I hope that all is well with you.
As you may have heard or will soon hear, Archbishop Hebda has decided to suspend all public Masses and other public prayer services such as Stations of the Cross for the next few weeks. The full letter directly from the Archbishop is below. He has made this decision after much consultation, prayer, and deliberation. As you know, the intention of this decision is to heed the government’s advice on gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This decision applies to all parishes. There will therefore be no more public daily Mass, Sunday Mass, or other group prayer services in the church for the next few weeks.
I know this will be a challenge for us. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. It’s what nourishes and sustains us. It’s the heart of our faith. It’s why we sacrifice part of our Sunday mornings or Saturday evenings. I heard from many of you that you appreciated the live stream of the 10:00 A.M. Mass and appreciated having it offered but it “wasn’t the same”.
That, of course, is very true and the way it is meant to be. We are meant to be physically present. It is so important, especially as Catholics, to be present at the church, to receive the Eucharist, to gather together and have those visible, tangible reminders of our faith. Jesus Christ would always minister to people personally. He didn’t just come down to the earth and forgive people’s sins from afar or appear in the sky for all the world to see and preach from the clouds. He talked to them. He spoke to them. He healed them face to face. He touched them as He healed them.
The live-stream and other remote ways of attending Mass shouldn’t feel the same, because it isn’t. We are an incarnational, sacramental Church. We are meant to be physically present at the Mass and to receive His body truly in the Eucharist. There are certainly other practical benefits such as being able to connect better with our brothers and sisters in Christ and more easily entering into the prayer being surrounded in such a beautiful church.
For all of these reasons and more, I’m sure this will be a challenge for many of us. At the same time, I hope we can see it as a special grace. Just like fasting from physical food or other good things can make us appreciate them all the more once we have it, my hope is the absence of receiving the physical body of Christ and having the Mass will make us appreciate it all the more once the virus passes. Sometimes, you and I take it for granted as we simply come to church every Sunday without giving it much thought.
Of course, we will continue to live-stream the Mass, and we will offer a number of opportunities to grow in prayer and faith, though we are separated by distance. This is a time for us, more than ever, to come together in prayer and be united in faith.
I also hope to take some time in the days ahead to write about why the Mass is important, perhaps explain some of the parts of the Mass, and also write about some of the things we have in our church that we may not always appreciate or understand. My hope is this will help us to grow in our appreciation for the Eucharist as well during this time when we cannot celebrate the Eucharist together.
Let’s continue to pray for each other and stay united in our faith, being especially mindful of anyone suffering during this time and beyond. Please read the Archbishop’s letter below. God bless you.