At the end of Holy Thursday Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is brought to a special place of repose as the tabernacle is left empty in anticipation of Good Friday. From this sprung a tradition where people visit seven churches on Holy Thursday to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. This is the third year we have sponsored a Holy Thursday pilgrimage and we had over 40 students take part last night.
We began with Compline (Night Prayer) at Saint Anselm Abbey Church. This is the final prayer of the day for the monks of Saint Anselm Abbey and is very brief, about 10 minutes. It is very simple and I like starting with this as most of the kids (if not all) have never been to a monastic liturgy of the hours (plus, it's one of my favorite places on Earth). Abbot Mark Cooper, OSB came over after and said hello to the students as did the prior, Father Mathias Durette, OSB.
From here we went to Saint Raphael's Parish. The Mass, celebrated by the pastor Father Jerome Day, OSB, was still going on when we arrived and we snuck in during communion and sat in the back rows. We joined in the procession to the place of repose and spent a few moments in prayer. We then drove over to Saint Anthony's Parish and I asked the pastor (and our chaplain) Father Richard Dion to speak to the students about the meaning of spending time in prayer on this night. He compared it to spending time with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani. They first celebrated Mass (Last Supper) and then walked with Him in procession to an area full of flowers and greenery (the garden) to spend time in prayer. I never thought of it that way and appreciated the symbolism very much.
Our next visit was to Saint Joseph Cathedral where we could still see the smoke from the incense at Mass. Here we spent a few quiet moments in prayer in the beautiful, recently renovated chapel. Our final church was Saint Catherine's Church (actually, Saint Catherine's School as that is the place of repose). The pastor, Father Paul Montminy, came over and said hello to the students and led us in a few prayers. We concluded our night with ice cream at the Puritan Backroom as is our custom.
This is always a special night for me and I liked that our visit to each church was a little different - night prayer, the procession, an explanation, time in quiet prayer, and prayer with a priest. The kids are always surprised by how much they enjoy this evening hopping from church to church and being with their friends. The ice cream doesn't hurt either!