With the publication of his pastoral letter, “Enriching the Church: The Role of the Family in the Life of the Church of Syracuse and Beyond,” Bishop Robert J. Cunningham announced a special Year of the Family, which began in the diocese on Dec. 3, 2017.
In his letter, Bishop Cunningham reflects on the mission of the modern family — evangelization — and how it can be accomplished by forming an “ecclesia domestica,” a “domestic church,” through prayer and worship, formation, community, and service. Throughout the Year of the Family, the Diocese of Syracuse and its ministries will focus on each of these pillars and provide resources families can use to build their domestic churches.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the most solemn week of the Church’s liturgical year. During Holy Week, the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of his earthly life, beginning with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
For nearly 40 days, the Christian faithful have practiced the disciplines of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Now the Church invites us to an even deeper spirit of prayer as we follow Christ on his journey to the Cross.
Here are five suggestions for families to use this week as an opportunity to grow in holiness as individuals and as a family.
• What do you do with the palm branches you bring home from Palm Sunday Mass? Consider a simple ceremony to place them in your home. [See below for a suggested ritual.]
• During the week, pray the seven Penitential Psalms together (Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143; www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/6). These are especially appropriate during Lent. Prayerfully reciting these psalms helps us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow, and ask for God’s forgiveness.
• Celebrate the Sacrament of Penance if you haven’t already done so during Lent (www.foryourmarriage.org/why-do-catholics-go-to-confession/). Many parishes have extra hours and/or communal penance services during Holy Week.
• Attend a service together on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. On Thursday, the Church recalls the Last Supper and Jesus’ gift of his Body and Blood. On Friday, parishes hold services to celebrate the Passion of the Lord; many have Stations of the Cross as well.
• On Holy Saturday, pray for those who will be received into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil. Pray, too, for a deepening of your own faith and the grace to endure the suffering and celebrate the joys of married life.
A Suggested Ritual for Placing Palm Branches in the Home
After dinner or at another time on Palm Sunday, the household gathers where the palms have been placed, perhaps near a crucifix or the family Bible.
All make the Sign of the Cross. The leader begins:
Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
R/. Hosanna in the highest!
The leader may use these or similar words to introduce the prayer:
We have come to the last days of Lent. Today we heard the reading of the Passion. That story will remain with us as we leave Lent behind on Holy Thursday and enter into the three days when we celebrate the mystery of Christ’s passing through suffering and death to life at God’s right hand.
Listen to the words of the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (4:10-11): [We are] always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
R/. Thanks be to God.
After a time of silence, members of the household join in prayers of intercession. The intercessions are followed by the Lord’s Prayer. The leader continues:
Let us pray.
Blessed are you, God of Israel, so rich in love and mercy. Let these branches ever remind us of Christ’s triumph.
May we who bear them rejoice in his Cross and sing your praise forever and ever.
The leader concludes: Let us bless the Lord.
All respond, making the Sign of the Cross: Thanks be to God.
This text was originally published on the For Your Marriage website. Copyright © 2015, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Family Bible study: Palm Sunday
During this Year of the Family, the diocesan Office of Faith Formation will help you and your family journey through the Lenten season with an approachable, practical Bible study series. Each week the series focuses on an aspect of Sunday’s Gospel reading, provides questions for reflection, and suggests ways to live out the Lenten practices of praying, fasting, and giving.
The passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Mark 14:1-15:47)
• Name one thing that you will do each day this week to remind yourself that Jesus died and rose to new life for you.
• We hear the story of Jesus’ death each year. What did you hear differently this year? How has your faith changed in the past year?
• Identify and share one way that you personally “die in Christ.”
Suggestions for action
• Praise God for the gift of eternal life, which is to die to ourselves in love for others, as Christ did for us.
• Open your heart up to another person and tell them you and God love them.
• Rest from asking God to answer your prayers and listen for God’s call in your life.