For more than a week, our region has been under various levels of directives to isolate. Social distancing, it’s called. The idea is that if we can stop being so close to one another long enough for a new virus to stop jumping from one to another, we’ll stop the virus. Without the distancing, the experts warn, this pandemic could be unlike anything we’ve experienced.
Now we don’t have public Mass, our social functions are canceled and we’re supposed to stay at home, except to do a few essential tasks. Many of us are working from home and now educating our children at home. We can’t see our loved ones in hospitals and care facilities. Many are losing income.
We’re isolated, but not necessarily alone.
Every day, priests around the archdiocese are still worshiping God by celebrating Mass and consecrating the Eucharist — the source and summit of our faith. While we can’t receive Holy Communion, we still receive God’s grace through the celebration of Mass. We are able watch many of these Masses streamed live online — and we may make a spiritual communion.
St. Louis isolated this extremely before. In 1918, then-Archbishop John Joseph Glennon enforced a public health order by city health commissioner Max Starkloff to suspend all public church services to fend off an influenza pandemic. He canceled all public Masses and dispensed Catholics from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass — just as Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has this month in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Both archbishops kept churches open for prayer as long as worshipers followed directives.
Prayer is essential in a time like this. Parents who suddenly find themselves as homeschool teachers are encouraged to start the day with prayer. Cloistered nuns encourage people who are isolating to keep prayer in their schedule. And priests across the archdiocese are praying the Mass pro populo — for the people.
In 1918, Archbishop Glennon and his priests celebrated the Mass alone. A hundred years later, archdiocesan priests are doing that again, but now we have the benefit of participating via livestream. The same devices we’re using to remain social while socially distanced can also bring us the Mass while making a spiritual communion. That’s pretty amazing, even in a pandemic.
We pray this pandemic passes rapidly. But as long as we’re not going anywhere, we might as well go to Mass (on whatever digital platform). Even then, Christ is with us.