Sunday, March 15, 2020

Dear Bishops: Take Advantage of a God-given Teaching Moment

A priest who celebrates the traditional Mass wrote the following to me, and asked me to share it.

As we watch the pandemonium break out around us over the Coronavirus and take a few moments to reflect on just how vulnerable we are as a nation and a race, as our tower of Babel, built with the bricks of electronics, entertainment, distractions, and self-gratification, comes crashing down to reveal a humanity that wallows in fear of sickness and death, messengers of a long-forgotten God, perhaps faithful Catholics are raising their eyebrows over the cancelling of public Mass and worship in regions of the United States and around the world. While we certainly admit the need for due precautions to be taken, does the prohibition of public Mass and Sacraments really contribute to the welfare of humanity?

Regardless of how one may answer that question, things are as they are. However, we cannot overlook the opportunity that presents itself for bishops to hit the proverbial “reset” button on some dubious or outright irreverent practices that have plagued Catholic worship for decades.

As bishops systematically banned the “sign of peace,” Holy Communion under the species of wine, and (in some places) even distribution of Holy Communion by extraordinary ministers, the liturgical pandemonium common in many parishes suddenly began to calm. Mass can and did continue without these things. And while we may wish these restrictions were rather the result of a newfound faith and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament on the part of the majority of the episcopacy, nevertheless, an unprecedented opportunity now presents itself for bishops to patiently and prayerfully discern how much more essential and important faith and reverence truly are, and how dispensable the bad practices have proved to be.

Along with this, with the imposed “fast” from Holy Communion for most of the faithful, and with the resulting lack of sacrilegious Communions in a lot of dioceses, do bishops not have a valuable teachable moment at their disposal?

When public Masses resume, we pray, in the near future, would it not be time for a pastoral letter on the Holy Eucharist, on why we receive it, on the conditions needed for its reception? Should not the bishops lament over how much Catholics should be missing their Eucharistic communions this weekend -- and then ask if that makes us think how our lives would change if we could only receive very infrequently?

It is a time for them to challenge themselves and us, their priests and flocks, as to whether the Tabernacle changes who and how we are as human beings. Do we miss Our Lord? Do we long for Him? Or does this Sunday suddenly become an unexpected (and perhaps welcomed) day to sleep in and take it easy? In the face of a plague and the threat of death, should not the bishops now seize the opportunity to talk about every Catholic’s need for the Bread of Life, and direct souls to the confessionals so that, when public Masses resume, the sacrilegious Communions and disrespect of the Blessed Sacrament with silly and non-essential practices do not resume?

Another priest wrote, in a similar vein:

Liturgical advice in the Coronavirus age (except for Mass cancelation and locking churches) is what we practiced in the pre-Vatican II Church:

1. Priests not interacting with parishioners before or after Mass because they were praying priestly devotions before and after Mass!

2. Laity not interacting with each other before, after, or during Mass, and if possible spreading themselves all over the church especially for daily Mass.

3. No common chalice.

4. Less frequent Communion -- but at least in the pre-Vatican II Church it was because of unrepentant or unforgiven mortal sin, now it's about a virus.

Let us learn reverence and repentance again.

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