I never thought this day would come—the day that I would be unable to celebrate the Eucharist for weeks. I can relate more literally with Jesus who felt great sadness at the amount of people looking to be fed, with no one to feed them, at the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 9:36).
I am sure some have felt very troubled and maybe even abandoned regarding the recent directives from the diocese to limit gatherings over 50 people, and consequently, cancelling all liturgies for the foreseeable future to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Here’s what I believe:
- I believe that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.
- I believe that gathering as God’s people to give God thanks and praise is paramount in the Christian life.
- I know that these beliefs are shared by Bishop Walkowiak.
- Thus, I believe that the only reason we are cancelling Mass for the next few weeks is because this is what our Bishop, and in an indirect way our Governor and President, truly believe is best for the safety of others by slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
That leaves us with at least four weekends where we will not gather as a Church to pray. This begs the question, “How can my family pray, worship, and give thanks to God?” over these next few weeks. Here are a few suggestions.
- Keep Holy the Sabbath: This seems so simple but it so important for us while our routine is broken. It is very important for families to continue to treat Sunday as a day we give to God. So, the number one thing we can do in our family life, is remember: this day is God’s day. The following list can be all together or split up through-out the day. The key: do what works for you and your family.
- Pray with the Scriptures: as a family sit down and read the readings together. Take some time reflecting together about each reading. What did we learn? What surprised you? What was confusing? Where is God giving me hope through these words?
- Watch and Listen: to Bishop Walkowiak’s homily on the diocesan Facebook page. And/Or, watch and listen to Fr. Len’s homily on the St. Robert’s Facebook page and/or website. Of course, Bishop Barron too posts his weekly homilies and these are a good option as well to learn. Reading a reflection from “Give us this Day”, “the little Black Lenten Books”, or from “Word Among Us” also work well. All these options allow our shepherds to continue to spiritually feed us and keep us connected with the Church.
- Petition: After reflecting on the Word, as a family discuss people that we want to pray for. Who is struggling? Who is sick? Who has an important event coming up? Pray for world leaders. Pray for church leaders. Pray for those who might lose their jobs during these uncertain economic times. Spend time as a family to pray for others that we are connected to in our lives.
- Ask for Prayers: This is simple but has the potential to be an intimate experience of prayer for your family. Ask each other in your family for prayers. Answer the question: “how can you pray for me?” and “I need God’s help with…”
- Seek Forgiveness and Reconciliation: At every Mass we seek a new beginning. We remember that we are sinners in need of God’s mercy. It would be good to participate in an examination of conscience as a family. Is there any family member that I hurt this week with my words or actions? Have I said I’m sorry? Have I forgiven someone for the words or actions done to me? Am I willing to forgive? Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times (Mt 18: 21-22). Conclude by praying the Act of Contrition together.
- Give Thanks: During family dinner on Sunday, take some time during the meal to go around the table and share things that we want to give thanks to God for.
- Spiritual Communion: After family dinner conclude prayer by making a spiritual communion with anticipation for the next time we can gather at Mass:
We believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
As a family, we love You above all things,
Since we cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into our hearts. We embrace You as if You were already there and unite ourselves wholly to You. And never permit us to be separated from You. Amen.
- During the Week: Consider how praying for others and giving thanks to God can be a daily part of our family’s pattern of life. For example, as we prepare for bed at night.
- On Fridays: Pray the stations of the cross or pray the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary together as a family.
This time away from sacraments is not ideal. But God can make a something great out of a negative experience. Without Jesus’ crucifixion there is no resurrection. Without the original sin of Adam and Eve, there is no savior. Maybe this time that we are unable to come together as a community to pray, can be a time to strengthen the intimate bonds of the family in personal and intentional prayer together?
Fr. Stephen Durkee