This past week, we have witnessed events that no one could possibly have imagined at the start of the week. There are, at the time of this writing, over 230,000 people in the world who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
There have been complete shut-downs of nations for non-essential services and, sadly but prudently, for the celebration of the sacraments. Of course, the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick may still be celebrated in emergency situations while observing health and safety protocols such as social distancing. All funerals, weddings, confirmations, and baptisms are postponed at this time until a later date when this viral storm subsides.
For most Catholics, the news that our churches are closed and that Holy Mass would not be publicly celebrated was perhaps the biggest shock to our collective system. At a time when people need Christ, truly sacramentally present in the Eucharist the most, they cannot receive Holy Communion.
It is necessary to have a few clarifications made at this juncture. Yes, it is true that public Masses in which the faithful participate are canceled until further notice. However, and this needs to be understood, the celebration of Holy Mass is not canceled. Priests are to celebrate Holy Mass in their churches and chapels daily still. Even if the priest offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the only one present in the chapel, he is not alone. He is, at the Eucharistic Sacrifice, present with the whole of creation, with the Church militant here on earth and the Church Triumphant in Heaven, with all the angels and saints, with the living and those who now truly live in Christ. Mass goes on, and many priests in this diocese have been excellent about livestreaming their weekday and Sunday Masses on the internet for the participation of the lay faithful. This is, of course, in addition to the celebration of Holy Mass that continues in many languages from our Cathedral-Basilica, our Co-Cathedral, and from Immaculate Conception in Jamaica, all broadcast on NET TV.
The priest offers the intentions of the Mass that would have been celebrated in the parish church and on Sundays, for the intentions of all the people of the parish (Pro Popolo). It is essential that we realize that “Mass is not canceled.” The priests of our Diocese are offering Holy Mass daily, albeit privately, for the good of their people.
As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminded priests a few years ago, one of the priest’s main jobs is to be the chief “prayer” in the parish. This is precisely what our priests are called to do now. Join your prayers to their Masses by making a spiritual communion:
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love you above all things and I desire to receive you in my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally,
Come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace you as if you were already there
And unite myself wholly to you.
Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.