What does it mean that so few attend Triduum liturgies?

A Pray Tell reader writes in:

What does it mean that only a fraction of the members of our faith communities attend Triduum liturgies? Is it a serious spiritual problem?

The pattern at our parish, which I believe reflects common experience in the US, is that we fill our church on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. But then, on any given Sunday, we fill our church several times each weekend, so it seems logical to conclude that only a rather small subset of our regular weekend attendees immerse themselves in the Triduum celebrations. Then on Easter Sunday we are swamped to overflowing with attendees – a multiple of the number would attend an Ordinary Time weekend.

Last year, my spouse and I insisted that our children attend all the Triduum liturgies. What struck us was how little they understood: they were not at all attuned to the historical/biblical events being celebrated, or to the reality of RCIA and the elect in the midst of the faith community, and they expressed complete unfamiliarity with the ritual actions such as veneration of the Eucharist and veneration of the cross. These children are reasonably bright and have received standard faith formation, including some Catholic schooling as well as parish-based religious education, and live in an actively religious household. Yet it seems that the gaps in their liturgical formation were sizable indeed. It doesn’t strain credulity to imagine that these gaps aren’t unique to them and aren’t relegated to children.

Is it possible that large segments of our faith communities, in not actively celebrating the liturgical heart of their faith, have gaps in their understanding and practice? Are our faith communities jumping to Easter while skipping what gets us to Easter?







46 responses to “What does it mean that so few attend Triduum liturgies?”

  1. Deacon Don Donaldson Avatar
    Deacon Don Donaldson

    I can’t figure it out as well … after all, we have shortened them down, removed all of the incense and pageantry, cut readings to the bone The pastor is going to give his annual “we have a lot to do tonight so I’ll just wish you a Happy Easter” homily and we have stopped the Deacon from intoning the Gospel or Solemn Intercessions to save time. We also cut back the music to as few verses of some happy-type ditties as possible … and still they don’t come?

    Maybe that is part of our problem. In my life I vividly remember only one Holy Week … in which nothing was cut … nothing was spared … we became a community at prayer, at praise, at contemplation. We took time, made the effort to enter into the three days well.

    So, as the parish Deacon, I am shuddering about tonight, tomorrow and Saturday … the only instruction I have been given by my Pastor is that it is “same-old-same-old” and “we-have-to-get-it-done” (which means quickly). That is the instruction given to the music director. No rehearsals, no practices, no communication, no liturgy.

    I wonder why I go … I think I know why they don’t.

    1. Bernadette Gasslein Avatar
      Bernadette Gasslein

      @Deacon Don Donaldson – comment #1:
      Frankly, all those trimmings and shortenings are part of the problem. They declare that we aren’t comfortable with our rites and that we don’t think others will be comfortable, either. And, there’s a curious phenomenon that I’ve experience: The more we try to rush those liturgies, the longer they seem, perhaps because we eliminate so many of the elements that are engaging. Doing so is, in fact, a poor catechesis, instilling the contrary of what we want to instill.

      As for the original question: the Triduum liturgies have never had an obligation attached to them (other than Easter Sunday Eucharist). I think that plays into it. As well, most parishes rarely do explicit catechesis about these celebrations themselves. Many people don’t have any idea of what they’re about – except for Good Friday, which in many folks’ imaginations is Jesus’ funeral. Rarely do people complain about the length of the Good Friday Commemoration of the Passion. Here’s what we gave people to help them prepare for these celebrations

      ❏ Try to do your shopping for this weekend and for Easter dinner earlier this week so you can spend some time in prayer and reflection on Saturday. This is one way of observing the paschal fast which begins after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and ends with the Vigil on Holy Saturday.
      For the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Thursday at 8:00 p.m.
      ❏ Bring bells! Scour your closets and china cabinets for bells! Everyone should have a bell to ring during the Glory to God.
      ❏ Get your feet ready—to be washed. Anyone who wishes to participate in this gesture is invited to do so. Just make sure you can remove whatever shoes and socks/stockings you’re wearing.
      ❏ Bring a non-perishable food item that will be included in the procession of
      the gifts. One of the Sacramentary’s rubrics for Holy Thursday says, “There may be a procession of the faithful with gifts for the poor.” This puts into action what we have experienced in the washing of feet: “Let us love one another…

    2. Brian Palmer Avatar
      Brian Palmer

      @Deacon Don Donaldson – comment #1:
      can’t figure it out as well … after all, we have shortened them down, removed all of the incense and pageantry, cut readings to the bone The pastor is going to give his annual “we have a lot to do tonight so I’ll just wish you a Happy Easter” homily and we have stopped the Deacon from intoning the Gospel or Solemn Intercessions to save time. We also cut back the music to as few verses of some happy-type ditties as possible … and still they don’t come?
      Sound pretty boring. No wonder nobody shows up. This is all too typical of many parishes today.

    3. Paul R. Schwankl Avatar
      Paul R. Schwankl

      @Deacon Don Donaldson – comment #1:
      Things can be worse. Years ago, I heard of a priest in my diocese who was able to get the Easter Vigil down to an hour and ten minutes. (Is that close to your pastor’s time?) Presumably he had parts recited (rather than sung) wherever he could, did only two Old Testament readings, and didn’t baptize or confirm anybody. His most ingenious timesaver was for the new fire of Easter: he blessed the flame from his cigarette lighter and then lighted the paschal candle with it.

      1. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #43:

        Pierre Jounel tells us that one reason for the 1988 Instruction on the celebration of Easter, Paschale Solemnitatis, was precisely that Italian priests were getting through the Vigil in less than an hour.

  2. Gerard Flynn Avatar
    Gerard Flynn

    Perhaps one reason is the prescription mentality. If we are not (canonically) obliged to attend it can’t be that important whether we do or we don’t.

  3. Bernadette Gasslein Avatar
    Bernadette Gasslein

    “Let us love one another as Christ has loved us.” Items such as canned meat, pork and beans, and canned vegetables, as well as some canned
    food with a lift pull tab would be most appreciated.
    For Holy Saturday
    ❏ Join us for Morning Prayer at 10:00 a.m. On this day traditionally the church waits and ponders at Christ’s tomb. Easter foods will be blessed. Bring the candles you plan to use, but note that because we
    are fasting from fire and water on Holy Saturday until we receive the light from the new fire and the water we will bless at night, candles won’t be lit during that celebration.
    ❏ Plan family activities in preparation for Easter: you might want to go for a walk together and observe the signs of new life that are beginning to appear. You might want to decorate a special Easter candle in preparation for family prayer during the Easter Season.
    ❏ Decorate a small jar or other container that you will bring to the Vigil or to Easter Sunday Mass to fill with newly-blessed holy water to take home.
    ❏ Read the scriptures of the Easter Vigil together as a family. These wonderful passages tell the story of God’s faithful love for us throughout history, from creation through to the resurrection of Jesus.
    ❏ Take a nap before you come to the vigil. Be refreshed and ready to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection.
    ❏ If you’re bringing young children to the vigil, bring a pillow and blanket, and something for them to drink. It’s perfectly OK for children to curl up and snooze during part of the vigil if they get sleepy.
    ❏ Practice the traditional Easter greeting: “Christ is risen!” “Truly he is risen!”
    ❏ Watch an Easter DVD or Video: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
    ❏ Decorate your home with white and yellow balloons – or even attach them to your car!

    For the Easter Vigil, Saturday at 9:00 p.m.
    ❏ Wear weather-appropriate clothing. We begin the Vigil outside around the new fire. The ground may be mucky. Wear appropriate footwear.
    ❏ Bring your bells back!…

    1. Bernadette Gasslein Avatar
      Bernadette Gasslein

      @Bernadette Gasslein – comment #4:
      Sorry for the broken up post. # 4 continues # 2.


      ❏ Be prepared to stay afterwards for a reception to welcome those we have just received into the church.

      As we did this, the numbers increased on holy Thursday and at the Vigil. Some people had never understood that this was a “Triduum.” Some marvelled at the richness of the Holy Thursday celebration. Some “veterans” of every celebration were astonished by Holy Saturday morning prayer, at which we proclaimed the “Ancient homily” from the Office of Readings. I remember one woman telling me that that reading finally made it all make sense. Some realized that the vigil wasn’t just for the RCIA. We never ever worried about how much time it would take. We never “warned” people about the length of the celebration … in fact, we used Roc O’Connor’s setting of the Exsultet which is itself about 13 minutes long, with percussion, synthesizer and two cantors – after we came in from the huge bonfire where we had lit the Easter candle in the darkness (this was before RM III). My pastor, who had been hesitant about that setting, confessed a few days later that he was still waking up during the night hearing the refrain, “This is the night the light broke the chains of death. O Holy night, o night of glory!” He wasn’t alone.

      This is the season to turn up the ritual heat as the rubrics invite us to do. But, oh my, we get so skittish precisely because, I think, these symbols and rites grab us at our depths when we do them well, and draw – or drag- us into the Mystery of dying and rising, and the utterly transformed life that impinges on our “old” ways of living.

      Blessed Easter to all.

      1. Deacon Don Donaldson Avatar
        Deacon Don Donaldson

        @Bernadette Gasslein – comment #5:
        Thank you Bernadette …

        I promise, in my own private way I will take time to read what is omitted, to contemplate what was glassed over, to sit in the silent glory of the Easter Son!

        and a blessed Easter to you.

      2. Bernadette Gasslein Avatar
        Bernadette Gasslein

        @Deacon Don Donaldson – comment #10:
        Deacon Don, the other thing that we have always been attentive is to the readers/lectors during these celebrations. Make sure your best proclaimers are involved, and even if they are good, rehearse with them, not just for how they use the mikes, but for making the readings come alive. To some grumbling, we started rehearsals for readers; I had to deal with, “I’ve read that before – what does she think she can do?” When I do lector formation, I treat it like a master class in music, and work with ministers on phrasing, intonation – and in particular, those long and awkward rhetorical questions that are in some of the Vigil readings. Oh, yes, and Genesis 1 … Initially grudgingly, and afterwards, happily, they had to admit that the quality of the[ir] proclamation was ramped up quite a few notches, as was the quality of listening and engagement.

        May all our Triduum celebrations draw us more deeply into Christ’s pasch.

  4. Tommy Myrick Avatar

    I am a convert, so my experience is very limited, but my theory is that we have reduced a majority of our Catholicism to Mass attendance for our faithful, and little to no catechesis. I have had the good priviledge of being brought into the church by a very faithful priest, and now I work for another who is very adamant about immersing his flock in good liturgy and great catechesis.

    With that being said, it is extremely slow going.

    From what I’ve gathered, many parishes have no notion of what changes between liturgical seasons, or why there is a need for them in the first place. We have been very passionate about educating our faithful on the differences and why they are there (I’m the Director of Sacred Liturgy here). This includes talks by our priests for adults at our CCD, (before him there was nothing offered for parents and adult parishioners during CCD) explaining differences during homilies, and articles written in our parish bulletin by our priests and myself.

    I believe we are beginning to see growth in the spiritual lives of our parish (myself greatly included), but it is a small group. There are even those who grumble about the “changes Father is deciding to make”. It’s only been 8 months, so I am optimistic that we will continue to see positive changes in our parish as we continue to work towards educating and equipping our parish with the tools they need to grow in their prayer lives.

    I think that this is something that is happening in many parishes, and I hope that in time we will be a much stronger Church because of it. Keep the Faith, don’t lose heart, and be available to be the change that God wants for our parishes. May God bless us during this Holy Week, and may we all be ready to accept his will!

  5. Adam Wood Avatar

    The parents were suddenly surprised at what their children didn’t know when they brought their children for the Triduum (insisted they come).

    Have they been going previous years? Have they been involving themselves in the ritual life of the Church? Have they taken their children’s spiritual and religious formation as a personal family responsibility? Have they tried to be continually aware of the “gaps” in their children’s faith formation?

  6. David Jaronowski Avatar
    David Jaronowski

    Misplaced priorities.

    They don’t come for the same reason that I’m told many don’t go to mass on Thanksgiving Day: There is cooking and preparing to be done at home!

    Don’t you know that on Good Friday people have to shop for the big dinner and color Easter eggs? And the vigil is just too long!

    As for Holy Thursday, I don’t hear so many excuses about that one – and it’s usually the best attended in most parishes that I have experience with.

  7. Donald Lyons Avatar
    Donald Lyons

    Long time lurker, first time poster. And I was moved to post by an apparent hidden agenda from the OP. The OP finally insisted his/her children attend Triduum services just last year? What about all the other years? And then wonders why they don’t understand the veneration of the cross and Eucharist? Umm – aren’t parents supposed to be the primary route of faith formation in their children? What does this have to do with the type of liturgy being used?

    My kids were fortunate to attend Catholic schools. The primary schools had special services on Holy Thurday for them (by the way, the “regulars” would get angry to see the Good Friday service disrupted by the presence of so many children). My parish’s DRE strongly promotes attendance at Triduum Masses, but you can only lead a horse to water. Religious ed programs only have a fixed number of hours in which to instruct the faith; how many hours should they spend on the every detail of the Triduum Masses vs instruction on what the Resurrection means?

    Finally, I am in my 50s so don’t remember attendance in the good old pre-Vatican 2 days, but I do know huge societal changes have taken place since then that have nothing to do with liturgy. US families are now almost completely 2-incomes. How many people can take a vacation day on Friday? Plus, how to get the kids out of school? How many people need to travel long distances to visit family on Easter – which may affect whether they have the time to spend at the Vigil Mass?

    Poor attendance at Triduum Masses should not be a stalking horse for a desire for increased liturgical ceremony. The problem is far more complex.

  8. Dr Dolly Sokol Avatar
    Dr Dolly Sokol

    Bernadette’s comments support the instruction given to parents of infants in the Rite of Baptism – that they are the first and primary teachers of the faith to their children and that they are expected to bring them up in the practice of the faith. But few parents, and sad to say, a good number of catechists and Catholic religion teachers, cannot pass on what they have not experienced in liturgy nor in life.

    I am not as quick to blame secular culture for pulling folks away from the Triduum. What are we as ministers doing throughout the liturgical year to lead folks to anticipate and savor these Three Days?

  9. Andreas Box Avatar
    Andreas Box

    From my experience numbers have been growing slowly but steadily for the tridium ceremonies. When I first started serving in the mid-70’s, there was a half to two-thirds full church for Maundy Thursday, probably less for the easter vigil although always an over-flowing church and car park on good Friday (but this was stations of the cross with passion reading not the solemn liturgy). I think we forget that not too long ago the tridium ceremonies were hardly public and rarely publicised. Often in UK parishes churches, they were conducted in the early morning without any ceremony or minimal music. Considering this history, it’s surprising that the tridium ceremonies have become so central to parish life so relatively quickly. Finally, I think it doesn’t help to admonish people for not attending and many people are away visiting family etc. Our ex-parish priest used to encourage every family to send at least one representative to attend each ceremony… a much more constructive approach!

  10. Chuck Middendorf Avatar
    Chuck Middendorf

    I completely disagree with the premise in the first place.

    The parishes I’ve worked out and worship at have strong attendance at the Triduum liturgies. But, they have had strong liturgical formation for decades, and so it’s in their DNA. Good liturgical formation + good liturgy (music + preaching + hospitality) = full churches during the Triduum.

    Our parish also tried Morning Prayer this year, and we had the exact same amount of people who attend daily Mass! We were shocked!

    I will only note this: when I stopped working at a church, and started working “in the real world” I discovered getting to Mass on Holy Thursday is a real pain: get down with work, sit in traffic, get home, grab a bite to eat, get to church, etc. … vigil…but not too late, because tomorrow is a work day again. (1) I appreciate those regions/countries where Good Friday is a holiday, and (2) I guess I’d rather see people at the Easter Vigil, and I’ll give them a pass on Holy Thursday (and Good Friday).

    1. Peter Rehwaldt Avatar
      Peter Rehwaldt

      @Chuck Middendorf – comment #10:
      Your final note points to what I see as the largest obstacle for many — especially families with younger children where all the adults in the home work. You leave work, pick up kids from day care, get home, cook dinner, sit down, eat . . . and now you have to pick up to get to church by 7 or 7:30? Sorry, but I know far too many faith-filled families who can’t make that happen. And if these families have older kids, and those kids have homework that is due the next day, what are they to do?

      Heaping guilt upon folks who are struggling with all of this does not help matters at all. Indeed, it likely will make it worse.

      Note, too, that it’s not just the Triduum worship services that are affected by this, but also things like committee meetings, bible studies, or other parish activities that take place in the evenings that suffer from this clash between the competing demands on time and energy.

      1. Jim Pauwels Avatar
        Jim Pauwels

        @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #14:

        Peter – I wholeheartedly agree. But what is the solution?

      2. Chuck Middendorf Avatar
        Chuck Middendorf

        @Jim Pauwels – comment #15:
        One thing we did, with decent success, was pile all of our events on Wednesday evening. We used to “force” people to choose between This on Tuesday and That on Wednesday and The Other Thing on Thursday. Now, we have a whole bunch of things all in a row on Wednesdays, starting at 5:30 pm through 9 pm. It’s not a perfect solution, but it sure has helped. And anytime we offer a parish meal, it helps.
        To turn it back to Triduum: a neighboring parish offers a soup supper on Thursday and Friday before the evening celebration. If you can check one thing off of your list (preparing a meal for your family), it does make it easier to show up.

      3. Peter Rehwaldt Avatar
        Peter Rehwaldt

        @Jim Pauwels – comment #15:
        I’ve seen varying things tried, with varying degrees of success. One that I’ve seen that offers promise in at least some cases is to have a parish meal prior to worship, so that it relieves that part of the stress (cooking, eating, and cleaning up before heading to worship) and puts people in a more relaxed and worshipful mood prior to the beginning of worship. (Unless, of course, you’re on the kitchen crew . . .)

        Moving the service later might help for some families, but for those with young children, you then run into the issue of little ones and their bedtimes.

        The other possibility is what has been discussed a bit on another thread: providing online streaming to those unable to attend in person. Obviously, they cannot partake of the Eucharist, but they can sit in what you might call the Virtual Balcony of their parish and participate in the rest of the liturgy. I haven’t experienced this at any parishes that I’ve served, though some have encouraged folks to watch a podcast once it becomes available if they were unable to attend. It’s not ideal, but it’s something.

    2. Bernadette Gasslein Avatar
      Bernadette Gasslein

      @Chuck Middendorf – comment #13:
      I agree that the start time for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is usually too early. In one parish where I used to work (too long ago!) the Mass of the Lord’s Supper was always scheduled for 8:00 p.m., which enabled people to get home from work, eat (maybe!) and get to church.

      Here in Canada, where it is a holiday for many, if not most, people, many parishes now have two celebrations of Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, usually at 11:00 and 3:00, and these celebrations are pretty typically jammed. But if I were somewhere where many people didn’t get the day off, I’d hope the celebrations would be scheduled for 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 or 8:00 p.m.

  11. David Jaronowski Avatar
    David Jaronowski

    I’m confused by the people who work in the “real world” who do not ask to be let off work early Thursday and to be excused Friday for religious reasons. Surely if an employer were to deny such reasonable accommodations for one’s sincerely held religious beliefs, this would be grounds for a possible lawsuit and tons of negative publicity.

    1. Jeff Rexhausen Avatar
      Jeff Rexhausen

      @David Jaronowski – comment #17:
      No, that would probably be a frivolous lawsuit.

      1. Paul Boman Avatar
        Paul Boman

        @Jeff Rexhausen – comment #23:
        Also, while employers may not discriminate in hiring on the basis of religious affiliation, they are under no obligation to accommodate religious holidays and observances.

      2. David Jaronowski Avatar
        David Jaronowski

        @Paul Boman – comment #35:
        I don’t believe that this statement is factually true.

      3. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        @David Jaronowski – comment #38:
        Generally, while employers have to make reasonable accommodation for religious *requirements*, there is no federal right to employer-paid religious holidays on top of paid vacation days, and for Catholics attendance at the liturgies of Thurs-Fri-Sat are not preceptual obligations so no accommodation would be required for them.

  12. Norman Borelli Avatar
    Norman Borelli

    Incense allergies.

  13. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    We will have a church full of people on Holy Thursday at 6:30pm. It’s the night on which we welcome the candidates for full communion including Catholic adults who missed confirmation first time around. On Good Friday the church will be full again at 6:30 and this service is very long since everyone comes to venerate the cross at the end of the service. After venerating the cross with the other ministers, I return to my chair and remain until the last person/family has completed the veneration. It is always very moving. (Individuals/families leave the church quietly after their veneration.)
    The Easter Vigil will not be quite as full because it begins at 8:15pm. But there will be about 400. A great many of them even stay for the reception of the newly initiated following the Mass.
    Does the questioner wish to suggest that we have three services on each day of the Triduum so that more people could be accommodated? That would be a real priest killer. These services are for those who are seeking to enter more deeply into the paschal mystery. The fact that we will have about 1400 total attendance is amazing if you ask me. Then on Easter Sunday morning we will have about another 1200 for the two Masses. God is Good!

    1. Charles Day Avatar
      Charles Day

      @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #22:
      Does the questioner wish to suggest that we have three services on each day of the Triduum so that more people could be accommodated?

      I think that pretty much hits the nail on the head. More attend on Easter Sunday for lots of reasons that include tradition, family considerations, etc, but also just because there are more times available.

      The Easter Vigil is my absolute favorite liturgy of the entire year, and I am disappointed when we don’t do all the readings (but I understand why we don’t – we have two Vigils, one in English and one in Spanish, and there are only so many hours in the night). So I always go to the Vigil and usually read. I do understand why families, especially those with small children don’t go to the Vigil – it’s just a little more than you can reasonably expect a small child to get through.

  14. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    In my immediate area, parishes don’t stretch for high quality for the Triduum in terms of preaching or music. People are sincere and earnest, not lazy, but the nearly uniform avoidance of anything that falls outside of what might be characterized as comfortable, therapeutic middlebrow suburban Catholic liturgics is an obstacle for me – I have to go into an austere, dry ex opere operato mode to get through such experiences. The community I worship with on Sunday mornings is not logistically feasible for me in the evenings.

  15. Ann Olivier Avatar
    Ann Olivier

    Jim P. –

    Americans are money rich and time poor. Sociologically it’s a dreadful problem.

    One simple solution is to cut down the hours worked per week. This will give workers more leisure and also have the great advantage of requiring more workers to fill in for the gaps left by shorter work week.

    Yes, at least at the beginning this would reduce wages somewhat, but when many more people are working, taxes should be lower because there will be fewer unemployed receiving government benefits.

  16. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    Well, we were packed to the rafters on Thursday. It will be standing room only this afternoon and on Easter Morning. But the Vigil is another matter. We have a half full church at best. Is it a matter of convenience or is it a liturgy that some see as confused in its focus and dull with just so many words?

    1. Brian Palmer Avatar
      Brian Palmer

      @Alan Johnson – comment #27:
      As with Good Friday , you may have to have a series of vigil rites spread throughout Saturday morning and afternoon leading to the evening Holy Saturday lighting of the fire, prophecies etc. Here is where the pre-1955 holy triduum liturgy might be helpful. A much extended vigil “at the tomb” with prophecou ies, readings, and sermons. With the LIturgy of the Hours supplementing it. Matins for Holy Saturday said or even repeated for example.

      In Russia and the Balkans people come and go throughout the Holy Saturday vigil. There’s always something leading you to the Great Vigil at night. To expect everybody to show up at 9 or 10pm Saturday evening and to stay throughout it all may be expecting too much.

      1. Bryon Gordon Avatar
        Bryon Gordon

        @Brian Palmer – comment #29:
        To apply the principle of trim at the Triduum seems very counter-intuitive to me. To do so is to rob the Church as she contemplates her most central mystery. Instead of letting the stops out and letting the signs and symbols speak bodily and boldly to us, all that trim does is desiccate and weaken the potency and vibrancy of those signs and symbols. It is another form of domesticating the Spirit. Pastoral staffs delude themselves in thinking that by trimming the Rites they are doing so for “pastoral” reasons all in the interests of “time.” Which time–chronos or Kairos? The Church only gets to do this once a year–it’s the Triduum! Therefore, all stops are out and not a diminishment. This might explain why those children mentioned in the post above didn’t “get” it. Then again, we live in a literal-minded age.

        If people can invest three or more hours at a baseball game or an opera, they can also invest that much time at worship, provided that the worship is done with style and grace.

      2. Brian Palmer Avatar
        Brian Palmer

        @Bryon Gordon – comment #30:
        I didn’t have “trimming” in mind. Quite the contrary actually. The point being one either bends to the schedule of others and to local custom ,or you have the rites of holy week celebrated in an empty church. I’ve seen that often enough.

        You provide for liturgial add-ons and not take aways. Take away the popular devotions and there is no guarantee the faithful will appear for the official rites. Which usually lack the drama and the impact more commonly associated with rites based upon purely local custom.

        In some places these paraliturgical Holy Week rites, e.g. Spain and Portugal, are much more popular than one would find at the official liturgy for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. By comparison, they are often very sparsely attended.

        If people attend at all it will be to kiss the feet of the cross after the Good Friday liturgy, or take part in the funeral procession ( a glass coffin with a wax image of Jesus in death) taken through the streets with bands and clouds of incense/candles etc.

  17. Donna Eschenauer Avatar
    Donna Eschenauer

    I read this post with great interest. In my experience, there are many pastoral reasons why the concerns of the author are so. Let me sight some examples.
    In many parishes, toward the end of Lent there is mention of Holy Week; however, no mention of Easter Triduum (I recently went through several parish bulletins and proved this point).
    Catechetically, this is the null curriculum. The catechetical ministry of the Church, including Catholic Schools, in many cases, ignore the profound impact that focus on the liturgical year can have in people’s lives. (I am always comforted to know that Virgil Michel worked tirelessly for this)
    Additionally, many people take “school holidays” as an opportunity to go on vacation. We are not forming our people, young and old, to understand that the Easter Triduum celebrates our highest holy days!
    In regard to neophytes, when I worked with the catechumenate I told the elect that no matter where they are in life to always remember the Triduum and to be at their parish for these days.
    On a hopeful note. At the seminary where I work, the seminarians prepare for the Triduum with great care and enthusiasm. Open to the public, the liturgies are celebrated in a timeless fashion. It is clear, that we are a community at prayer.

  18. David Jaronowski Avatar
    David Jaronowski

    Jeff Rexhausen : @David Jaronowski – comment #17: No, that would probably be a frivolous lawsuit.

    You can have your opinion, and I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know what the law actually says.

    But I would call a “frivolous lawsuit” one against a dry cleaner for emotional distress for not having a suit ready on the day promised (true example). I hardly think our religious liberties are frivolous.

    Often when the calendar gets to the most holiest of days for Jewish people, they will clear their schedules and if you work with them, you will know not to look for them on those days. Ditto for Muslims. Why can’t we do that? Why aren’t we willing to do that?

    1. Chuck Middendorf Avatar
      Chuck Middendorf

      @David Jaronowski – comment #32:
      David, to this, and your original point (#17), I’ll speak for myself: my employer would gladly let me take the day off. And I think 99.99% of employers would let their employees take off. But it would be out of my vacation time (at least I have vacation time, but for others, it would be unpaid…so that’s less food on the table at home). However, no one else would be off, so the work would pile up. Again, in my case, I’m taking off a bit early today, but I realize that means I’ll have work to do on Saturday or Sunday (yes, Easter Sunday!) to be ready for Monday. I won’t begrudge others who opt to work a full workday on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, so they can have a weekend with their families–hopefully that include the Vigil Mass!
      We could have a long conversation about how Americans (apologies to other nations on this blog) don’t take time off, our work days, our work ethic, how we use/don’t use vacation time, corporate culture, etc. It’s all part and parcel of this conversation.

  19. Rev. Richard Middleton Avatar
    Rev. Richard Middleton

    I believe this has something to do with people not being given enough advance notice, given busy schedules, etc. So I have a suggestion: Now that the liturgical proclamation of important dates has been restored to Epiphany, why not ask people on that day to bring their paper and digital calendars to church so that after the proclamation, the pastor can more practically invite people to lock in the dates and times of Triduum services, the parish mission, etc. In other words, an update to the traditional approach. Call it Calendar Sunday or whatever. I think if people have these things already scheduled months in advance — along with the necessary catechesis and pastoral exhortation — attendance would increase.

  20. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn Avatar

    During Holy Week of 2007, I attended all 3 nights of the Triduum at the parish where my husband and I would marry about 3 weeks later, and where I found a spiritual home like no other. That night I did not know a soul, now – well that’s a whole other story.

    The services seemed fairly well attended, but what struck me that night was what remarkable liturgy was celebrated. It was the first Triduum at that parish for the still-somewhat new pastor. Each subsequent year I have been involved in liturgical coordination for the Triduum and have watched attendance swell to amazing numbers.

    Fast forward to last night. I did not attend my home parish as I am the godparent of someone about to be welcomed into the church at the parish where I work. I did return “home” to attend night prayer, and was astounded by how many people had stayed.

    All of this is not to confirm that good catechesis, lived out by the pastor and through all liturgical celebrations – and through the life of the parish in general – has helped this grow.

    And this is not unimportant, part way through Lent, Fr. Pat starts asking people to consider joining us for Triduum. There is something to say about being asked, invited. And then transformed by great liturgy, beautiful music, and rich community.

  21. Charles Day Avatar
    Charles Day

    Back from our Vigil Mass. I am confident we had 90% occupancy even though to accommodate larger attendance all services have been from the smaller church (we are in the process of building a new church) to a much larger gym. 5 baptisms and 13 more getting confirmed. That’s just the English service; no stats on the later Hispanic Mass, but their RCIA class was larger, so I would expect similar numbers. I would not blame our priests if they slept all day Monday.

  22. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    After a few down years, especially from last year’s fire and exile, we had more at Holy Thursday (more students attending before going home for the weekend), about the same on Friday, and a good bit more at a three-hour vigil last night. But not as much as the other two. Three people did show up for 4:45 Mass though. I invited them back at 8.

    #34, +1. We decided to promote it this year, and I think we’ll do more next year. We’re looking at a more focused promotion of parish events. Simple rule: one at a time. Triduum will get two weeks, and maybe a bit more. And nothing else will get highlighted.

    That said, Triduum can be difficult in a university community. Half our music ministry is gone because of the university singers on the road to New York this weekend, or people off to home for the holiday. And a number of our town residents are also gone. The later in the semester, the more difficult to get commitments for rehearsals, too.

  23. Michelle Francl-Donnay Avatar

    We ran out of booklets for night prayer on Thursday night — I’d call that a good sign?

  24. Colleen Vermeulen Avatar

    Something to consider attendance-wise is how many masses a parish has on any typical weekend. For example, my parish has 5 masses per weekend. So, while I can report that all Triduum services were SRO (plus chairs packed in aisles, etc.) that doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than that 20-40% of typical weekend attendees were present. However, it does result in a different problem–from a space perspective, we really can’t encourage MORE attendance at the Triduum because there simply isn’t space. Maybe getting some extra chairs in the un-used choir loft, but there’s not an obvious way to be able to open up the services to more participants.

  25. Scott Pluff Avatar
    Scott Pluff

    This year we required (or at least strongly encouraged) our confirmation candidates to attend all three nights of the Triduum. With 50 kids plus families, that added over 100 people to our usual attendance.

    The idea is that experiencing the Triduum is part of religious education and everyone should experience it at least once. Some may never come back, but at least they will be aware of these rituals. Judging from some positive comments by the students, many will come back next year.

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