Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Church "At Home" – On Rose Sunday, Our "Altar-ed" State

Before anything else, is everybody OK?

At least so far, here's hoping this deeply uncertain, unsettling road is going as smoothly as it can for you and yours.

Back to the work at hand, perhaps fittingly given this Sunday's Gospel, we are all just hoping to find our way in the dark... yet with it, history is unfolding in real-time.

While the thread began last weekend across roughly a fifth of the American Catholic map, this Sunday sees the nation's largest religious body echoing the life of the country at large: a complete shutdown of public worship, and one without precedent in its likelihood to stretch through Holy Week and Easter.

While many dioceses have aimed to keep churches open for private prayer despite the suspension of Masses, even that is changing quickly, as rapidly-spreading state and local "stay at home" orders increasingly forbid any gatherings, even outdoors. (Of course, as the precise shape of the instructions vary by place – and, often, are progressing in stages – everyone is advised to keep tabs on the situation where you are; as ever, the church is a complement and partner to the civil authorities, not a substitute for them.)

Still, even for the dizzying spiral of this last week and a half – and everything that's come with it – the reality of a people unable to make it to church has freshly emboldened many entities to bring Church to the people. Sure, it's no substitute for the Real Thing, but in a time like this, it's a grace nonetheless – all the more given the hard work and quick planning that's gone into pulling all this together.

Again, the examples are well in evidence out there, but to single out just a few, given last year's March Madness, here's this morning's Mass from the home-chapel of the archbishop of Washington – who summed up the feelings of most in explaining how "I never dreamed as a bishop that one day my best pastoral option would not involve expanding access to the Eucharist, but suspending it"...

...and elsewhere, from the Chancery chapel of Las Vegas:

...from the South, in the empty Cathedral of the 1.4 million-member fold in Dallas: the North, in what's now the Cathedral-Basilica of Canada's largest diocese (itself built by a founding bishop killed by his ministry in a plague):

...y en español, de la Catedral de Los Ángeles – la más grande comunidad de todos nosotros:

*  *  *
To be sure, these days – more like these weeks, if not months, to come – have already brought any number of new and pressing concerns to the fore, at least some of them likely to change the face of this beat forever.

While there'll be a time to pore through it all over the road ahead, for now, the critical concerns we face are twofold – first, the health and safety of the whole Body... and just behind it, how we can best be Church to and with each other amid these constraints.

Lest anyone among us thinks they've got the answers on that front on their own, suffice it to say, you don't – none of us do. But even for the physical "distancing" of these days, finding our way through together isn't just the only way we can make it through this – indeed, it's what "ekklesia" (in English, "Church") means in the first place.

May each of us know every grace we didn't know we needed in these days... and above all, again, please take care of yourselves and those you love – and may we help each other through this as best we can.