During the coronavirus pandemic, our Catholic faith lifts us up and takes us deeper into the heart of the Church while also reaching into a stricken world. We are affected by the stress and heartache, but not shocked. Scripture tells us of such things will happen when we turn away from God.
And so, we turn back with sorrow for our sins and renewed fervor for our faith. The ways in which the Church here on earth has joined with heaven against the pandemic are many. Here are a few of the encouraging stories.
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Prayers were offered by Archbishop Orani Tempestato before the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro on March 18. Images of continents and flags of nations affected by OCVID-19 were projected onto the Brazilian statue. In a message of solidarity, hashtags of #praytogether in many languages were also projected. See highlights of the service here.
Many of us are appreciating the Mass like never before now that we cannot attend. Individuals and families gather together for Sunday (and daily) Mass through the internet. Listings for livestreamed Masses throughout the U.S., and a few in other countries such as in the U.K., Mexico, Australia and the Vatican can be found here. What a beautiful resource it is.
There are also a growing number of reports from around the world of the priests blessing people with the Holy Eucharist in creative ways — even being flown over cities. In Lansing, Michigan, Father Mark Rutherford led a three-hour Eucharistic procession around the Diocese of Lansing from 10,000 feet up in a plane.
Father Majdi Allawi, a Maronite Catholic priest in Lebanon, hired a private plane to fly the Eucharist and statue of Our Lady of Fatima over his country to “bless the country, protect the homeland, and heal those who have been infected by the virus.”
Another priest took flight over the city of Wrocław, Poland, during which he prayed the Rosary and asked for God's mercy for his homeland, Europe and the whole world. He took with him the Blessed Sacrament, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and relics of St. John Paul II.
At St. Thomas the Apostle Chaldean Church of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of the U.S.A. livestreamed Mass celebrated by Father Rodney Abasso on the feast of St. Joseph, at 7 p.m. and afterward, people adored Jesus in the monstrance from their cars in the parking lot.
Associate pastor Father Bryan Kassa explained in an interview with the Register that the monstrance was lifted about 20 feet and placed in a church window. It was exposed from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., after which the pastor, Father Bashar Sitto, processed the Blessed Sacrament outside, up and down the full parking lot.
Father Kassa estimated there to be around 300 cars. “It was pretty amazing,” he said. “People started coming even before 6:00 to get a good spot. There were so many that the overflow had to be turned away.”
Father Kassa made a poster that read, “Flash Your Lights if You Need Confession and I’ll Come Over.” He and Father Fadie Gorges walked up and down the parking lot hearing confessions from the passenger side window until 11 p.m. If others were in the vehicle, people stepped out to a more private place while still keeping a safe distance.
New Plenary Indulgence
Pope Francis has assured us that a united humanity will rise from this pandemic. In an interview published in the Italian newspaper La Stampa March 20, he said that Christians must live through this moment with “penance, compassion and hope.”
The Vatican also announced an official decree, in response to the epidemic, that a plenary indulgence can be earned daily “to those faithful who offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or Eucharistic adoration, or reading the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary, or the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, to implore from Almighty God the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and eternal salvation for those whom the Lord has called to Himself.”
To obtain this, people must have “the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father's intentions), as soon as possible.”
A crucial concession has been made for anyone unable to receive the Anointing of the Sick at this time:
The Church prays for those who find themselves unable to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and of the Viaticum, entrusting each and every one to divine Mercy by virtue of the communion of saints and granting the faithful a Plenary Indulgence on the point of death, provided that they are duly disposed and have recited a few prayers during their lifetime (in this case the Church makes up for the three usual conditions required). For the attainment of this indulgence the use of the crucifix or the cross is recommended (cf. Enchiridion indulgentiarum, no.12).
Thank you, God, for all the ways you support us through each other and through your Church. We repent of our sins, beg for your mercy, and offer up our prayers and sacrifices in union with the suffering and death of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.