This year, on the 10th anniversary of my reception into the Catholic Church and First Communion, our family is going to take a shot at the Seven Churches Visitation tonight–a glorious devotion that solidified my own conversion of heart and belief in the Real Presence back in college. Pilgrims visit seven churches after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and pray before the altar of repose in each church. The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, probably originating in Rome, where early pilgrims visited the seven major basilicas as penance (Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence-outside-the-Walls, Saint Sebastian-outside-the-Walls, and Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem).
We are blessed to live in a densely Catholic area, with seven churches in a ten mile radius. My children are both fascinated and delighted, in the same way that I was as a twenty-year-old Evangelical–amazed that while the rest of the world goes to sleep, Catholic pilgrims will be traveling around late into the night, keeping Jesus company on the eve of his Crucifixion. So many mysteries of our faith are visible and real there in each altar of repose.
If you have done this before with children, or even if you haven’t, do you have any particular prayers to suggest to help keep the children piously engaged?