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An Easter Octave Guide for Catholic Families

An Easter Octave Guide for Catholic Families

Aleksander Augustynowicz, “Alleluia,” 1906 (photo: Public Domain)


“O God, who gladden us year by year with the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection, graciously grant, that, by celebrating these present festivities, we may merit through them to reach eternal joys.”

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Instead of one day of Easter, Catholics enjoy eight octave days of feasting. Sustained partying requires careful planning and self-pacing to avoid merriment burnout. Follow this guide with your family to maximize the delights of Easter and the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday.


Easter Sunday

Feast, feast, feast! Post-Easter Mass, or once you have recovered from celebrating the Easter Vigil into the wee hours, eat the ham, the bacon, the chocolate. Put butter on the bread and extra garlic in the sauce. Drink good wine, host fast friends, and blast your best Alleluia playlist on repeat.


Easter Monday

Time to scale back a little — you still have seven days to go.

Get to Mass or say those Glorious mysteries of the Rosary (every day this week!), then eat a green salad and drink some water. Permit one or two dark chocolates (because it’s Easter). And maybe some bacon on that salad.

Look ahead to Divine Mercy Sunday, because fulfilling the conditions for the plenary indulgence may take some planning! When are your local Divine Mercy devotions available? If your parish does not take part in this devotion, invite friends or family to your own home next Sunday to offer the Divine Mercy chaplet and prayers.


Easter Tuesday

Back at it! Today is a great day to visit your local box store to purchase Easter candy at a 75% discount. As good Catholics, we might have skipped the neighborhood Holy Saturday Easter egg hunt to focus on the Lord’s burial. In the end, however, we win by bumping our egg hunt to Easter Saturday and cashing in on the savings.

After another Sunday-length Mass complete with Glorias and Alleluias, consider watching Father Robert Spitzer’s talk on the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. Yes, I know everyone watches Shroud of Turin documentaries on Good Friday, but it’s really about the moment of resurrection when the image actually formed on the linen. According to National Geographic, “The [ultraviolet light necessary to form the image] exceeds the maximum power released by all ultraviolet light sources available today. It would require ‘pulses having durations shorter than one 40-billionth of a second, and intensities on the order of several billion watts.” Middle and high-school age children will be wowed by the science of the cross and resurrection.


Easter Wednesday

If the chocolate feasting is wearing you down, take a day for berries and cream or lemon-meringue pie. The important thing is to keep feasting while being flexible to allow for human party exhaustion.

Having been wowed by the Shroud, return to Mass again, or consider saying the Liturgy of the Hours with all priests and religious in the Church. You guessed it: every day is Sunday this week for the Office, too!


Easter Thursday

Plan your seafood meal for the week today. If you’ve been waiting for a buttery, white-wine dish all of Lent, eat it today because tomorrow is Meat Friday, and fish would really be too mundane.

If your parish welcomed new members into the Catholic Church, take some time today to send them a personal email or card with your congratulations and welcome. If you don’t have their personal information, send your message through the parish office.


Easter Friday

As with the Christmas Octave or Solemnities that fall on a Friday, Easter Friday is free of the usual Friday penances. For many Catholics, this means heightened pleasure of indulging in hamburgers, bacon, pulled pork, or a family barbecue. The Church asks us to feast: let us be obedient children and pass the teriyaki with a resounding, “Amen! Alleluia!”

If you are able to, go to Mass. But if you can’t, consider praying the beautiful Victimae Paschali Laudes, or Easter sequence, which may be sung or said before the Gospel every day this week. Listen carefully to the fourth and fifth stanzas, which dramatize a dialogue between the disciples and Mary Magdalene as she brings the message that Christ has conquered death by death.


Easter Saturday

Prepare today for the great feast of the Divine Mercy. Find an image to display on your family altar and begin baking some traditional Polish Easter cakes or pastries in honor of St. Faustina and Pope St. John Paul II.

Stuff that discounted candy from Tuesday into the for-sale plastic Easter eggs and host an Easter octave hunt for the children. You will be the neighborhood children’s favorite (if most eccentric) family.

Plan to go to Confession with the intention of receiving all the graces poured out on the Church tomorrow on the Octave Day of Easter.


Divine Mercy Sunday

The special graces that Christ promised us for the Octave Day of Easter flow solely through the worthy reception of the Eucharist today. These promises astonish me every year: under the right conditions, we receive nothing less than a complete renewal of sanctifying grace in our souls. Our Lord promised St. Faustina that “the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion will obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (Divine Mercy, 699)

Today is the crown and glory of the Easter Octave, greater than all the days you have celebrated so faithfully this past week. Rest with your family and friends and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet together. Raise another glass to Christ Jesus, glorious and immortal, and encourage each other that we have nothing to fear. He has set us free.



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