As we near the third month of living in the midst of a pandemic, the loss of receiving the Eucharist is the most difficult sacrifice for me. Like many parishes across the Country we have adapted to these challenging time by streaming Masses, virtual adoration and the Rosary live daily.
Since the beginning of this journey I have attended Mass everyday, because I moderate the comments on our livestream and Facebook Live accounts. In the first two weeks of livestreamed Masses when we had a lector, the priest would give her and the camera crew Communion and my heart ached — maybe even felt a little jealous! The feedback from the viewers mirrored my feelings and so the decision was made for only the priest to receive Communion on camera.
The priests also incorporated as part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the Act of Spiritual Communion Prayer to help viewers experience a feeling of spiritual communion with Christ during the Mass.
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 I unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You. (Saint Alphonsus Liguori)
Closing my eyes to focus on the image of the Eucharist while saying this prayer really soothes my soul. One of our cantors sings a refrain after the Lamb of God that goes like this: “And I’m desperate for you and I’m lost without you.” That brings tears to my eyes these days. I took the gift of the Eucharist for granted. Did you too?
There is no wonder why I took so much for granted, living in a first world country and big city where Catholic churches are as plentiful as Starbucks. The notion of not being able to even step foot into a church or receive Communion is so foreign — in fact, it’s something we pray about for those in third world countries. Our parish has a ministry that sends a group of men to visit Guatemala with our pastor and they create “pop-up” churches for our priest to say Mass. Because there are limited opportunities for people to attend Eucharistic celebrations, the faithful walk miles to attend.
I rarely miss church out of a sense of obligation or opportunity, but in this era of the pandemic I have a new sense of yearning. The cliché “distance makes the heart grow fonder” so resonates for me. While watching Mass on a screen keeps me connected to my parish community, it doesn’t quell my yearning to physically see the familiar faces, shake the hands of people in neighboring pews, feel the sense of reverence in the presence of the blood of Christ in the form of wine in the cup or the feeling of the Eucharist dissolving in my mouth as I whisper, “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like your heart.”
While I can virtually sit in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament Exposed, it doesn’t feel the same as the leather kneeler or familiar cushions in our physical chapel. I yearn for the smell of the candles burning and physically sitting with other faithful members of my parish.
Praying the Rosary online has become a more consistent practice for me, as we stream it Monday through Friday. But, again I yearn to hear the voices of the Rosary ladies praying as I used to hear them following Masses in our church.
In my Archdiocese the drive-by or Zoom options that some other dioceses are doing to provide opportunities for the faithful to experience the sacrament of reconciliation is not being allowed. So I also yearn to hear the voice of my confessor absolving my sins.
Now that it seems we are beginning to have some of the restrictions lifted, my heart is buoyed by the feeling of anticipation. Anticipation of being back in our physical church and receiving Communion. While I know some form of “social distancing” will remain and celebrating Mass will forever be changed, the heart of this spiritual experience is the Eucharist and I can’t wait to receive on that sweet day that churches will re-open for our communities.
Peace of Christ be with all who read this.
Copyright 2020 Sherry Hayes-Peirce