Sunday after Sunday, day after day, the Church gathers for the celebration of the Holy Mass. The Mass is always the same. It’s a ritual. Sometimes those words might fall on deaf ears because of our familiarity with them. Even as a priest, this has happened to me, getting caught up in the memorization of the words as I pray them.
During this time of pandemic, as I’ve prayed the Mass, there have been some phrases that have caught my attention. As I point them out now, I hope maybe it might be of help to you as you listen, read, and pray the Mass, whether you can attend publicly yet or not.
The first is be attentive to the word God speaks to use through the scriptures. Often there is a message meant for us that strikes a chord deep within. Just a few days ago, the readings at Mass said, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” What a beautiful sentiment to realize and remember that no matter what we face, Jesus has conquered it and will continue to do so in our lives. A number of times during the pandemic, we have been reminded by the scriptures to not be afraid.
I’ve also found consolation in Eucharistic prayers. In Eucharistic Prayer I, (the long one with the list of saints names), it says, “in hope of health and well-being.” Surely during this time in which we all are afraid for our health, we have hope for good health and well-being. That petition is one that not only I as the priest can pray, but one we all should be praying.
When we call upon the intercession of the saints during the Eucharistic prayer, we say, “on whose constant intercession in your presence we rely for unfailing help.” During this time of pandemic, we have implored the intercession of the saints, like the Blessed Virgin, St. Corona, and St. Roch, and so many others to whom you are devoted.
As I pray, “Listen graciously to the prayers of this family, whom you have summoned before you,” I recall all of my parishioners as they gather in their homes and around televisions or computers to listen to the Mass. Even though we are not gathered in one place, we are united in prayer in many places throughout our area, summoned by God to worship, adoration, and prayer.
Finally, I find the prayer after the Our Father to be particularly moving: “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil,graciously grant peace in our days,that, by the help of your mercy,we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress,as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” As I’ve prayed those words, I’ve contemplated the evil that is the coronavirus, and asked God to deliver us all from the virus. We desire peace- that we might have peace of mind once again. We truly want to be safe from all distress. And we await the Lord’s coming, preparing for that unexpected hour.
Listen closely to the words we pray at Mass during this weekend’s livestream, or if you’re lucky, in person. Hear the Mass in a new way. And when we gather again for public liturgy, let us strive to experience the Mass in a new way and see how it continues to offer us hope and consolation, pandemic or not.