March 23, 2020 Column Father De Celles

By now all of you are aware that the Bishop has canceled all Masses in the Diocese until further notice. He’s also banned all organized pious/devotional gatherings in the churches, such as parish sponsored Stations of the Cross, and all other gatherings of over 10 people. The only quasi-organized devotion allowed is Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, but even that is limited to 10 people at a time.

I hope you have received my emails which explain all this in greater detail. If you have not, please call Eva in the parish office to make sure we have your correct email address. Also, much of the information is on the parish website.

This is a great cross for all of us to bear. But it’s Lent, so let’s not grumble and complain, but rather pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

So what can you do without the Mass, without the Eucharist? Well, in a sense, very little. After all, It is, “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Which is why Holy Mother Church requires all her children to participate in Mass every Sunday, and to receive Holy Communion at least once a year.

But now that obligation is temporarily lifted, and all public Masses are canceled. What shall we do? How can we survive?

First, remember, that Catholics have been deprived of the Mass on many occasions throughout our history. Many of these have been due to wars or oppressive government regimes, like the Nazis or Soviet and Chinese Communists, and also certain Islamic regimes. But some have been due to epidemics. For example, in 1918 the Spanish Flu killed 675,000 Americans, and to stop its spread many dioceses canceled Sunday Masses, while others lifted the obligation to attend. I don’t know exactly what they did during the great plagues that hit Europe in the past, but it must be remembered that we now understand much better than they did how contagion spreads, and what precautions should be taken.

Even so, some question whether we needed to stop public Masses because of the coronavirus. Apparently Bishop Burbidge did too, until the CDC said we should have no gatherings over 50 people, and the President suggested no gatherings of over 10 people. So, with great regret the Bishop changed his mind, and here we are. You may not agree, but there is no malice or oppression in his decision. He’s just a pastor trying his best to take care of his flock. It’s hard to be in charge, so let’s follow him with respect and loyalty.

And remember, we are not entirely without Massthe Mass continues to be privately celebrated daily all around the diocese by 200-plus priests. And Fr. Willard and I offer our private Masses every day for the intentions requested and published in the bulletin, but also for all of you. So that spiritually you can be and are part of every one of our Masses.

And remember you can visit the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle every day, or exposed for adoration on Wednesday and Friday. (Please remember that only 10 people should be in the church at any one time).

Moreover, you can make acts of “Spiritual Communion.” As I mentioned in one of my emails last week, for those of you unfamiliar with making a Spiritual Communion, it follows the doctrine that while we are bound to use the sacraments as Jesus gave them, Jesus is free to give us His grace any way He chooses. So when we can’t physically receive the Blessed Sacrament we can pray, asking Him to give us the grace of the Sacrament spiritually.

Borrowing from the inimitable blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, here are some things to know about Spiritual Communion:

“St. Teresa of Avila wrote in The Way of Perfection: ‘When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you.’

“St. Jean Vianney said: ‘If we are deprived of Sacramental Communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion, which we can make every moment; for we ought to have always a burning desire to receive the good God. Communion is to the soul like blowing a fire that is beginning to go out, but that has still plenty of hot embers; we blow, and the fire burns again.’

“St. Thomas Aquinas distinguished the physical and spiritual reception of the Eucharist, and described Spiritual Communion as, ‘an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament and lovingly embrace Him’.

“Benedict XVI recommended making Spiritual Communions in Sacramentum caritatis:

“‘Even in cases where it is not possible to receive sacramental communion, participation at Mass remains necessary, important, meaningful and fruitful. In such circumstances it is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ through the practice of spiritual communion, praised by Pope John Paul II and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life’.”

So, fix in your heart a deep desire to receive the grace of Holy Communion, and pray in words like these words of St. Alphonsus Liguori, or some other approved formulas:

“My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”

Public Mass may be canceled, but Jesus will not be canceled from your heart if you truly desire Him. Clearly, He gave us His real body in a physical, sacramental form, and intended it to be consumed physically. He did this for many excellent reasons, knowing us as well as He does. But if that is impossible, He still desires to come to us. So let’s take every opportunity He gives us. Have faith in Him and His love and grace.

As we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Crucified this Lent, we cannot help but come to understand that God brings great good even out of what seems to be calamity. Without Jesus’ terrible suffering on the Cross, He could not have saved us from our sins, and could not have Risen from the dead to open the gates of paradise for us.

It is my belief that God has some great good to bring out of this deprivation. They say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” It is my fervent hope that as you are deprived of the Bread of Life for these coming weeks, you will develop a strong and deep hunger for It, for Him who died for love of thee. So that when, by the grace of God, we are able to all come together again for Holy Mass we have a new and profound appreciation of this great and glorious Mystery.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles