The Catholic family is supposed to be a domestic Church – a place where we encounter God, and where our faith can be nourished. Of course, each Catholic family is also part of the universal Church, and our parish is where we go to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to receive the sacraments. In these days of Coronavirus shut-downs and quarantines, millions of Catholics do not have access to the Mass. During this time, the role of the domestic Church takes on an even greater significance.
What can we do if we are temporarily deprived of parish life, and even the holy Eucharist? Most likely, our children are home and we have more family time than ever. One way we can continue to nourish our spiritual lives during this time is to create a family liturgy.
The Mass is the most important liturgical practice of the Church. Of course, unless we are able to have a priest celebrate a private Mass in our homes, nothing we do can replace the Mass, but this difficult time does provide us with an opportunity to strengthen our domestic churches. Two of the essential elements to liturgy are ritual, and its public nature.
One important way to stay spiritually engaged is to create family prayer rituals. Choose times throughout the day and dedicate them to particular prayer activities, that are family-based, not just individual. For example, in the morning, learn about the day’s saint. Spend some time with Scripture, perhaps following the daily Mass readings. Pray the rosary. Choose a spiritual book that the family can read and discuss together. Maybe find a podcast, or a Catholic video series that can benefit everyone in the family. CatholicBrain has many tools to assist you, from the daily activities on the home page, to the many videos and activities on the site. You may also find the Sunday Mass activity guides to be helpful.
If you have access to EWTN, watch at least the Sunday Mass together. Your parish may even be livestreaming Masses, which your priests will certainly still be celebrating and offering for you. Learn to make a spiritual Communion, and teach your children how to, as well. (A spiritual Communion is a prayer in which we tell God of our desire to receive Him and ask Him to come into our hearts.)
Develop family rituals for every day, and enhance them for Sunday. It is still the Lord’s Day, and we are still called to honor it during times like these.
Many dioceses are being very creative and finding ways to make Holy Communion available to the faithful while still following CDC guidelines. And virtually all dioceses are ensuring that Catholics have access to the sacrament of Confession. Many parishes are open for Eucharistic Adoration, as well, or at least private prayer before the tabernacle. Either check your diocese’s or parish’s Web site for details, or give them a call, and then stay connected to the Church and to the sacraments.
The most important thing is that we keep ourselves and our children spiritually engaged and active during this time. Perhaps it is no accident that this is all happening during Lent. It provides us with a unique opportunity to upgrade our prayer life as a family. And do not forget the liturgical seasons. If you do not have the opportunity to be at Church during the sacred Triduum, do not ignore it. Honor Holy Thursday, pray the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, and celebrate Easter Sunday.
Then when this is all over, don’t fall into complacency. As soon as Masses resume in your diocese, get there! One grave danger is that the measures taken for public safety during this unusual time will trick people into believing the lie that Mass is not so essential after all. Nothing could be further from the truth! Saint Padre Pio said that the world could better survive without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!
This time is a trial, but it can also be an opportunity. Allow it to make your desire for Jesus and His presence in the Eucharist burn within you. Pray with your children for God to speed the day when you can return to the Mass. And once you do, maintain some of the practices you developed at home. Talk about it with your family. Create a permanent home “liturgy” that can build on the sacraments you receive at your parish. May we all come out of this Lent with a more vibrant family prayer life and a greater appreciation for all the wonderful gifts Our Lord has given us.