How is your Lent going? Do you feel sufficiently penitent? The more scrupulous parts of me have always wondered if I was doing enough when it comes to this season. Is this sacrifice enough of a sacrifice? Now that I’m halfway through Lent, the sacrifice that seemed hard at the beginning doesn’t really phase me now. Maybe I should have chosen something harder. I must not be challenging myself enough. The run-of-the-mill mom guilt seems to turn itself up a bit when I am called to sacrifice more than we as moms already do in our day-to-day lives.
In “The Catholic All Year Compendium,” Kendra Tierney shares that she “used to labor under what I think is a pretty common misconception about Lent: that we are supposed to be miserable for these 40 days. But, really, that’s not the right way to look at it. Lent isn’t a time to try to punish ourselves into being deserving of God’s grace. (Especially since that’s not possible, at Lent or any other time.) Lent is a time to try to be our best selves, to take up new practices that lead us towards God and to leave behind practices that distract us from God.”
So, I felt called to ask myself, is my “best self” miserable from the sacrifices I make?
And, of course, the answer is no. Jesus himself reminds us:
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
However, the marathon of Lent seems easy in comparison to the gauntlet of the Triduum with kids, at least for me.
I love the Triduum. It is the main event and the whole reason we are Catholic. I love the pageantry — the smells and bells — the music, the readings and the way there are multiple readers in the Passion narrative. The Triduum is a sensory experience for me, and naturally, I want to share my absolute favorite days in the Church with my family. I want my kids to love the Triduum the way I do. But right now, they are 8, 6, 3 and almost 1. Back-to-back liturgies, no matter how beautiful, are hard. The last time our family tried to do the whole Triduum (pre-COVID), two kids fell asleep in the pew, and the third spent more time being bounced and rocked in a side room than actually in the Vigil Mass. We didn’t even try Easter Sunday after that, and I felt like a failure.
I’m not alone in this feeling.
Ginny Kochis of Catholic Mom shares, “the Triduum, the most solemn and holy three days in Catholic Culture. I’m supposed to be at Church. We’ve got the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday. On Good Friday, there’s the Veneration of the Cross. The Easter Vigil on Saturday brings new members of the Church into the fullness of redemption. I should be there. Except I’m a mom. The truth is, each of these events is a beautiful opportunity for grace — grace I want my children to receive. But I’ve got one with Sensory Processing Disorder, one with high anxiety and one who eats crayons by the fistful. The Triduum events are packed with faithful Catholics. They are not short. They begin at meltdown-thirty every night. While I long to take my whole family I know I’m asking for disaster — at least at this point in my life. Yes, it’s just a season, but I can’t help but feel I’m failing. I should be better at this liturgical living thing, right? Wrong.
“I’m already excelling by nature of my vocation. And my fellow frazzled mama, so are you. We are spearheading our own beautiful domestic churches in our living rooms. We don’t have to go to the parish to observe the Easter Triduum. We can do it from home.”
So take heart, fellow moms. Your Triduum may not look the way you expect, and that is OK.
Traditions can be added to and scaled back as they suit your family in its season. Maybe this year, you do the Stations of the Cross at home or walk the outdoor ones at Holy Hill so that the littles can get rid of their wiggles while you pray. Perhaps you watch the Vigil Mass from home after the kids go to bed or only take your oldest ones after the others go down. Maybe, just maybe, your Triduum is just reading Bible stories in your living room to prepare for the awesomeness of Easter Sunday Mass. Whatever you do, be joyful. We are an Easter people, and Our Lord loves you right where you are.
And someday, when the kids are older? There will still be a pew for you. You may even get to spend the entire liturgy in it.