There is no more perfect opportunity to learn the mysteries of our faith than through the liturgies of Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter. In them, God interacts with us using all of our senses. We are immersed in sound, sight, smell, touch and taste.

Beginning with Palm Sunday, our senses of touch and sight are engaged. We walk through the doors of the church and receive palms to hold and wave. We hear the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We are sprinkled with holy water as the palms are blessed. Then, we participate in the reading of the Passion and everyone has a part.

As we enter the Triduum, we see feet being washed, hear bells ringing enthusiastically throughout the Gloria, see the church decorated lavishly. There’s incense, a Eucharistic procession – the parish moving together, following Christ in the Eucharist – and gathering for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We leave in silence.

We gather again in silence on Good Friday for the Veneration of the Cross. The clergy lies prostrate on the floor of the church, recommitting themselves to the servitude of their ordination. Again we participate in the reading of the Passion. We do the “Catholic aerobics” we’re so famous for during the Intercessions where we stand, sit, and kneel repeatedly. The cross is lifted high, we approach it, touch it, bringing our pain, grief, and struggles as we embrace it. We leave in silence.

We come back after dark on Holy Saturday and are each given a candle. There is fire, darkness, candlelight, stories of salvation history, light, bells, incense, joyful singing, and the Alleluia comes back. There is sprinkling with holy water, maybe adult Baptism with the scent of chrism mingled with incense, lilies, hyacinth, and all matter of Easter flowers.  We renew our baptismal vows, taste the Eucharist and depart singing about the Resurrection.

I’m not going to lie – these are longer liturgies than normal. Use your judgement about whether to bring your children. But, if you do, there’s so much to capture the imagination. Parents can quietly invite their children to look, or smell, or touch as the elements unfold. Bring their attention to the various items and moments as the significance of each is made present.

There are many ways to make this Holy Week meaningful to even little ones, including the suggestions that follow:

1) Let them hold the palms. Yes, they will duel and poke at each other, but that’s the beginning of creating connection with this special day. Place a palm in each child’s room (on the cross if they have one), and bring them back next year to be burned for Ash Wednesday.

2) Have some Matzah and grape juice at Holy Thursday dinner. Talk about the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples. Begin dinner by washing your children’s feet and tell them the story about how Jesus did that for his friends.

3) On Good Friday, if they are too small to sit through the Veneration of the Cross, take down a crucifix at home and talk about what Jesus did for us.

4) Provide a preview of what to expect before arriving in church and tell children to keep a lookout for particular items. After Easter, take them on a scavenger hunt throughout the Church. Help them find the things they saw during Holy Week.

5) If they are too little to sit through the Holy Week liturgies, take them to church during off-hours and show them the Stations of the Cross, the Paschal candle, flowers, etc. Be ready to answer their questions.

Jennifer Elsensohn is the pastoral associate in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold