I’ll never forget trying to celebrate the Triduum in April of 2020. I remember baking bread for the first time on Holy Thursday and not realizing it was a recipe for SIX loaves; I remember being so sick of watching Mass on television; I remember watching the Holy Father preside over an eerily empty St. Peter’s Square; and I remember my then-six-year-old looking at me as we watched and asking, “Mommy, are the saints and angels in heaven sad on Good Friday?”

I was floored, and needed some time to reflect before I responded. How could a Christian not be sad on Good Friday? How could we be anything but sad to remember that God, who is perfect love, came to take on flesh for us, to love us completely, to teach us, and to abide with us – and that humanity’s response to that love was to put Him to death?

How could I answer her question, when the Passion of Our Lord brings to light everything we work to shield our children from: violence, injustice, grave human error, abuse, and cruelty?  And beyond all of this, how could I explain that it’s for our sins that He endured all of this? 

This question helped me seize an opportunity to present the Gospel to my kids in a clear way, which I do again every Good Friday (and whenever else they need to hear it!).  I often expect too much of my kids’ exposure to Jesus at Mass and in Faith Formation classes. They hear about Jesus, and they are certainly drawn to miracles and stories, but they need to be evangelized, too!  I try to keep it pretty simple for the younger kids: God made the world beautiful and good. People sinned, and turned away from God’s beauty and goodness. Jesus came to make a way for us to be with God again. 

For the older kids, I’ve found that they need to hear a little more: that Jesus came, lived, and died because he loves them personally, because He wants each of them to share in His life forever. They need to know that even though He went through so much for our sake, we will continue to sin. 

They also need to be reminded that God continues to pour His love upon us generously, holding nothing back, in spite of our sin. And that if we let Him, His love changes us and sets us free. Because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross, we are not just sinners anymore – we are children, seen by God the Father through the lens of Jesus. 

Eventually, I was able to respond to my daughter, to tell her that no, the saints and angels are not sad on Good Friday. When the saints look at the Cross, they don’t just see an instrument of torture, they see a throne. The angels can rejoice, for because of the Cross we can join them in heaven. Because of the Cross, Satan is defeated and we can be one with God forever. 

Sharing the Good News of Good Friday with my kids has been impactful for them, but perhaps even more than that, it changes me. This year, may we all receive the grace to look beyond our sin and shame to see the King of the Universe on His throne, making all things new.

Here are a few books that have helped me share the Gospel with my kids:  

The Three Trees – A traditional folktale about the three trees who have dreams for their futures that come true in unexpected ways as they play roles in the life of Christ. 

The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross – This book is one of my favorite presentations of the Gospel for Children. It is clear, simple, highlights significant theological connections between the Old and New Testaments, and the art is awesome.

The New Catholic Picture Bible – it’s hard to find a children’s Bible that doesn’t “dumb down” Sacred Scripture— this version avoids that, and includes compelling theological connections within their descriptions of Bible stories.

My Path to Heaven – A powerful devotional for children (age of reason and older), with illustrations by Caryll Houselander.