In Northern Italy, where my family currently lives, we are expecting cases and deaths to peak in the coming days. Since Feb. 23, we have had no Masses and seldom are able to receive the sacraments, including reconciliation and reception of the Eucharist. Then, on March 9, after steady increases to security, travel and access to everyday conveniences, the country shut down.
Days later, we quickly learned that restrictions resulting from the decree included enforced social distancing, non-essential travel, groups and events limited to a small number of people, one person allowed in a traveling vehicle and more. As these measures fell into place, we began to hear of the seriousness of the enforcement effort. A woman close to me was fined for trying to visit her relative in the hospital. Some were turned around on the way to work while crossing provincial zones. After a stressful week and becoming saddened with each day the numbers of cases and deaths reported, even the most stubborn of residents began to realize the seriousness of the precautions. A collective acceptance of this mode of life as the new norm has occurred, and we are hopeful to see in the reports that we may be soon on the road to recovery.
As challenging as this event has been, the road to recovery will not be easy. China and South Korea, countries that were the original hotbeds of the pestilence, have largely levelled out with low counts of cases and deaths. Still, those countries are in a continued quarantine, and it’s reasonable to assume Italy, too, will be in a controlled quarantine for weeks, maybe months after the curves have flattened and the hospitals are able to operate at levels that match the pace of any spread.
Needless to say, we aren’t going anywhere for awhile. We’re becoming more comfortable with not seeing friends after Mass and on other occasions, not going out on weekends, and not leaving our homes except for groceries and pharmaceutical needs. However, there is still a large hole in our spiritual lives. Most of that, for my community of friends, centers around a liturgical and sacramental life — a life that is now inaccessible or frequently unavailable. But we’re getting creative, as are many people and organizations stateside. I want to share with you some of the top Catholic resources and things to do if you find yourself in quarantine.
Many will want to find a good and wholesome way to watch Mass, and I’ve found two excellent resources. EWTN’s live Masses, especially their Sunday Mass, are very popular. Another great source for Mass is from the Dominicans of the Eastern Province, who also livestream Mass every Sunday. Dominican Masses from St. Albert’s Priory are also available for re-watching at the same online location.
Do you have a book (or books) that you’ve wanted to read but never had the time? Now is the perfect opportunity to catch up on that backlog. Of course, see what books you have in your own possession, but if you’re looking to branch out, Verbum software and apps for iOS and Android offer plenty of free content for Bible studies, lessons on the Church Fathers and much more. Their paid collections offer a lifetime of invaluable resources. And who knows, maybe you’ll get the inspiration and research you need to tackle that Catholic book you always wanted to read.
Virtual perpetual adoration
Make your monitor a part of your at-home virtual Blessed Sacrament chapel. The creator Virtual Adoration has a page that offers more than 10 choices of live streams from chapels throughout the country and abroad, including Poland and the U.K. Check them out here.
To keep the kids busy
I, too, have been forced to telework through this debacle, and it has not been easy. At times, it sounds like a bowling alley upstairs where the kids were doing a mix of online learning and shouting lyrics to the new Frozen movie. But there’s plenty to keep them busy. Parents who are subscribers to Formed have a lot of options. My kids have sat happily through everything from Brother Francis to Footprints of God with Steve Ray — they can’t get enough. The best thing is that kids love reruns and re-watching. Formed offers a free 40-day trial, and many parishes give their parishioners free access.
Although it is impossible to speak to each diocese, parish or priest, many Catholics still have access to valid sacraments, even in a time of cancelled Masses. Famous now are the drive-thru confessions, but many priests are still offering confession in the normal place and time, even expanding available times more than ever. A range of possibilities exist in many areas for distribution of Holy Communion. Even if it does not coincide with the Mass, some are making available liturgies that consecrate enough new hosts to receive after a confession or with another sort of appointment. Just as is the case for confession, you’ll want to contact your priest or network with other Catholics in your area to discover what and where valid sacraments are available.
For other resources, the St. Paul Center just launched their Quarantined Catholic Hub. It has a ton of content with the intention that Catholics who can’t attend Mass can still enrich themselves and spend time learning about Our Lord.
Shaun McAfee is the author of “I’m Catholic, Now What” (OSV, $19.95) and writes from Vicenza, Italy.