We are living in a new time with the Coronavirus. I’m not sure if we’ve ever had a time where public Masses were suspended across the country—maybe during the 1918-1919 flu epidemic—but not within virtually any of our lifetimes at least.
Our technology allows us to livestream Masses from our parishes into our home and I appreciate the comfort that comes from seeing our priests and hearing them.
Without judging anyone who finds following along with a livestream Mass fruitful, it isn’t my bag.
Have I watched Masses on television before? Absolutely. I followed the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II live from within St. Mary’s Cathedral. I’ve watched liturgies from Rome with three different popes.
But, as the form of Sunday worship, I submit that we have such a breadth of Catholic tradition that we can look to other forms of worship to add to our homes and, perhaps, maintain once we can rejoin our parishes in person.
Why not the Mass?
Personally, there are a few rough edges with a livestream Mass as the primary form of worship.
First, while the Mass is effectual without my presence, when I am watching it on TV or my laptop or phone, I’m not in that presence. I’m watching a video. Do I kneel toward the TV? What am I kneeling toward? Is Christ, in the Eucharistic form, in front of me? Kinda? Maybe?
I’m a techie. I’m a distributed employee. Some of my best friends are work friends who I only talk to via Slack, Telegram, and sometimes on video. I have more beers with my friends via Zoom than I do in person. I’m not a Luddite who rejects technology, but when seeking out the Real Presence of Christ, I do want to be in the presence of the Real Presence.
Second, I fear that reducing our Sunday worship to the television opens the door to us not being active participants in our prayer. When we watch movies or TV or YouTube videos or Instagram stories, we can fall into a trap of being mere spectators. Sometimes, that’s okay, but if this is the form of worship we do, there’s something missing.
Third, we have so much Catholic tradition to draw from! The Liturgy of the Hours! Little Offices, Stations of the Cross. Seven Sorrows, litanies, the Rosary, and so on.
So what instead?
First off, if you find watching the Mass via livestream fruitful, still do it. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying it should be, as the cereal commercials tell us, part of a balanced
breakfast prayer practice.
The family is the domestic church. Whether you’re a family of one or of eight, through our baptism, we have been baptized into Jesus’ role of prophet, priest, and king and we have the grace and permission to act as Church within our own homes.
Let’s pray together as a family! Not gathered around a device, but gathered as a family.
The readings from Mass each day are available on the USCCB website. Light a candle, sing songs, offer prayer (something already written or from the heart) and read them as a family together.
Liturgical Press, the Benedictine apostolate from St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota, has released a “Holy Week at Home” guide.
I mentioned our family’s celebration of Night Prayer last week—there’s not only Night Prayer but the whole Liturgy of the Hours. I admit, though, that if you’re starting a home liturgical life, Liturgy of the Hours can be a bit scary. There are a lot of guides online and publications like Magnificat or Give Us This Day provide simplified Morning and Evening Prayer for each day.
This doesn’t mean don’t pray with the community.
I still think listening to the homily from your parish (or elsewhere too) is a great idea. I have a priest friend out of the Archdiocese of Atlanta who is praying the Angelus and Midday Prayer on Facebook Live and Instagram every day. I appreciate this since both parties—the broadcaster and the “viewer”—can fully participate.
While these are trying times, we can use them to strengthen our home prayer life in ways that can continue after we return to our churches.