I am still pretty new to the faith, I was just baptized a few weeks after Easter last year. I understand holy week starts today, Palm Sunday. My first question is are there any “Special” masses between Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday? And what about Thursday and Friday? Are both of these masses or are they services? What happens at the Holy Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Services/Masses/Vigil? How long are these and how are they different from a regular Sunday mass? What happens at each service/mass/vigil? Also I have heard that the Thursday service/mass through the Vigil on Saturday is all one mass so if you go to one you have to go to all of them. Is that true? Also if you go to the Saturday Vigil does that cover the Sunday obligation? What are some traditions and customs that Catholics have during holy week? And lastly, what days must we fast?
I am new too. I think our Priest said that its standard Mass up to Wednesday and then its the Sacred Triduum for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
You might want to look at a Catholic Encylopedia as a summary of answers your looking for. Hope this helps.
Other reading sources.
The Significance of Holy Thursday.
The Significance of Good Friday
Holy Saturday (“Easter Vigil”)
Liturgical Calendar for Holy Week
Fraternally Yours In Christ Jesus
Have a Blessed Holy Week
Separate your questions and you are more likely to get answers than if you ask many questions in one paragraph.
You are not required to attend any Holy Week weekday services. Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence: no meat and only one full meal. Yes, the Easter Vigil Mass does fulfill the Sunday obligation. Look at your parish’s website or bulletin and they will likely have a schedule of the Holy Week services.
Monday through Wednesday are regular Masses.
Holy Thursday has a traditional Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the evening. Good Friday is the Passion of the Lord. It is not a Mass, but Communion is offered.
Holy Thursday has a ritual call to service with the Washing of Feet. The Mass ends with the Blessed Sacrament processed to an Altar of Repose. Many Churches stay open until minight for prayer before the Sacrament.
Good Friday has the Passion from John’s Gospel and Veneration of the Wood of the Cross.
The Easter Vigil begins with the Paschal fire, lighting the Paschal candle, Procession of the Light of Christ into a darkened church, reading of 3-7 Old Testament readings, blessing of water and Initiation (RCIA) Sacraments.
Length of services vary by parish but are usually longer than other Sundays.
While it is ideal to participate in all, don’t stay away from one because you can’t make them all.
As mentioned, the Easter Vigil does fulfill the Easter Sunday obligation.
Besides the Triduum services, some churches have an additional service on Good Friday (often Stations of the Cross or other prayer service) and some bless Easter baskets (with food for the Easter feast) on Holy Saturday.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are fasting days. The fast is encouraged on Holy Saturday up to the Easter Vigil, but is not required.
Many missalettes list a Chrism Mass for Holy Thursday. This is held at the cathedral and attended by as many of the diocesan clergy as can get there. The oils for anointing the sick and the catechumens and the chrism for Confirmation are prepared at this mass. Also the clergy renew their pledge of obedience to the bishop at this mass.
Traditionally this mass was held Thursday morning at the cathedral, but our diocese, and I think many, now celebrate it earlier in the week to ease the burden on the clergy, by Thursday morning their schedule is getting crowded.
In our diocese those in RCIA attend and dismissals are held in the various languages.