Not being able to go to Mass, whether Sundays or weekdays, during this crisis of Coronavirus, will leave significant numbers of people with a sense of loss. In our parish we will continue our normal schedule of celebrations but they will be accessible over the internet.
When I have not been able to get to the church because of sickness, I have tuned in, previously to Sunday Mass on television, and in recent years to our parish. Our parish will continue to have Mass at the normal times, but for the coming few weeks this will not be open to the public to gather.
On Line: You can find this on line at www.balallyparish.ie/live.
Sunday Mass is celebrated at 10am and 12 noon.
Weekday Mass is at 10am.
In the event of a funeral, a maximum of 100 people may attend.
This, of course, does not involve the kind of engagement with the rest of the community that we experience when we gather for Mass. It can feels more like an observer rather than a participant.
How can we address this? The church is the people, whether gathered as Christians to celebrate Mass or whether at home or elsewhere. How can we be the “domestic church”, to celebrate the Lord’s Day, while at home alone or in a household with others?
For those who can use a computer (or who have someone to do it for them!), you could share at the “Table of the Word” at home, either with those in the household, or on line with friends by Skype or Facebook or some such utility.
This means reading the Bible passage for the day and sharing with others what it may mean to you. It may sound strange, but you may be surprised how hearing what you yourself get from it, and listening to others, can reveal ways of seeing the meaning which might not have occurred to you.
How could we do this?
You can find the readings for Mass each day on line in Irish and English on the website of the Irish Catholic bishops (www.catholicbishops.ie): just click the link for Mass Readings.
The readings are also on the ACP website (www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie), with some commentary. Click on the date on the calendar on the right.
The Irish Carmelites (www.carmelites.ie) have commentary on the readings for each day the week – click on the Prayer menu and select Reflections on the readings for the week.
We have people of many languages in many parishes; the Sunday readings are available in 13 European languages from Vienna International Religious Center (http://www.virc.at/texte/jahr_a_e.htm), where they can be downloaded in PDF format, with a “meditation.” Each PDF has two copies – print it at two pages per sheet.
If doing this with others, decide how much time you would like to take. The first time may feel strange. After a few times, it will come naturally.
To help share what the reading may suggest to you, we suggest that you print the readings. Then, on the day, take a minute or two in prayer – the Our Father for example, or “Come Holy Spirit,” or just a minute in silence to bring to mind that Jesus is always with us. Then select and read one of the readings alone or together, aloud or silently. (Remember to put your phone on silent!)
With pencil or pen or highlighter:
Mark or underline any word or phrase in the reading which seems important to you.
Put a question mark at any part which is puzzling or which seems to make no sense.
Circle any word or phrase which you find challenging or inspiring.
Then each person picks out some or all of what they have marked, and, in turn, tells the other(s) why they marked it in that way. It’s not a competition to find “right answers”, nor agreeing or disagreeing with one another. It’s simply sharing with others how the reading strikes you. It may be surprising to those taking part how each person may have a distinctly different response. Even if another person’s thoughts seem odd, accept them as the genuine experience of the other person.
The purpose is to enrich our understanding of how the reading speaks to us as individuals and as a community. Some taking part may like to say how it reflects their own experience or faith, or makes a difference to their life, or sheds light on their parish or the world we live in.
To follow on, those taking part might like to mention any person or matter they would like to remember in a “Prayer of the Faithful” in your own words. Remember especially those who are sick, and those who care for the sick. Then finish with a joint prayer of choice.
If you are with others and a cuppa follows together, just remember to “say grace” – to give thanks for the food, and for one another, and for the sharing of the Word of God.
All this, of course, could be done also when public Mass resumes.
If you try it, let us know how it went for you!