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April 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― As faithful Catholics long to return to public worship, a lucky few are permitted to be present at churches where Mass is celebrated. Most, of course, are priests and deacons. Others are altar servers, readers, and cameramen. 

However, some ordinary Catholic congregations have been blessed with priests who are willing to risk their health or the ire of civil authority to say Mass for people whose consciences also permit them to run these risks. LifeSiteNews has been in communication with two of these Catholics, and one has written his testimony.

I am from a country in the far East, and therefore the ban should be seen in light of real concern for the health of its citizens: forced closures are placed even on mosques. The narrative we often hear from conservative and traditional circles in the West about the farce of COVID-19 being an indirect affront to Christ and His Church does not apply in my context, at least as far as the secular authorities are concerned.

The background of my story is a little unique. We faithful had Masses available to us neither because diocesan priests were saying their private Masses, nor because they were secretly inviting faithful to their private Masses: it is because we have a pious priest from the [Society of Saint Pius X], who has such great apostolic zeal that he decided to get into our country the day before the nationwide lockdown.

In his very own words, “I'd rather be locked in than locked out to be available to those who need the Sacraments.”

SSPX priests who minister to us are based in [another country]. They fly in every weekend and then fly out to their next destination either on the Sunday itself or on Monday. Father Dex (not his real name) left one Sunday, and when the government confirmed when the lockdown was to take effect, he came back immediately on Tuesday to be with us.

Since the government is placing heavy penalties on those who defy the ban, many are unable to make it to Mass for fear of exposing themselves, the priest, and the chapel. Out of 100 + regular faithful, only 13 of us come regularly for Mass.

Despite the fact that we are only 13, we had Sung Masses every Sunday and the entire Easter Triduum ceremonies. These were also fully sung.

Since Easter Vigil ends at about 2 a.m. there was no way we could leave the chapel without drawing attention to ourselves because restaurants, supermarkets and grocery shops are closed by 8 p.m. Therefore, we all slept in the chapel and stayed on for Easter Day Mass. It was truly a memorable moment for me, as I now can say “I slept with Jesus by my side.” This was literally so, as I was sleeping on the pew facing the Blessed Sacrament.

Why did I decide to go? How can I not, when the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being offered? Could I, having the opportunity (with proper safety measures) to go to it, refuse? Going to Mass is by no means done out of disrespect to the authorities, nor is it to ignore the reality of the epidemic. Personal health and hygiene are always kept and adhered to. Furthermore, apart from going to the chapel, we are always at home, hence the risk of inter-infection is very low, if not non-existent.

Fortunately for us, we have plenty of cover as several restaurants […] are open for take-out. If we were to be stopped by the authorities, we could always say that we were out to buy food, rations, and necessary household items. I have been sure to buy something because the only way back into my neighbourhood is through a police roadblock where they stop every vehicle to conduct a search and briefly question us on our whereabouts.

Even in a private capacity, diocesan priests here won’t say Requiem Masses

Every day after Mass there is Benediction. At every Benediction, the prayer for the Pope is prayed. Nay, rather, sung! I am not sure if the prayer for the Pope is said at Benediction in the diocesan Churches, but in the traditional Benediction, this prayer is always prayed. 

Also, at every Mass the name of the local ordinary is mentioned. 

I understand that many Catholics cannot agree with the SSPX position, but it is now 2020 and with all the developments (good and bad) happening in the Church, and in light of the momentum of the Traditional Catholic movement globally, I hope that regardless of the disagreements about the SSPX, Catholics can at least try to be thankful and appreciate that an additional Mass a day is offered for the benefit of the local ordinary and the Pope wherever and whenever an SSPX priest says his Mass.

[Local diocesan priests] are telling us that confessions can be done [only] after the ban is lifted, and no concessions have been given regarding emergency cases like extreme unction and viaticum. Yet here we have a foreign priest who has heroically offered himself and cooperates in the work of Christ's redemption for the salvation of souls.

A family friend of one of our faithful passed away during the lockdown. The deceased was [a Catholic but] not a faithful of the SSPX. She died without the sacraments and the last rites. The local diocesan priest was contacted to say a Requiem Mass for her, but he said he would do it only after the ban was lifted. This goes to show that, even in their private capacity, diocesan priests don't say their Masses. At last resort, our community was contacted, and so in the end it was Fr. Dex who said the Requiem Mass.

The woman died without any loved ones beside her as all her children are overseas. A wake was held for her at one of the parishes with no one attending, and no one was present at her cremation. In your charity, please pray for her soul. 

If supermarkets are still open for the natural needs and sustenance of mankind, certainly and all the more should Churches be opened for the supernatural needs and sustenance for our immortal souls. Needless to say, we ought to take safety precautions, too.   

Instead of being the first to close churches, the Episcopate should come up with ways to ensure that the Sacraments are available and spiritual health is provided for, just as the secular authorities came up with ways to keep the supermarkets open and certain sectors of the economy afloat. At the very least, they should give it a thought and fight for it. As the saying goes, justice must not only be done but be seen to be done.

This testimony has been edited for clarity and to preserve anonymity.

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Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and has contributed to Catholic World Report. Her first book, Seraphic Singles,  was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013). Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband.