When my adult children were young, they would occasionally inquire on a Sunday morning when having a hard time waking up, ‘Do we have to go to Church?”
To which I would reply, “No, you don’t have to go; You GET to go to Church!”
However, this past week, our bishops, in solidarity with our nation and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to protect our most vulnerable, have called for the “suspension of all public Masses.”
In short, we no longer “get” to go to church as we know it.
This directive is not a victory for children who cry, “Do we have to go to Church?” It is an opportunity to find a liturgical experience that will help the family grow in faith together.
Through the wonders of technology, we still have the opportunity to participate.
Because none of us know how long this may be our new normal, it is prudent for families to make a plan for the best liturgical experience.
What does that look like?
For Laetare Sunday (March 22, the Fourth Sunday of Lent), my homebound college student and I had a week to prepare for this new liturgical experience.
The one thing we could wholeheartedly agree on was, “It is going to be weird not going to church on Sunday.”
The following is what we learned from our experience:
Prepare a space: We had to do some work ahead of time. We had to research live-streamed Mass times at diojeffcity.org.
We prepared our space with pillows for kneelers, a Bluetooth speaker for volume, and the Apple TV device to be able to watch together from our large basement TV.
We added a crucifix, our bottle of holy water and some candles to the space, and ironically our basement windows have stained glass coverings on them.
With the holy water and the intimate gathering, we were able to bring back two things that were missing from our last public Mass: the blessing of ourselves with holy water as we entered our “church space,” and the sign of peace.
Wherever your space is, make it sacred in some way so it is set apart from the ordinary.
Prepare yourself: Although we could agree it was not a sin to wear pajamas to our live-streamed Mass, we chose to dress as we would for our “regular” Sunday Mass. This helped our focus and attention. It sent the message to each other that this was something important. It is still the source and summit of our faith, and worthy of the extra effort to dress accordingly.
Honoring the hour fast prior to Mass is a good habit to keep in place. My daughter was fully prepared to be awakened as she has each Sunday for 20 years, and I even threw out the habitual nudging of “I am in the car!” to let her know it was time to go, even though our trip was only down a flight of stairs.
Participate: The fathers of the Second Vatican Council call all of us to be full, active participants in the Mass. We were never meant to be mere observers, and the same is true for the live-streamed Mass.
Simply “observing” the Mass from your computer, TV or phone is not the intention of live-streaming. You can still sing the songs; you can still pray the responses; and you can still bring your “gifts” to the altar.
And if you are not already giving electronically, you can even pass a collection plate and mail your offering to your local parish to support their outreach to those in need during this pandemic.
Find the blessings: At the celebration of this Sacrament, Jesus comes to us in three ways:
1) He is present in the gathering (“For where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20);
2) He is present through the Holy Scriptures; and
3) He is present — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — in the Holy Eucharist.
He is still present during our live-streamed Mass. I missed my parish family and the sense of community, and I most certainly missed the Eucharist, but I am confident that “absence will make the heart grow fonder.”
When we are able to gather again as a community for our next “First Communion,” I know there will be abundant joy.
In the meantime, I am thankful to still be able to witness the transubstantiation.
Encourage each other to offer thanksgiving for the blessings of this family time.
Perhaps the recorded Masses and variety of services offers less excuse for skipping Mass.
Perhaps, it is easier to lug three children to a space in the home than dragging them across town to Church without having to load up diaper bags and other supplies.
My daughter and I even found a small bit of joy in being able to have our dog Boomer attend Mass with us.
Tucked away in our basement this Sunday for Mass took me back to our tour of the Catacombs in Italy.
Although not under threat of persecution, I found myself being thankful for those who continued to gather and celebrate in the early Church for something I may have taken for granted at times in my life.
Share: Whatever works for you, we should share with others. Post pictures or videos of your family participating in Mass at home.
I reflect on how St. Paul had the gift of zeal, which he at first used to persecute Christians in the early Church. Then, after his conversion, he used that same gift to grow the Church.
The gift of technology and social media such as Facebook and Twitter have been often used for the devil’s work; it is encouraging to see these venues being used for the sake of spreading the Good News.
What an advantage we have over St. Paul!
The Church calls the family the Ecclesia domestica (the domestic Church) because parents are the first and primary teachers of the faith.
This pandemic and the suspension of public gatherings gives Catholic families an opportunity to evaluate the domestic Church and make faith a priority there.
Your participation in a live-streamed Mass is important to nourish your faith. It also tells your family that faith is a priority; it is a privilege not to be taken for granted or to be taken away.
May God bless your family as you celebrate together.
Mrs. Barnes, a member of Cathedral of St. Joseph parish in Jefferson City, is a communications specialist for the Jefferson City diocese. She is author of Growing Catholics: A Journey from Cradle to Catholic.