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Renewing our love and appreciation for Mass during trying times

When God finally delivers us from the coronavirus pandemic, may all return to the Mass with the same renewed focus and desire as the ancient Israelites quickly got to work rebuilding their Temple.

(Josh Applegate/Unsplash.com)

This Sunday morning countless souls throughout the Catholic world are faced with the unprecedented and unnerving reality of not being permitted to attend Holy Mass. More and more bishops have felt compelled to make the difficult judgement to suspend the celebration of all public Masses in order to protect the faithful entrusted to their care from the spread of the coronavirus. Though priests will still offer Masses privately for stated intentions and their parishioners, it is dreadful to think how a world already overcome by secularism will be deprived of so much grace from the altar.

It is a great spiritual evil to have the graces of the Mass cut off from so many souls, especially on Sunday, the Dies Domini—“The Lord’s Day”. Like any physical evil, this virus is a consequence of the fallen nature of the world due to Original Sin, and is thus a spiritual evil as well. As soldiers of Christ, we must fight this evil with goodness. How can we best do this? I propose that with so many Catholics unable to go to Mass in light of this global health emergency we should take time to more appreciate what we have in the Mass or in what many have now sadly lost.

In Old Testament times, the Prophet Jeremiah repeatedly condemned the worship of false gods that was so prevalent in Israel. Time and again he warned his fellow Jews that if they did not return to a faithful and holy following of the First Commandment that ruin would befall them.

His prophetic warnings were fulfilled when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Jerusalem in 597 B.C., razing the holy city and the Temple of Solomon to the ground. The Ark of the Covenant would be lost forever during that tumultuous time. The Israelites were then forced into exile, having to spend seventy years in captivity in Babylon.

Like the ancient Israelites in exile, Catholics who have to go without the Mass because of the coronavirus should use this time to better appreciate what they have lost for a time.

Some of the greatest Old Testament works of the Bible were written during those decades in exile, including parts of Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, Chronicles, and Kings, as well as the Books of Judith and Tobit. The motivation behind these writings stemmed from the people’s realization of all that they had taken for granted in the midst of their loss. While in exile, the Israelites wrote so poignantly of their holy city of Jerusalem and their Temple:

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion…How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!” (Psalm 137:1; 4-6).

This ought be the sentiment of those who must go without Mass this Sunday and Sundays to come!

The Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest act of worship that can be given to God as it is the same Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, which was presented to God the Father for the remission of all our sins. The priest has the power to offer this divine sacrifice, but all the members of the laity gathered before the altar share in the offering. The priest offers the Mass in their name; through his hands they offer the Body and Blood of Our Savior to the Father. The more fervently one participates in the Mass, the more benefits are applied to his soul. As Padre Pio, one of the greatest priests who ever lived, and who was so closely conformed to Christ Crucified so as to receive the stigmata, said: “If we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass.”

The Babylonians were eventually conquered by the Persians. The Persian King Cyrus had little interest in Jerusalem, which was considered a mere backwater city of his expansive empire, so he permitted the Jews to return and rebuild their Temple. With Zerubbabel as governor of the Persian province of Judah, the Second Temple was dedicated with great splendor. The priests sacrificed 100 bullocks, 200 rams, 400 lambs and twelve goats—all to expiate the past sins of their nation.

When God finally delivers us from the coronavirus pandemic, may all return to the Mass with the same renewed focus and desire as the ancient Israelites quickly got to work rebuilding their Temple. May we, like them, do so in a spirit of penitence. Just as they offered sacrifices to expiate the sins of their nation which led them into exile, we should participate at the Mass with more reverence and focus, desiring to expiate for how much we may have taken the Mass for granted in the past—especially the Sundays we failed in our obligation to assist at Mass.

The fear engulfing the world over the coronavirus has now deprived countless souls the graces of the Mass. With God’s mercy, the Mass will be returned to them soon but may this trial have them return to the Mass with a deeper appreciation and realization for what it is—the greatest source of grace on Earth.


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About Father Seán Connolly 39 Articles
Father Seán Connolly is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He attended Saint Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, where he received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology as well as a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts. He currently serves as parochial vicar at the Parish of St. Joseph in Middletown, New York.

9 Comments

  1. Singapore is one of the countries where we don’t have Masses and have gone online since 15 February. We were anticipating the resumption of weekend Masses on 14 March. However, we are expecting a new cluster and so postponed the resumption. Date is unknown. We miss too our daily Masses, our St Anthony’s devotion, our Sacred Heart devotion, our Stations of the Cross and our Novena Devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help/Succour. The archbishop has provided us with daily masses online and we even have Children’s Mass on Sunday. We are asked to do Spiritual Communion at these masses. We are blessed.

  2. ““If we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass.””

    Ironic, isn’t it.

    • Very good and very sharp! Thank you, Leslie! Maybe, Bishops could have demanded for people at Mass to not attend when feeling ill, coughing or with a fever, and the rest to wear surgical masks or handkerchiefs around their nose and mouth (Old West bandit style), to avoid the breathing of possible Corona particles, and to avoid any and all hand shaking and/or flesh squeezing (hugs). You could for a second lift your mask or hanky, take Holy Communion and quickly mask again.

      The end of the world avoided by paper and cloth and common sense so we can receive the Lord of Saving and Redeeming Anti-Panic Love!! “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”, (1 John 4:18). Panic is a nefarious tool for not just losing our common sense but also our True Faith. Maybe that’s what we are now being TRAINED to do with this overblown crisis! All beware!!

    • Dear Leslie,
      Great point! St. Pio also said, “One Mass said for your intentions while you are living is more valuable than a 1000 Masses said for you when you are dead.” (Pieta booklet, but not verbatim). For twenty years I have had Masses said for my children and wife on their birthdays because of that statement! Stay safe and healthy.
      God bless,
      tom

      • Thank you. I’m a fine one to talk; I live with my mother, who is elderly and has several health conditions, so we are now quarantining ourselves. I missed Mass yesterday, and although the bishop has told us we are not obligated to attend because of the circumstances, it is horribly distressing.

        Our priest hs not closed the church and will not unless the bishop orders him to do so. We are truly blessed to have him as our priest.

        • Dear Leslie,
          A good holy priest is worth his weight in gold and has the admiration of his entire flock! Unfortunately a slothful dissident priest is not worth the mill stone tied around his neck. My hope and prayers for your mother’s well being and longer life. Caring for the ill is an act of mercy worthy of salvation (Matt 25:40, 46b) so rest easy you are fulfilling all your obligations to love and serve the Lord, Christ our King!
          God bless,
          tom

  3. This IS an opportunity for us to experience a bit of what other Catholics throughout the world do-seldom able to attend Mass either because of persecution or lack of priests. Those of us in the US are tempted to take the Mass for granted. I once had to follow a priest through a few Midwestern towns on a Sunday until I got to a church at the correct hour. But in suburban San Diego there are Catholic Churches and Masses everywhere. Sometimes we humans have to lose something for a time to appreciate it. May we use this time our Lord has given us wisely.

  4. Thank you, Fr Connolly for a thought-provoking article. Perhaps, we as good, practicing Catholics needed this “interruption” to make up realize what we really HAVE in the Mass.

  5. We read that “The fear engulfing the world over the coronavirus has now deprived countless souls the graces of the Mass.” Yes, SORT OF, but four footnotes:

    First, in this one moment of deprivation, we are also finally disabused of the disinformation campaign to the effect that Joe-priest is really only a “presider,” and that a real Mass now depends upon the mass participation (so to speak) of the encircling laity. Nope, within the Apostolic Succession, the ORDAINED PRIEST can say non-public and still valid (!) Masses. In the Spirit, how very pre-Vatican II!

    Second, not much heard yet about the reality (not the mere consciousness-raising value) of acts of SPIRITUAL COMMUNION (below) for those not attending, as also for all those who respect the Eucharist sufficiently enough as to not approach sleepwalking and perhaps even sacrilegiously.

    Third, the real merit today of spending time in front of the tabernacle and REAL PRESENCE as compared to a sound track and virtual reality on the latest high-resolution flatscreen. (We know, for example, that the sacrament of Penance cannot be administered over the telephone, or email, or snail mail.) Above all that’s technological, thank God there’s still something concrete about our own personal/real presence toward the sacraments.

    Fourth, the real effectiveness of daily morning offerings aleady said “in UNION with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world.” By the grace of God, there’s more to these words than just guttural noises exhaled into the void.

    So, yes to the remote TV Masses that also serve to enable such union.

    (SPIRITUAL COMMUNION: “My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though you were already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”)

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