S MORE and more dioceses are suspending the public celebration of Mass during the present pandemic, I would like to offer a word of encouragement to all the faithful for whom this is a true suffering.
While still a seminarian, I had the wonderful opportunity to undergo training for Navy chaplaincy. This training was some of the best formation I have ever received. There was a portion of this training, however, when it was not possible for me to participate in the liturgical life of the Church. I could not attend daily or even weekly Mass during this time, nor did I have the freedom to pray the Divine Office as I was accustomed to doing at various times throughout the day. It was a real suffering.
Several very good things came to pass through this objectively not-good situation. I would like to highlight just three of my takeaways:
1. God was immensely good to me during this time, showering me with unexpected and unprecedented graces. I have never forgotten His goodness to me during those days, and I try to remind myself of this whenever I am feeling ungrateful.
2. The separation I experienced actually deepened my hunger for the Eucharist, my thirst for the Word of God, and my love for the Lord.
3. The experience confirmed for me that my regular commitments to Mass and the Divine Office were not merely matters of routine. Being unable to fulfill these regular commitments would not have been a source of suffering, were they not first a source of genuine spiritual nourishment. This confirmation was a great source of consolation to me.
The situation in which we find ourselves today and in the coming weeks is, likewise, less than ideal. There are a few things we might do, however, to ensure that this objectively not-good experience is at least spiritually profitable.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Unite yourselves with so many other Catholics who are regularly separated from the liturgical life of the Church (e.g., the homebound, members of the military, Catholics in places like China and Syria, etc.).
2. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours with your families on Sundays, especially Lauds and Vespers. These prayers (which are part of the official, public prayer of the Church) can be accessed with free apps like Laudate and iBreviary.
3. Do something concrete to serve your neighbor. “Worship that is pure and undefiled before our God and Father consists in this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
4. Let’s pray for one another. Oremus pro invicem.
The Lord was immensely good to me throughout my period of separation from the Church’s liturgical life during Navy training. He will be just as good to each of you during this time of coronavirus-prompted lockdown.
“For the LORD is good! His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations” (Ps 100:5).
COVID-19 Pandemic Reflections
On Separation from the Sacraments:
• A Word of Encouragement
• Stories from Walter Ciszek, SJ
• Insights from Joseph of Arimathea
On Returning to the Sacraments:
• Insights from Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ
• Stories from Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati