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A Leaven In The World… Grace In The Time Of Coronavirus

March 26, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

The coronavirus began late last year in China and has now reached our own shores. This after devastating Europe. In Italy now a number of priests and religious as well as hundreds of other elderly have succumbed.
All public Masses in many dioceses have been canceled in the wake of public advisories to avoid all unnecessary social contact, perhaps for at least another month. Rome has already announced that Holy Week and Easter services will be livestreamed and the public will not be admitted.
Increasing numbers of priests are now livestreaming their daily private Masses. My parish had not explored the possibility previously but we are now doing so, having found it is easy with the Facebook app, an iPhone, and a tripod.
This goes a long way toward enabling our people to better make spiritual Communions, recommended when sacramental Communion is not possible.
Taking advantage of the fact that some social contact with distancing is still allowed I got on my bike Monday morning after the first “private Mass Sunday,” ironically on the ides of March. I rode around our little village with copies of the Sunday bulletin and knocked on doors. With these short visits I was able to both check on our parishioners and give them an opportunity to proffer their offertory support. I will probably continue the practice in the coming weeks, while encouraging those who live more distantly to use snail mail.
We need to keep the parishes running. The electric, oil, insurance and many other bills will keep coming whether or not we hold public Masses.
It is going to be a long Lent. And I don’t mean the seven weeks before Easter. This year there is a new and onerous Lent in which our people are deprived of sacramental Communion. We have been informed by our bishop that, because public Masses are not being offered and because we are to maintain the relationship between praying the Mass and receiving Communion except for those who are ill or in danger of death, there is to be no reception of Communion outside of holy Mass.
An example of the explanation offered by one diocese: “Given the connection between the Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass, the rites of the Church envision that the reception of the Eucharist outside of Mass is the exception, normally limited to Communion to the sick or utilizing a Liturgy of the Word in cases where the celebration of Mass is not possible. At this time when public celebration of Mass is suspended, public celebrations of the Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion is also suspended. Therefore, the practice of distributing Holy Communion to the faithful on an individual, ad hoc basis (aside from pastoral care to the sick) is to be avoided.”
No one is expected to be happy with this decision. Balancing the pros and cons of public health emergencies and the higher need for sacramental grace with eternal salvation in view is never easy.
To be fair to the dioceses who take this position, it is important to remember that, because large gatherings have been canceled, policies are written with the logistics of the largest parishes in mind. If a large parish cancels Masses but then advertises there is an opportunity outside of Mass for reception of Communion, large gatherings may easily result.
I solicited reactions. One deacon responded with a quote from canon law. Canon 918: “It is highly recommended that the faithful receive holy communion during the eucharistic celebration itself. It is to be administered outside the Mass, however, to those who request it for a just cause, with the liturgical rites being observed.”
He commented, “The ‘short form’ of the liturgical rite (Novus Ordo) takes no more than 10 minutes . . . much shorter than the time to try and explain to a distraught Catholic why they cannot receive Holy Communion in the sacristy because their request is not a ‘just cause’.”
Again, to be fair to the diocese which must make policies with all parishes in mind, certainly a priest could remain in church during daytime hours and give Communion outside of Mass to those who seek it on an individual basis, but there is no practical way to offer this opportunity and at the same time guarantee that it won’t become a large public gathering.
In the meantime we can reinforce Catholic knowledge of the reality of grace in this time of coronavirus pandemic. Every Catholic should have a number of tools in his Catholic “toolbox.” One of these is the ability to make distinctions in the manner of receiving grace, the spiritual gift of God which is necessary in order to be attain eternal salvation.
God is omnipotent, He does not limit Himself to the sacraments when it comes to saving souls. In ordinary times we do have a grave obligation to attend and to pray holy Mass on the Lord’s Day. But these are not ordinary times. A grave reason excuses from a grave obligation. Catholics in my diocese and in many others have been dispensed from attending Sunday Mass. This means that they do not incur the guilt of mortal sin for not attending Sunday Mass as they ordinarily would.
Grace comes through ordinary means, such as Holy Communion or any of the other seven sacraments. Grace can also be obtained by extraordinary means, that is, outside of reception of the sacraments in a period when they are not available except to those in danger of death, such as at present.
Another of these basic Catholic “tools” is the ability to make a spiritual Communion for the obtaining and growth of grace when one is unable to receive Communion, as already mentioned. The prayers are easily found by a quick Internet search, as a number have been penned over the years. I recommend one authored by St. Alphonsus Liguori.
Just as surely as we know that the Lord is present and close to us in the tabernacle of the nearest Catholic church, so we know that we are close to, and can speak with, Him. He speaks to us with saving love always, simply by means of His presence thus among us.
The Lord will not abandon us because we are unable to attend Mass for a period. His love is eternal and infinite. Nothing can destroy His love or prevent Him from reaching us. We need only reach out to Him. We must pray. And we can pray for a miracle as well, that this pandemic will come to a swift end and that we can soon return to the most tangible and secure means of receiving the Lord in the Holy Eucharist.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Please Tweet or otherwise share this column to help get my words to others.

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On this painful Palm Sunday I pray that we can all cling to the joy that the Lord Jesus is keeping His Promise, He is still with us. It is excruciating not to receive Him in Communion but He awaits us “in the room next to us” May Spiritual Communion place us in His Real Presence

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