Preparing for Holy Week and the Easter Vigil Mass with your Child

"Preparing for Holy Week" by Tiffany Walsh (

Image credit: (2011), CC BY 2.0

For the past several years, I have made an effort to attend all of the liturgies of the Triduum: Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Good Friday service, and the Easter vigil Mass. I hadn’t attended any of these as a child or young adult, and so I feel like I have just “discovered” them, and for a cradle Catholic, this sense of newness and awe is quite exciting! As a result, sharing them with my own children has been very special. My son Henry, who is now 13, has attended the Easter vigil with me for a number of years, and even altar served at the entire Triduum last year with my encouragement. My daughter Anne, who is 7, has attended the Good Friday liturgy with me since she was a toddler.

"Preparing for Holy Week" by Tiffany Walsh (

Image credit: (2014), CC BY 2.0

This year, with Anne on the cusp of turning 8, and Henry wanting to serve again at the Easter vigil Mass, I reflected on whether or not she was old enough to stay awake for that liturgy, and also make it all the way through without complaining about how long it was. I did a little searching on my blog, and found that I took Henry to the Easter vigil for the very first time the same year he received First Eucharist, which is still one year away for Anne. I found my description of the event to be an endearing memory:

“It involves FIRE, Henry! But it *is* longer, so you have to be patient.”

“Longer?! I don’t think so, Mommy.”

“But … FIRE!”

Let’s just say that I prevailed.

"Preparing for Holy Week" by Tiffany Walsh (

Image credit: Diocese of Gallup (2015),, CC BY 2.0

At 8 PM Saturday evening, Henry and I were sitting in the darkened church, craning our necks to see the fire getting started outside. As our deacon processed into the dark church with the lit Easter candle, intoning “Behold, the light of Christ!” I thought to myself how very grateful I am to be Catholic. Our faith is truly a treasure.

I was teary as Henry and I had our candles lit, feeling so thankful that God is always there, even in our spiritual darkness. When the lights were flipped on dramatically as the cantor sang the Easter Proclamation, I could tell Henry was impressed. This, indeed, was different from any Mass he had ever seen.

Following the Blessing of Fire and Procession of the Candle, we moved to the Liturgy of the Word. This is the tough part of the Easter vigil with kids! There are seven Old Testament readings at this liturgy, each with their own Psalm and prayer, and Henry’s agonized face as he flipped through his missal said it all. At the pastor’s discretion, the initial seven readings can be pared down, and our parish chose to read three of those, plus the Pauline epistle and the Gospel, so five readings in total rather than nine. Henry did great, and was patient throughout.

Following the homily comes the third part of this Mass, which is the baptismal liturgy. Sublime! The litany of the saints, oh my!


It was so beautiful. We had two catechumens (receiving Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) and two candidates (receiving Confirmation and Eucharist) at our parish. I teared up during the baptisms, and then when the congregation renewed our own baptismal promises, it was just … only when I served as godmother at my good friend Irena’s Baptism a few years ago, and when I was married, have I ever been that emotional at a Mass.

When we moved on to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I could feel Henry relax. He knew exactly how long we now had to go, and so he was cool with that. When I returned from receiving Communion, Henry leaned over to remind me that there was only one more Mass to go before *he* could receive Communion, which made me smile.

When we got home, it was just after 10 PM. Although he was impatient at the beginning of Mass, I thought Henry did a great job overall, and I’m so glad he came with me.

Looking back on those memories made me smile. My “little” guy is now as tall as I am and going to high school next year! When I asked Anne about attending, I once again mentioned the fire, because that’s certainly a crowd pleaser. Also, Henry is serving the Mass, which makes it extra special. She was intrigued, and immediately asked to attend. Although she’s younger than when Henry first attended, I think I’m going to bring her.

Our earthly life is short, and we should treasure every Easter vigil Mass that we possibly can. To my mind, it’s as close to a taste of heaven that we receive here.

Do you bring your children to the Triduum liturgies? Or do you have plans to this year? I would love to hear about your experiences!

Copyright 2019 Tiffany Walsh


About Author

Tiffany is a wife and mother to two precious children, a native Western New Yorker, and an academic librarian. She is a cradle Catholic who rekindled her childhood faith as a graduate student in New York City via her love of books, and is the author of "Exploring the Catholic Classics," part of the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women series. She enjoys using humor in her writing, and blogs about faith, books, and everything in-between over at


  1. What precious memories! We just made the decision to attend the Easter Vigil this year, and our toddler (he’ll be 3 this summer) keeps asking me “Do you want to go to the Easter Vigil with me?” We’ve taken him every year that he’s been alive, but I have a feeling that he’s just old enough now to both start to appreciate it AND have a challenge with the length (our 7 month old baby will probably just sleep in his carrier). I’m excited to bring him to experience this wonderful liturgy-and the whole Triduum-it’s such a powerful, intense period in the Liturgical Year!

  2. My daughter is 6 yrs old and we’ve taken her to Holy Thursday mass & Good Friday service pretty much since birth. We’ve taken her once to Easter Vigil mass and that was when she was about 9 months old. That was a very special vigil as my husband recieved the sacraments of communion & confirmation during that Easter Vigil. My daughter slept through most of the vigil and was good for the little time she was awake. I hope to go back to Easter Vigil again when she gets a little older. I miss going to the Easter Vigil.

  3. I love seeing this!! Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s nice to know I’m not so alone.

    My husband runs RCIA at the parish, so we’ve always gone to the vigil since he started working there (8 years ago now). We have three kids – ages 9, 6 & 4. They vary in their ability to stay awake throughout it. Our parish has a feast after the vigil, so we lovingly remind them that if they fall asleep, they’ll not only miss the baptisms (there’s usually one) and the dressing of the altar, but they’ll miss the feast as well. That’s sometimes enough to get them to stay awake, but I don’t begrudge them at all for sleeping either 🙂

    We love the vigil. Having gone now for so many years, it’s hard to picture Easter without it.

    • Oh my goodness, what a magnificent testimony to the beauty of the Easter vigil! I’m really hoping that it will stay with my kids. Although they complain about church being “boring,” they love the seasonal rituals and traditions that make up the liturgical calendar. My daughter usually goes to bed at 7:30, so this will be interesting, but I feel so strongly that it is worth it!

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