Now, a few months after making this resolution, I’m approaching each encounter with Our Lord in the Eucharist as if it might be my last for the time being. With the precautions dioceses and parishes are taking to slow down the reach of the novel coronavirus, actions such as canceling all public Masses and parish events are not unreasonable. And the situation is changing rapidly.
Just this weekend, I stopped by an adoration chapel close to where my parents live. I had missed Mass that morning and wanted to spend an hour before Our Lord. During this time, I prayed especially for all those who will be most affected by this pandemic. But I also had a sense of hope — hope that, just maybe, this is an opportunity for all Catholics to realize again the importance of the Eucharist and to learn not to take it for granted. This prayer was reinforced later that day when, only hours after I had left the adoration chapel — which had been perpetually open since I was a junior in high school — the chapel was closed until further notice. As of now, the church itself will remain open 24/7, but the monstrance was reposed after the Saturday evening Mass.
For a moment, I was heartbroken. But in the days since, I have realized just how much I take the Eucharist for granted — how much I take God for granted.
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We live in a time and a country where access to the Eucharist is often no more than a quick search on masstimes.org. But over the next few weeks and months, however long precautions are necessary, many will have to go without receiving the physical life-blood of the Church.
But we should not be discouraged. Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert. The Israelites wandered that many years until they were able to settle in the Promised Land. Fasting from what we take for granted — food, freedom, security, even receiving our very Lord — can lead us to a greater dependence on God. Particularly with the Eucharist, how beautiful will be the day when churches are reopened and the faithful will flock to receive Our Lord, for whom we have been pining!
My prayer is that this separation from the ease of worship will cultivate homes and hearts eager for God. I pray that through creativity and a longing for the blessings we took for granted we may take up new practices of faith: praying the Liturgy of the Hours, reading those spiritual classics that have gathered dust on our shelves, watching the Mass weekly or daily from a computer screen or adoring the Eucharist in the same way. I pray it brings families together and that parents may use this time to radically live and teach their children the Catholic faith, taking more time for family prayer and sharing stories of the saints who have gone before them.
Yes, this Lent will be unlike any other we have experienced. Holy Week likely will be just as unprecedented. But there is such a great opportunity for all Christians to unite together in prayer, to become creative in how we foster community and how we unite ourselves as the body of Christ. No matter how the next few weeks and months progress, let us use this time to be saints.
While I may not be able to experience the Mass or Eucharistic adoration in a church, I’m still going to practice the resolution I made in January through livestreaming of the Blessed Sacrament in adoration and the Mass and making a daily spiritual communion. I ask you to join me during this time. Find a local parish that is recording their Mass live, or a group of religious sisters who will give you daily access to adoration. Our Lord may feel far away, but he is closer than ever.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor.