Why Visit Seven Churches On Holy Thursday?
Every year we take part in this beautiful, international tradition following Holy Thursday Mass and we invite you to consider joining us this year as we visit seven local Churches in the area. We will depart from St. AJs around 9pm on Holy Thursday, but where did this tradition come from? Why do we do it?
The tradition of visiting Seven Churches on Holy Thursday grew out of this time of prayer and adoration that proceeds Mass. Jesus asked his disciples to stay and watch with Him while they were in the garden, and that's why we have Adoration after Mass until midnight every year on Holy Thursday at St. AJs. This tradition of mindful watching is a sort of pilgrimage to various altars of repose, in different churches that correspond to each of the seven places, or “stations,” that were made by Jesus between the Last Supper in the Upper Room to His crucifixion on the cross.
The seven stations consist of: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus bound and taken before Annas, Jesus taken before the High Priest, Caiaphas, Jesus taken before Pilate, Jesus taken before Herod, Jesus taken before Pilate again and Jesus given the crown of thorns and led to his crucifixion.
Upon entering each church, pilgrims visit the altar of repose, kneel, make the sign of the cross, read the appropriate scripture for each station and engage in private prayer and adoration.
The origin of the Seven Churches Visitation is typically credited to St. Philip Neri and is practiced by Catholics around the world, including in Poland, Mexico, Italy and the Philippines and yes, here in Philly. The devotion can also be traced back to the Station Churches of Rome, where the tradition is still practiced.
The Seven Churches Visitation is a powerful way to spend time in adoration, meditating on Christ’s sacrifice of love for the salvation of souls in preparation for the joy of Easter. There is something special about visiting churches late into the night. It is not just because of the opportunity to visit other parishes, it’s because of intentionally seeking Christ to spend time with Him and contemplating the gift of His love.