. Jesus was arrested after praying at the Mount of Olives. Traditionally, parishes include foot-washing as part of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, imitating the example of Jesus at the Last Supper,  performing a loving act of humility. At the end of Mass on Holy Thursday, altars will be stripped bare, and the Eucharist will be taken out of the tabernacle and moved to an altar of repose, where parishioners can spend time in adoration in response to Jesus' request to stay and pray with him during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

              Good Friday, also known as the Passion of the Lord, occurs on March 29 this year. It is the only day of the year on which no Masses are celebrated, but Holy Communion is offered at services. The Passion of Christ is read during Good Friday services, often including multiple participants. The cross is venerated, and people are invited to come forward to bow, kiss or touch the cross to show devotion to Jesus.

Bishop Persico washes feet at a Holy Thursday Mass held
at Saint Peter Cathedral, Erie, in 2023. 
Photo/Anne-Marie Welsh

              The Easter Vigil is celebrated in the evening on Holy Saturday, which falls on March 30 this year. This is the day when candidates and catechumens, who have prepared throughout the Lenten season to become members of the Catholic Church, will receive either baptism, Eucharist, confirmation or a combination of those

sacraments. The Easter Vigil Mass begins with a fire outside the church, where the new paschal candle is lit. The flame from the paschal candle is used to light candles held by each individual present at the Mass, symbolizing the light of Christ. The end of the Easter Vigil marks the beginning of the Easter season. Catholics have the option of attending either the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening or Mass on Easter Sunday.

              Parishes across the diocese have shared the times for Holy Week and Easter Masses and services. The list will be available at www.ErieRCD.org/lent.html beginning March 22.

              Please contact your parish office if your parish is not on the list. Parish secretaries may contact rpapalia@ErieRCD.org with updated info.