The Triduum and Discernment

praying in church

I’m in a period of discernment, not sure where God is calling me. I may discover that the old ways I’ve been doing things are no longer appropriate; in a sense, a part of me may have to die so that I can discover a new way of serving God. In this way, I will be living the Paschal Mystery, which is the whole point of the Triduum.

Maybe you too are asking, “Lord, what is it that you want me to do?” You may find these reflections helpful in whatever you are discerning.

A Brief Prelude

Before I enter the Triduum, I will wrestle with the question, “What do I really want?” and present the answer to the Lord. I’ll then pray for freedom; praying the Suscipe will remind me that what I really want is God’s love and grace.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper

During the Gospel reading, I will use Ignatian contemplation to enter into the scene of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. I will imagine the cool, refreshing water on my feet; I will imagine Jesus’ gentle touch as he washes them. I will pay attention to my emotions: do I feel relaxed, energized, or uncomfortable? How do I respond when I hear Jesus’ words, “You also should do as I have done to you”? (John 13:15) How will I wash another’s feet? If I have the opportunity to wash another’s feet during the liturgy, I will do so.

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion

As I kneel after Jesus hands over his spirit (John 19:30), I too hand over my spirit to God the Father. I imagine being placed in a cold, empty tomb. Here I simply wait in uncertainty of not having an answer. I descend into the darkness and confusion of indecision.

Stations of the Cross

My parish hosts a Living Stations of the Cross, which I have directed for the past several years. Someone else is the director this year, but I will be attending, which will be a new experience for me. At each station, I will name the burdens I’ve had to carry over the past year. I’ll imagine myself at each station, carrying the burden I’ve named. I will refrain from minimizing these burdens with phrases like, “I was overreacting,” or, “It wasn’t that bad.” I’ll simply mourn over my struggle in carrying them.

Holy Saturday Retreat

As a catechist for the RCIA, I lead a retreat on the Creed for our catechumens who are preparing to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. Even though I will be leading the retreat, I will also participate and ask myself, “What does it mean for me to believe in the Holy Trinity and the Church?”

Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord

At the Easter Vigil, the darkness of death and sin gives way to the light of the Resurrected Christ. As I hear the history of salvation retold and watch the catechumens descend into the waters of Baptism, I will relive my own death and rebirth into Christ. I look forward to seeing everything in the new light of the Risen Lord and seeing what paths are revealed by that light.

This will be a new experience for me, one that will help me make the Paschal Mystery very personal. I have no idea what the end result will be, and I am aware that I can wake up Easter morning still discerning.

But that’s OK. Just as Mary Magdalene was surprised to see Jesus alive after three days, I’m sure that God will surprise me with something. I may not get the answer I asked for, but I know I will receive the grace that I need.

About Bob Burnham 33 Articles
Bob Burnham, OFS, is a catechist for both high-school youth and the RCIA at Resurrection Catholic Church in Wayne, Illinois. In addition to being involved in youth ministry, he is a spiritual director, speaker, and writer. Bob is the author of Little Lessons from the Saints and Little Lessons from the Mystics. Bob is also the councilor for youth and young adults in the Mother Cabrini Regional Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order. Read his blog about the spirituality of commuting at


  1. You always have tremendous ideas but we have already met with our students.
    It would be better to publish the ideas a few weeks in advance.
    Thank you

  2. Thank you for sharing some questions and reflections that can lead all of us in discernment during these holiest of days. I especially liked your idea of naming burdens at each station. Prayers are with you in your discernment process, Bob.

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