Presence and Thanksgiving in the Time of COVID-19

My diocese, along with every other diocese in the United States, has halted the public celebration of Holy Mass for the foreseeable future. That is, priests, either accompanied by a deacon or alone, are still celebrating Holy Mass in the privacy of their parish or chapel, but without any parishioners in attendance (following the CDC’s recommendations to physically distance ourselves from others, both for our safety and theirs).

It’s good for us as Catholics to remember that Holy Mass is still being celebrated, just not with us sitting in the pews and physically being a part of it. So how do we participate?

  • Spiritual communion: Generally done when we attend Mass and aren’t fully prepared (need to go to confession!) or are unable to (broke an arm, felling sick) consume Holy Communion; in this case, it’s a way to continue to join ourselves to the celebration of Holy Mass as we aren’t able to be physically present
  • Read and meditate on Scripture: Read the daily Scripture readings alone or with another person (physically present, over video chat, over the phone, from your balcony, etc.), practice some Lectio Divina over a portion of the daily scripture readings (yes, yes I did just link to my own blog, from my own blog – it’s blogception!), or find some online or offline reading material that helps you delve deep into the different ways of reading Scripture
  • Personal and communal prayer: Take time every day to pray, both alone and with others, and both on a set schedule and spontaneously. Immerse yourself in familar prayer paths (the Rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours) and in some new ways of prayer (with music, through movies, scrolling through social media, reading a spiritual or theological book, etc.
  • Practice seeing the Presence of Jesus in the people around us: Jesus was pretty clear that making sure our relationships with others is important, so important that leaving the Temple and going to be reconciled with them was the best thing to do; in another section of the Gospels, Jesus reminds us that the way we treat others is the way we treat him – if we truly believe that Jesus is fully present in the transubstantiated bread and wine, how much more is his presence, his power, his joy, his peace, and his love present in those around us? Practicing seeing Jesus in those who are always around us is the best spiritual practice to help us believe in his Presence in the Body and Blood of Christ.

This is one Lent where we’re experiencing spiritual dryness by not being able to celebrate Holy Mass as a community. We’re experiencing a bit of the dark night of the soul that St. John of the Cross wrote about, where we continue to stay faithful to our God, even in the midst of suffering. It gives us a chance to offer the suffering of missing Holy Mass for those areas where Mass is only celebrated a few times a year (remote areas with very little priests) or not at all (areas where it’s still dangerous to openly practice faith). If only for a little while, we join our crucified savior in his Lenten retreat, and ask for the grace to be his Presence to the people around us. We are called to become the Eucharist for others, even as we strive to see the Eucharistic Presence in them.

Prayers for all of us during this time of challenge.

Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III