If you are able to attend daily Mass, you will notice many precautions in place to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in our churches. If everyone does their part, we can be joyfully present, even as we adjust to these changes. For this moment in history, this is what we are called to do, as we honor each life given to us by God and show charity for the well-being of our neighbors.
Attendance at Mass
It has been truly difficult for us to not go to Mass during this time of the pandemic. Participation in Mass is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church. As Catholics we have an obligation to attend Mass on Sundays. This obligation is not a burden, but total gift. God’s Holy Spirit, active in our lives, leads us to worship in spirit and in truth within the assembly of God’s people.
When we return to public worship we will need to respect the restrictions and guidelines that the health professionals have provided. Choices will need to be made on the part of each individual. The obligation to attend Mass on Sunday is lifted until further notice. Christ suffers with those who cannot come to Mass during the pandemic. However, as Jesus taught us, suffering can lead to redemption.
Empty Holy Water Fonts
Holy Water fonts will be empty. Upon entering the Church we have been used to approaching the baptismal font or holy water font, dipping our fingers into the water and blessing ourselves as a remembrance of our Baptism. Health safety restrictions will not allow us to use the Sacramental of Holy Water in this way; however, it is most appropriate to continue the gesture of making the sign of the Cross when entering the church remembering that we are God’s adopted sons and daughters baptized in Christ Jesus in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
No Collection Baskets
Normally, collections are taken by passing a basket during the celebration of Mass. This will not be possible during this period of restrictions. Our monetary gifts are really part of a larger aspect of the liturgy called the Preparation and Presentation of the Gifts. Together with the gifts of bread and wine, the faithful present their gifts for the support of the Church and her mission. Parishes may consider placing large baskets at the foot of the altar so that during the procession with the gifts, individuals may come forward, place their gift into the basket, and return to their seat. Or, baskets may be accessible upon entering the church where you are able to place your gift in the basket upon arrival in the Church. Consider electronic giving or place your donation in the mail. Participate as your parish allows. All of these modes of giving reflect the inner spiritual disposition of leaving our gift at the altar of God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Sign of Peace
The exchange of Peace before the reception of Holy Communion acknowledges that Christ whom we receive in the Sacrament is already present in our neighbor. This gesture expresses the Gospel truth that communion with God in Christ is enjoyed in communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ—we are members, one with another, in the Body of Christ. While the Sign of Peace will be omitted for the time being, we are all invited to pray for the peace of Christ to reign in our hearts and in the heart of every person.
During this time of pandemic it is most reasonable and prudent for the safety of all that Holy Communion be distributed to the congregation in the form of the Sacred Host – the bread that is consecrated and becomes the Body of Christ. The Church teaches that Christ, whole and entire, is received in each of the consecrated elements. We receive Christ, the Lord himself, His Body and Blood, sacrificed on Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins and raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father.
When receiving the Eucharist in the hand, the communicant approaches the minister with one hand resting on the palm of the other. After responding, “Amen,” the communicant steps to the side and reverently places the Eucharist in his or her mouth. Let us remember and take to heart the words of St Cyril of Jerusalem—they should make a throne of their hands. If one is right-handed, the left hand should rest upon the right to form a throne for the King, forming at the same time a Cross.
As “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), we are led to full, conscious and active participation in the celebration of Mass. Worship aids to assist us to fully participate in the Mass are provided in many forms such as hymnals, printed song sheets with the Order of Mass, projection of the worship aid on video screens. Some of these aids will not be available because of restrictions and will need to be accessed electronically. You are welcome to use your cell phones to access online worship aids as provided by your parish, or Bible apps.
We must be mindful of those who will be absent during this time of limited capacity to gather, due to social distancing and high-risk health conditions. Our solidarity with those who cannot be physically present is essential during this time. Those who are unable to come to worship and experience the Sacrament offer their experience as a type of fast. “Such fasting—[Pope Benedict the Sixteenth writes] could help people toward a deepening of their personal relation to the Lord in the Sacrament; it could be an act of solidarity with all those who have a yearning for the Sacrament but cannot receive it…Spiritual hunger, like bodily hunger can be a vehicle of love.” Indeed, the times when we are separated from Christ’s Sacraments can be opportunities for unnumbered graces.