Due to the coronavirus pandemic, bishops throughout the world have restricted the ability of Catholics to attend Mass temporarily. For some, this has been a crisis of faith. For others, even though they have managed, they still feel a hole. I don’t wish to use our time here to debate the merits of this decision, so much as to confront a pastoral reality: there are lots of Catholic faithful who are now struggling spiritually due to the suspension of these masses, and we must help our brethren in need. One way to do this is to live our lives as Catholics in a liturgical manner, and to understand this is far more than just the Mass.
Unfortunately, a lot of Catholics today equate the “liturgical life of the Church” entirely with “the Mass.” Some, with a vague semblance that the liturgical life is more than the Mass (including such things as the Breviary, benediction, adoration, etc) still limit the liturgical life to the official celebrations of the clergy and the institutional Church. This is a mistake. The liturgical life of the Church is open to all, and is about far more than just the Mass and other celebrations of the Church.
This is not to downplay the central importance of the Mass/Divine Liturgy in the liturgical life of the Church. It is central, and even when public masses have been suspended, it remains central. Every priest is still bound to celebrate Mass. The Mass is still the highest prayer the Church offers. Under normal circumstances, we faithful would assist at these Masses, and take part of the church’s liturgical life in a very special way. For the foreseeable future, that will be denied to us. It falls to us to recover the little ways we can preserve the liturgical life, and unite these with the Masses/liturgies that are offered privately/without a congregation.
The easiest way to do this is to follow the liturgical calendar of the Church. The liturgical calendar is broken down into different seasons. (These vary upon what calendar you use for worship and what your bishop/Roman officials have approved.) Right now, we are in the season of Easter. Soon, we will be in the season of Pentecost. These seasons are meant to have different sentiments and virtues magnified and practiced with fervor. As Lent is a time of penance, Easter is a time of celebration. You do not need to limit yourself to Mass attendance to practice these virtues.
One should also think of little things they can do during these celebratory times to mark special occasions. I know a business owner who would buy donuts or other food for his employees every day during Octaves. The employees weren’t necessarily religious, but they appreciated the free food. Give your kids ice cream. Get them takeout for dinner, or make special dinners. When they ask why, tell them it is a time of great celebration. You can also do this for the various feast days of the saints. Some saints have small celebrations, others have larger ones, with feasts surrounding the Apostles and, most importantly, Our Lady taking the highest prominence.
Another way to live the liturgical life of the Church is by adapting the reading of Sacred Scripture according to the times and seasons of the calendar. This can be done through a structured study (such as by following the readings of the masses for those feast days) or by a more impromptu reading of the Scriptures, where you look at a selection of verses, and read them through the season and feast day. In Easter, focus on the joy coming forth from those passages over the Resurrection. During times of penance, of our lowliness and need of salvation. For a feast day dedicated to martyrs, focus on their courage, and our own desire to carry our crosses in ways big and small. You can do this within 3-5 minutes starting your day, and it is a powerful way to set your life according to the calendar of the Church.
A final way of living the liturgical calendar is to intentionally unite yourself, and all of the activities you do throughout the day, to the Masses/liturgies being offered for that particular feast day. This is one reason Churches used to have bells: at either the start, or at the consecration, the entire surrounding lands would be alerted to worship taking place. If they could not attend, they could offer to the Lord a desire to attend spiritually, and to reap the benefits of that worship taking place right near them. There is even a traditional devotional prayer you could pray every morning, or right before when you know a Mass is about to be offered:
O Jesus, through the immaculate heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your sacred heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all the apostles of prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
With the coronavirus pandemic, we Christians face a crisis that has only been felt a few times throughout our history. Many of the ordinary means of sanctification and participation in the life of the Church are denied to us. It is a cross we must bear. Yet in bearing that cross, the Church has offered us tools to bear it profitably. We will worship in public masses again. These are tools we can use to prepare us for that moment, and once they resume, to live them out more fruitfully.