As a devout Catholic I am called to attend Mass every weekend, either on Saturday nights or on Sunday. However, the Church’s response to the Coronavirus is changing how I, and many other people, will continue to practice our faiths. Archdioceses from around the world, and within the United States, have been suspending Masses and any church gatherings indefinitely. The cancelation of Mass in the United States started as a result of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that there shouldn’t be gatherings of more than 50 people. This decision comes during the Church’s most solemn time, Lent. Lent is the season of preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. The Church is trying to balance the traditions that are the foundation for Catholic faith and precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The rituals that take place every Sunday and the special ones that happen during the lenten season, could cause the spread of the virus. Many churches practice the rite of Communion, in which someone gives you the host (the Body of Christ) and uses a “common chalice” to share wine (blood of Christ) among the congregation. Congregations also practice “the sign of peace”, in which congregants shake hands (or touch cheeks with one another) and say “peace be with you”. During Holy Week on Holy Thursday, which directly precedes Easter, many churches traditionally wash parishioners’ feet, to replicate a moment from the Bible. But, outside of the official practices of the Church, it is also a place where people gather together to socialize and reconnect with one another. People gather during times of joy and times of worry; the virus outbreak saw people crowding into the churches praying. However, as studies about the coronavirus progressed, we have come to learn that the virus is airborne and spread through touch.
Many parishes from around the world responded to these news by cancelling the sharing of the wine from the chalice and then peace. When this did not prove to be enough and people continued to be infected, entire Archdiocese’ began canceling their Masses. However, this is not the case with all parishes throughout the United States and world; in the states located in the interior of the country, parishes have not had to make such drastic measures.
Now that Mass is cancelled, what can we do?
Pope Francis is praying for “… the Lord to stop the epidemic: ‘Lord, stop it with your hand’.” He also calls for us to do the same. He also invites us to all have hope and to never stop doubting the love that God has for each and every one of us.