I have noted with interest the ways in which people of faith have responded to life without access to communal worship, the sacraments and parish life. Many dioceses and parishes quickly began to live-stream the Mass and a number of parishioners were grateful for the opportunity to virtually connect with the Mass.
However over the weeks the convenience of being able to watch Mass while eating breakfast and respond to text messages from the comfort of the couch has lost its novelty and appeal for many.
Personally I have always found watching Mass on a screen to be an ultimate experience of disconnection.
Even when Pope Francis is celebrating a feast-day Mass in St. Peter’s square I might spend a few minutes watching the beginning to get a sense of the crowd and the atmosphere, but then I’m likely to make coffee during the readings and tune in again for the homily before turning off completely.
The disconnection I feel watching others pray the Eucharistic prayer knowing they are able to receive (or choose not to receive) communion is too much for me.
I heard a few weeks ago of a great way of using live-streamed Mass as a preparation for returning to communal worship. Some have commented that they now watch only the Liturgy of the Word of a life-streamed Mass, turning off at the end of the homily or prayers of intercession. Then they spend ten minutes meditating on the scriptures alone or reflecting with others in the room or by phone sharing how the scriptures have spoken to them.
I admitted in a post a few weeks ago that with many options for online Good Friday 3.00pm liturgies I chose to sit alone under a tree reading the Passion according to St. John.
When it comes to the sacraments it has to be all or nothing.
The scriptures in these last days of the Easter season look forward to the celebration of Pentecost, this year on Sunday 31 May. Hopefully at that time we will be able to participate again in the celebration of the Mass.
My suggestion is that we take the rest of this month to prepare well.
Recall the reasons that you participated in Sunday worship (or did not participate) at the start of this year. Perhaps you were there every Sunday? Maybe for you participation was regular but not every Sunday. It may be that you had no real pattern of Sunday worship. Maybe Sunday worship was often too inconvenient with family demands and other commitments and you used other spiritual practices (meditation, weekday worship etc) as replacement. At this moment don’t make a judgement about how good or imperfect your practice was, just remember it.
Now note the ways you have lived your life of Christian faith in the past two months. Perhaps daily or regular times of prayer? You might have watched online worship, or used website encouragements, or Lectio Divina, prayer with others in your bubble.
Whether you have been a part of Sunday worship regularly in recent years or not for many decades is not important now. The fact is that now we are all in the same boat – we haven’t been to Mass for a while and we are preparing to return. It’s much easier to return as part of the group than to return alone.
Take a moment to consider that Sunday worship has been at the heart of the life of Christians since Pentecost. In Aotearoa New Zealand our ancestors ensured that communal worship was the heart of every Sunday. Many parishioners travelled great distances at considerable inconvenience because the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of their lives only made sense to them in the context of active Christian faith. Even when a priest or minister was not available because of distance Catholics would often still gather at the church to pray the Rosary.
There are some disciplines that most people try to build into every day. These include eating, exercise, time with family and friends and sleep.
A Christian knows that a part of a focussed live will also include prayer, and weekly discipline will include gathering with the Christian community to worship God. This is the still point in the turning world of the working week.
In the year 150AD Saint Justin, martyr explained the Christian’s commitment to Sunday worship:
On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.
On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen.” The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent…
…We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our saviour Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration.
150 years later (303AD) a community of Christians gathered in Abitene (today’s Tunis) to celebrate the Mass were martyred. Minutes before they were killed their executors, who were puzzled at the risk the Christians continued to take by breaking the law to gather for Mass, asked the Christians why they persisted with the Mass knowing they would be killed if caught:
“Among the testimonies is that of Emeritus, who affirmed fearlessly that he received Christians for the celebration. The Proconsul asked him: “Why have you received Christians in your home, transgressing the imperial dispositions?” Emeritus answered: “Sine dominico non possumus” (“We cannot live without Sunday”).
A commentator at the time wrote:
“O foolish and ridiculous question of the judge! As if a Christian could be without the Sunday Eucharist, or the Sunday Eucharist could be celebrated without there being a Christian! Don’t you know, Satan, that it is the Sunday Eucharist which makes the Christian and the Christian that makes the Sunday Eucharist, so that one cannot subsist without the other, and vice versa?”
Pope Francis reflected on the Abitene martyrs commenting “The term ‘dominicum’ has a triple meaning. It indicates the Lord’s day, but also refers to what constitutes its content — His Resurrection and presence in the Eucharistic event. The motive of martyrdom must not be sought in the sole observance of a precept, because in that period the Church had not yet established in a formal way the Sunday precept. Deep down was the conviction that Sunday Mass is a constitutive element of one’s Christian identity and that there is no Christian life without Sunday and without the Eucharist.”
When it comes to the Mass we have the choice “all or nothing.” If ALL was good enough for my ancestors and for those first Christians, then I am not prepared to settle for anything less than ALL!
- Last Sunday I posted the Fr. Damien movie (Molokai). Many readers have commented on how much they appreciated the movie and one reader encouraged me to suggest a movie more regularly and especially on a Sunday. So if you have any thoughts of a movie that can be uploaded and shared (ie free online) send in your suggestions.
- Today’s movie tells the story of a young Irish religious sister. Clare Crockett certainly lives life to the full. The world thought she lived life fully before she decided that she was going to follow Christ 100%, but it is clear that her life became more and more happy as she embraced the adventure of faith more whole-heartedly. I was especially moved by the testimonies of the dozens of people who matured in their relationship with Christ because of the life of Clare.
- Pray to Sleep (a ten minute bedtime audio reflection) at this link.
- Today’s readings at this link.
- Send your prayer requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. Each day I will add the initials of those we pray for to this list. Take a moment, perhaps 15 seconds, to pray in whatever way you choose for those whose initials appear below, and don’t hesitate to send repeat requests for prayer.
Let us pray today (Sunday) especially for: SP, PB, BH, JJ, KB, DM, GL (RIP last Tuesday) JT,
For the people I love. sister in law KB for a job after losing hers in the lockdown, My brother for his anxiety. Mother in law again as shifting to a rest home on Thursday. For family suffering grief this week, For husband that he will return to Mass, 2 1/2 year old great grandson in hospital with intestinal failure. For those who in families and at work are carrying others through their work and home struggles, For wonderful son-in-law that he may know God chooses him. For people struggling with addiction especially without their regular supports.
Saturday: CM, OP, GC, GS, ES, MLAH, CS, HC, DC, DU, DMC, FTM, JS, SD, MD, CM, TD. MM, ZM, LM, SD, JD, LD, AD. DC, ME,, CE, KC, LC, BC, KC, BC,
Friday: LS (RIP), AR, TT, BP, MP, PP, GTD (RIP2015), PB, LM, JK, MK, TJO, LB, DD, JRA, FL, JU, SLJ. SLJ. JJJ. MPJ, JPM, MLFJ, MD,
Thursday: SLJ, JJJ, RM, SJ, SF, SLJ, JS, FS, MD, GPD, JMC, AM & I, MS, MC, MR, JCP, MON, SS, MS, OD, ND, CD, JD, JD & KJ, EJH, ARO,
Wednesday: JS, FS, SF, GJG (RIP), JDG, MD, CGW, SD, TK, JK, RF, GN, OP, GC, TN, MC, KJ, SL, AN,
Tuesday: JMT, KJ, MD, PM, MC, DP, KD, AD, BA, RF, MC, PR, JH, GPB,
Monday: AD, NF, PR, GPB, BA, MA (RIP), LM, SB, MO’D, S&SW, DMcA, SS, VM, PM, NM,
Last week: BB, BR, RM, IW, BL, AM, JM, SM, JH, CSL, BS, AW, MR, SR, JC, LR, JF, AB, AB, MB, CB, LJ, AF, JB, CB, SB, MB (RIP), MR, MH, SR, RS, MTM, OH, MM (RIP), SGS. MC, EH, MAC, NDM, JG, SL, JD, AJ, MLJ, SkJ, MS (RIP), LMP, GRJP, JF, IC, RF, JC, LHG, LKG, FMG, GMG, GC, AW, DM, MM, PM, ML (RIP), JMC, PN, KM, JJ, MJ, AWS, HGTJ, JHWW, HJPM, MB (RIP), MD, DN, QRPTT, LTP, NVVO, PEGMW, MC, LM & JM, BM, BP, CP, PP, CH, NF, RJH, GOJ, JMC, LH, JS, RMc, MLJ, EL (RIP)AJ, MLJ, SkJ, MS (RIP), LMP, GRJP, JF, IC, RF, JC, LHG, LKG, FMG, GMG, GC, AW, DM, MM, PM, ML (RIP), JMC, PN, KM, JJ, MJ, AWS, HGTJ, JHWW, HJPM, MB (RIP), MD, DN, QRPTT, LTP, NVVO, PEGMW, MC, LM & JM, BM, BP, CP, PP, CH, NF, RJH, GOJ, JMC, LH, JS, RMc, MLJ, EL (RIP), SS, BK, JKBP, CP, PP, BW, HT (RIP), SL, AW, DM, MM, PM, LH, TN, SF, SC, FM, T&TT, AR, HF, RF, JM, R&B, MC, MD,BH, SGS, JJHB, SJB, BB, MD, MB, JT, RF, SS, SS, PB, SD, JR, SQ, JL, MCSM, PR, MJ, MD, SM, PR, MJ, MD,
LECTIO DIVINA FOR SUNDAY OF EASTER WEEK V (17 May 2020)
Pictures received of any churches that have been significant in your faith journey will be included as the images on the daily Lectio Divina links. Send to email@example.com.
Today’s church: St Gabriel’s church in Pawarenga in the Hokianga. Thanks Dean for sending.
Sunday Easter Week VI (15 minutes)
Sunday Easter Week VI (25 minutes)
I have found the daily livestreamed Mass a lifeline for me in these times. I have not thought of it as virtual but hav rather united myself wholly to the action happening right at that time. The offering of the Holy Sacifice of the Mass. Sure, I am not present physically, with the Bishop and Priests celebrating but I am most certainly present spiritually. I compare it to a video call on messenger or a Skype call to my family and friends, but in this case to God. I am very much present and I know the Blessed Trinity, wholly, and in each Divine Person is very much present with me. I am so grateful for all the support we are being given in this desert time, and praying very much for the day when we can once more gather together for Holy Mass, and receive the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Happy repose of bill mehalski may he rest in peace
I have found watching and participating in the Mass on screen is as you say, 2nd best but it has become our “norm” at this stage. I actually like seeing the small row of people at the top of the screen, our Parish Priest saying Mass, being able to respond and see the others doing so too. It gives me a small sense of community as we can wave to each other at the start and end and acknowledge each other at the sign of peace. Nothing makes up for not being able to receive Communion. But it is what it is and I am thankful for that!
I checked for emails this morning in case there might be 70th birthday wishes.
There was only ‘all or nothing’ which sufficed. I love it.
Happy birthday John. Three score years plus ten. May God’s blessing be upon you in the year ahead.
I thought today’s reflection particularly important, especially in its reference to how our ancestors, New Zealand’s first settlers lived their faith, and the importance they attached to the Sunday celebration. I hope our time in lockdown can initiate a resurgence of participation in Sunday worship in all of us. Fr. Mike, S. Westland
On the one hand, I appreciate the efforts made by our bishops and priests to provide some means by which we can participate in their celebration. On the other I am disconcerted and disappointed when I learn that the Mass was recorded the night before. At first I was under the illusion that I was responding in real time to the service. It is much harder to attempt any kind of real participation with a mere recording of a celebration that was made a day, a week or a month ago.
The story of Sr Clare reminds me that sometimes an angel will come into incarnation to bring light before returning home. The Church has a history of such ‘angels.” They are inspiration for the rest of us who seek the “everything.”
Thank you Barbara for your comments. I agree wholeheartedly with you and have found the online Mass life-giving. God is truly present with me and I am very grateful to still celebrate daily Mass throughout the lock down
I feel totally blessed to be able to share with the mass on line, it’s like I’m right there with the Cardinal and his fellow participants and it’s very peaceful, God Bless them and all of you. I also, am looking forward to when we can together and share our Sunday morning Mass when the time is right.
John you have done a marathon keeping us ‘tuned in’ all these weeks. Today’s comments echo my thinking. I tuned into live streamed mass once or twice but abandoned it, just too much like make believe!
I’ve listened to some wonderful homilies from all over the world and feel totally enriched. I receive ‘ Lions Roar’ every day and feast on Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and some days Richard Rhor and of course Lectio Divina! Your gifts abound and wonderfully shared. Blessings
Not sure I want this printed it’s meant for you!
John, you have done a marathon keeping us tuned in all these weeks.
Your reflection today echo my thinking too. I started with live streamed mass but after two indulgences gave up too much like make believe.
I’ve heard some very inspiring homilies from around the world and been receiving ‘Lion’ s Roar and very inspirational talks from Thich Nhat Hahn, very contemplative. I also get daily input from Richard Rohr and of course Lectio Divina. Your gifts abound,thank you for sharing and keeping us ‘tuned in’. It definitely hasn’t been ‘exile’ total enrichment. Blessings.
A good friend of mine often says “God either is or he isn’t”. With the inference being if you believe He is then it is ‘All or Nothing’.
I’m not very good at trusting like that but it’s good to be reminded Fr JOC that that is the ideal that I should strive for.
Thanks for your Herculean efforts to put these excellent posts out daily Fr John. You are a good man.
I feel relieved! I felt I was the only one who couldn’t connect with the online Masses. While I recognise the gift of and importance of Communion at Mass, I feel community involvement and the word in scripture are not always seen as so important in our Sunday worship.
I have found the reflections and scripture in Lectio Divina each day sufficient spiritual food for the day as I mull over different words and phrases that stay in my mind and my heart throughout the day. Even though these lockdown weeks have been a very enriching and thought-provoking spiritual journey for me without Mass and Communion, I’m looking forward, with a deeper appreciation, to connecting with my community for our Sunday Eucharist.
No, it’s not “All or Nothing”! It’s either proper Mass in church (which is not possible) or attending (not just watching) an on-line (but not “virtual”) Mass and spiritual communion. We feel truly blessed that it’s not “Nothing”.
We consciously set aside time, turn off phones, light a candle and actively participate as if we are in church, standing for the Gospel, singing hymns, etc. Because we are not multi-tasking, and are devoting our complete attention, we truly feel that we have attended Mass and received communion, and the feeling that God has “entered under MY roof” is incredibly powerful. Perhaps the difference is that our participation is intentional.
Many of our friends and family have also appreciated the opportunity to attend on-line Masses. It may not suit everyone, but we count ourselves among many who are grateful for the gifts from those who have filled the gap, so as to avoid what would otherwise have been a deep spiritual void.
Thank you for your comment this morning, John . Indeed, all or nothing! We have not found watching mass online helpful . Liturgy requires presence and participation. We have joined with Zoom services for the past few weeks , with the opportunity for small group interaction in real time. This has been a gifted time for gathering with others in fellowship and worship, and prayer- it does not have to be mass. We have been able to spend more time in personal reflection and prayer – finding God in all things.
Thank you for your comments this morning , John. Indeed- all or nothing! We have found that watching mass online is not helpful. Liturgy requires the participation of those present and their interaction with each other. We have joined with a Zoom service for the past few weeks, which gives opportunities for small group participation. It has been good to meet with others virtually for fellowship, prayer and worship – it does not have to be mass. This has been a gifted time for spiritual growth- and opportunity for reflection and prayer, and reminding ourselves that God is in all things.
Thank you Fr John for your reflections each day specially during lock down. I watched the video “all or nothing”. I loved her bubbly character. She bought so many young children to know God because of her love for Jesus. We are lucky to get her on video and her passion for sharing the gospel. She truly was an inspiration to us all. I to would fast forward to the liturgy but loved being able to follow the gospel of the day I still felt that I did receive the holy communion spiritually when I said the prayer God bless you abundantly in your wonderful work that you do amen.
I was struck by the almost political urge toward civil disobedience implicit in today’s FFF. I have checked back twice to see if anyone had commented, and was intrigued that no one had. So after watching and praying with the live streaming of our parish Mass at 930 am my husband and I drove the 22kms to one of 3 churches in our parish and at 11am received the blessing of Holy Communion from the hands of one of our 3 priests. This was via a portal in a large clear perspex screen. We had sanitised our hands and written our details for contact tracing. We then met, appropriately distanced, and rejoiced with members of the body of Christ. I experienced the truth of the incarnation in both the Host and the host of fellow Catholics in a new and special way. The reality was wonderful.