Seven Churches Visitation

Our parish's altar of repose

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?
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  • We have never done this in the official capacity, but I do try to take my children around to a few parishes on Good Friday morning so that they can feel the emptiness and anticipate the change on Easter.

    For us, just making it through Holy Thursday and spending a few quiet minutes in prayer afterwards is a challenge. I would imagine that the activity of moving around and so many new things to look at will keep your children engaged, and perhaps the littlest ones will fall asleep?

    I might also have snacks and juice for the in between times?

  • Kellie “Red”


  • Katrina

    I’m impressed, JM, and inspired! MA, I love the idea of taking kids to different churches on Good Friday, too. We will be doing an outdoor Stations in the morning, and may try this beforehand. Good Friday can be a long emPty day, and having planned activities can help so much!
    JM, if you can, would you take some pics tonight to share with us? Please check in to let us know h

  • Lauren

    Happy anniversary, dear friend! So glad to have you with me on this journey.

  • We made it to one additional church, which was very moving and worth the effort, but by 10pm my littles were crying with exhaustion, so we came home for our own repose. I love this tradition, and will gradually try to add more churches.

    We read the events of Holy Thursday earlier today, so my children did have an understanding that by visiting Jesus in the various churches we were keeping company with him in the garden, that helped all of us to make the effort.

  • Juris Mater

    Well, it was very moving, although (as with all devotions) different for the first time with kids. It was sweet to hear them calling each altar another “Garden of Gethsemane”. But I can see why a plenary indulgence is involved : ) … this afternoon, I was thinking about we have it easy compared to the Roman pilgrims who journeyed to all corners of the city on foot, since we can drive, but I think having children involved rivals the Roman pilgrimage! Again though, we are so blessed to have 10 churches within a 10 minute drive.

    Also, I always think the Good Friday liturgies are incredibly strenuous while pregnant/holding infants/wrangling young children and on an empty stomach. As a penitential practice, the Seven Visits is a really nice alternative, and maybe more likely to touch the children’s hearts when they’re young. As MaryAlice mentioned to me, hopefully combining the Holy Thursday liturgy with the Seven Visits will plant some blessed priesthood seeds within our little boys!

    A blessed Triduum to you all!!!

  • Juris Mater

    MaryAlice, we are going to enjoy the weather tomorrow and walk to our nearby parish to let the kids see the empty altar and anticipate Easter. I’ve never done this before. Thank you for the suggestion!

  • Juris Mater

    Kat, you’re so sweet… I forgot the camera (we almost had 2 kids make it into the car without shoes on…) We’re thinking of you this weekend, friend.