I didn’t get around to writing the Lockdown Diary yesterday because, to be honest, it was such a beautiful day that I spent most of it working in the yard. Late in the afternoon our oldest son Ben arrived home. He had been working in Salt Lake City, and in the first leg of his journey down from the Rockies he was driving through a dangerous blizzard. He’s glad to be back in South Carolina, but commented that he had faced within a few days earthquakes, blizzards and a global pandemic. It’s good to have him and our daughter Maddy both home with us, and we’re coming up with projects to work together to make the most of the quarantine.
I’m writing this on a Sunday morning and what is most strange is not going to church. I think in my entire life I have probably not been to church on a Sunday morning no more than half a dozen times–and all of those only due to illness. Therefore, not to be getting up and out for morning Mass is very jarring. However, in saying that I will be going over the church later this morning to celebrate Mass privately with our Holy Deacon serving the altar. Fr Peter Stravinskas reminds in this article that the private Masses remind us of three things:
First of all, it is a wholesome reminder that the most important thing the Church can do for the world (yes, even and especially) in a time of global crisis is to offer the Sacrifice of the Eternal Son to His Heavenly Father; in a particular way, the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered for the needs of Christ’s Bride, the Church. This act underscores the utterly transcendent reason for the existence of the Church.
Secondly, offering Mass without a congregation present restores in a powerful manner the understanding of the cosmic nature of the Holy Sacrifice. In truth, you see, the priest-celebrant is not “alone” in his liturgical action; in the Preface of every Mass, he bids all the angels and saints to attend to the sacred action about to take place on the altar. Thus, the entire Communion of Saints is present: the Church on earth (in the person of the priest), the souls in Purgatory, and the whole Court of Heaven. Each and every celebration of the Eucharist brings together the Church synchronically (the Church at present throughout the world) and diachronically (the Church down the ages). In other words, the liturgical action is always greater than any particular gathering of Christ’s faithful.
Last but not least, the priest’s “private” celebration of the Sacred Mysteries stresses the priest’s primary role in the Church, that is, as the intercessor extraordinaire. In the post-Vatican II era, in all too many ways and places, the priest has been reduced (and all too often has reduced himself) to a mere functionary or “sacramental magician.” The fact that the priest can offer the most sublime act of worship to the Triune God without a visible assembly should bolster his self-understanding. Five thousand lay people (even the holiest in the world) can come together but cannot confect the Eucharist without one of Christ’s ordained ministers.
So this morning we will pray for the unfolding coronavirus crisis, that God will help and support the health care workers and all those who are caring for the needy. We also need to pray for the people of Croatia who have also experienced a bad earthquake. Such worrying times! It reminds each one of us that sometimes all we can do is to put ourselves into the Lord’s hands and ask him to be in control. In saying that, we also have a responsibility to do as much as we can to assist those in need. Stay in touch with your housebound friends and family. If you are well, thank God and with proper precautions and social distancing see if you can help those who cannot get out. There may be a needy older person who needs help with shopping or who simply needs a friendly contact point.
I have been reading a biography of Pope Leo XIII–who was pope at the end of the nineteenth century in between Pius IX and Pius X. Reading church history is always illuminating because you realize that in every age the church has been under fierce attack in one way or another–from corruption within and persecution from without. This is why, if you haven’t listened to my podcast Triumphs and Tragedies you ought to. There is one episode per century and it takes you through all the ups and downs of history through the lens of the Catholic Church. Leo XIII, for example, faced down the revolutionary movements in Italy, France and Germany. These movements, driven by socialists, Freemasons and nihilists were determined to overthrow the old order and the Catholic Church especially. The German, Italian and French governments all persecuted the church in a determined and systematic way. Pius IX and Leo XIII after him endured humiliation, saw monasteries and convents closed, property confiscated, churches and seminaries closed and priests imprisoned and silenced. In Germany for ten years there were hardly any active Catholic priests and the faithful went without sacrament in many places for years on end.
It shed light on our present troubles. Pray God this pandemic will soon pass and that calm and social order will prevail. Pray hard not only for health workers, but also for all those who will work to preserve peace and social continuity.
I was going to write more about the Benedictine Way, but got sidelined! There will be more later, and I expect next week I will move the Lockdown Diary to be a weekly feature rather than daily.
- Scott Hahn’s St Paul Center offers a line of free Bible study resources
- I’m starting an online book club for Donor Subscribers to the blog. We’re going to study the life and poetry of T.S.Eliot
- Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire ministry offers a wonderful range of resources including a daily streamed Mass.
Scripture from the Divine Office Morning Prayer
This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold. Neh.8:9-10