The Art of Gathering

April 14, 2022

One of my favorite liturgies of the year is the Holy Thursday Mass at my parish, when all are invited forward to get their feet washed and wash the feet of another person. I know not all churches invite everyone in the pews to do this, and I’m convinced they miss out on a powerful ritual.

We were strictly a Sunday Mass attending family when I was growing up, so I never attended a Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter Vigil service until after college. The first time I went to a Triduum liturgy, I thought, “I missed out all those years,” so ever since then, I’ve been a cheerleader encouraging people to give them a try. Last year, our church still wasn’t open for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday services. None were open at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, so this Holy Week will be a chance for especially holy re-gatherings.

In her book, The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that when we gathered before the pandemic—for birthday parties, staff meetings, Friday evening drinks, potlucks, and, dare I say it, even church services—we had mostly fallen into rote routines. We didn’t give much thought to “how” we came together, much less “why” we were gathering. Catholics are often guilty of this since Mass is so ritualized, but the Triduum services are a far cry from routine. So the question is, can we re-gather physically with more purpose and presence this Holy Week? Are you willing to get our feet washed tonight? (Try it if you haven’t before!). Are you willing to take time out of your day Friday to go to a somber service that very well may evoke tears? Can you consider giving up your Saturday evening to attend the Easter Vigil service? I guarantee you won’t be disappointed if you do. The readings, sights, sounds, smells, and rituals of these next few days are so rich. You’ll live through much in your heart if you open yourself to what happened on Jesus’ last days on earth.

For Action: Find out the time of the services at your parish over the next few days and plan which you can attend. If you can’t get to a daytime service tomorrow at your own parish, attend a closer parish.

To Pray: Lord, draw closer me closer to you over these next few days.