A Holy Thursday Pilgrimage - Visiting Seven Churches
A Unique Way To Spend Time With Jesus - There is a neat custom that can be found in some cities on Holy Thursday each year. Many Catholics decide to spend the evening going to mass and then visiting seven different churches. This tradition can help Catholics to recall Jesus' request of the apostles in the midst of His time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:
... keep watch with me. ~ Matthew 26:36b
Beginnings Of The "Visiting Seven Churches" Tradition - It seems that there is no recorded document stating exactly when the tradition started, but centuries ago in Rome, many Catholics would visit seven basilicas of the city: St. Peter, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, St. Paul Outside the Walls, Shrine of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, and St. Sebastian on the evening of Holy Thursday.
The Custom Spreads - Evidently, the practice was found to be enriching and inspiring and the concept of a "Visiting Seven Churches On Holy Thursday" tradition spread to many parts of the world!
The Number "Seven" - There are a handful of theories on why visiting seven churches came about. The number seven could represent how God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh; The first 7 deacons of the Church; or perhaps The Seven Last Sayings of Christ; the Seven Wounds of Christ (five nail marks, imprints from the crown of thorns, and the stab from the lance through his side).
Things To Do At Each Church - There are many ways to enjoy the night of visits: Spend some time in prayerful adoration before a monstrance or tabernacle; Pick out two Stations of the Cross to ponder (and you will have completed all 14 by the end of the evening); Pick out a stained glass window, or church painting - see if you can figure out who/what it depicts; Read a paragraph or two from your Bible from the Last Supper or Passion passages; Meditate on the seven last sayings of Christ. If you bring children with you, make it interesting for them ... help them to compare the artwork of the Stations of the Cross, teach them about a stained glass window, see if they can find the Blessed Sacrament in each church and encourage them to say a 1-minute prayer to God.
Live Out In The Country? If you live far away from a city neighborhood and getting to seven churches would be a very difficult feat, consider doing a pilgrimage online through your diocesan website. Or, consider going to Holy Thursday mass at your home church and staying for some extra time afterwards to pray and maybe contemplate some of the Sacred Art in your church.
The Seven Last Words Of Jesus
1) Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. ~ Luke 23:34
2) Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. ~ Luke 23:43
3) Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother. ~ John 19:26-27
4) My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? ~ Mt.27:46 & Mk. 15:34
5) I thirst. ~ John 19:28
6) It is finished. ~ John 19:30
7) Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. ~ Luke 23:46