March 27, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – After listing all the prudential reasons why our churches have been locked down during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, Father Raymond de Souza writes in the National Catholic Register that “the challenge remains about how to administer the sacraments. … Confessions are not being heard [and] Holy Communion is almost nowhere being distributed.”
“That cannot continue in the long term and remains the next great challenge,” he continues, “for which solutions are not obvious.”
I am happy to report to Father de Souza that there is a solution, and that we at Ave Maria Parish have already implemented it.
Thanks to the courage of our Pastor, Father Cory Mayer, and his fellow parish priests, every parishioner in our community here in Ave Maria, Florida, is able to receive the Eucharist after every Mass.
This good news came to us on the eve of the Annunciation in the form of an e-mail from Father Mayer:
I have wonderful news! The bishop has given us permission to distribute Communion! What a wonderful gift to be able to receive our Lord again in the Eucharist! This news comes as a blessing and will begin on our very own Parish Feast Day March the 25th the Annunciation of our Lord.
The plan, which received the blessing of our bishop, Bishop Frank Dewane of the Diocese of Venice, involves Live Streaming the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The members of the parish community will participate from a safe location, either in their homes or perhaps in their cars. The priest will then process outside and distribute Communion in the open air in a nearby school parking lot.
The guidelines for those who wish to receive Communion are straightforward:
1. Communion will be distributed outside the front doors of the Parish Academy after the completion of the Live Streaming Mass. This will be offered at 12:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, and at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday.
2. The priest will continue distributing Communion after the Mass for 30 minutes.
3. Those wishing to receive the Eucharist during this time should park their car in the parking lot. Then they should line up along the front walkway of the Academy, at all times maintaining at least six feet of separation from the person in front of them. Markers will be placed on the sidewalk to help with this “social distancing.”
4. The usual conditions for receiving Communion apply, namely, fasting for an hour prior to receiving communion and being in a state of grace. You may also wish to recite an Act of Contrition.
As far as Confession is concerned, there are multiple parishes in the Diocese of Venice where either walk-up or drive-in Confession is available. Here at Ave Maria Parish, Father Mayer announced that Confession is available twice a week and, because of the unusual times we find ourselves in, the priest hearing your confession will be able to give you communion afterward.
Although the circumstances of the epidemic vary from state to state and, in some cases, from county to county, it seems to me that this is a model that many parishes and dioceses could and should follow.
Right now, Catholics throughout America are being advised that they should watch Mass on television and avail themselves of spiritual communion. I understand spiritual communion well. I am a convert to the Catholic faith and, during my year-long RCIA program, I availed myself of it each and every Sunday. As my wife went up to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, I would kneel in my pew and beg Our Lord to come to me in spirit. To judge by the graces I received during this time, He did.
But nothing matched the joy that I felt when I was finally able to accompany my wife up to the Communion rail, and receive the Body and Blood of Christ for myself.
This week’s announcement that the sacraments of Confession and Communion would again be available at Ave Maria Parish was received with great joy in our community. To me, it felt to me like Easter had come early. I am grateful to Bishop Dewane for allowing it.
Just the week before, the good bishop had sadly informed us “that the regularly scheduled Masses and other Liturgical events in Parish Churches in the Diocese of Venice will be suspended from March 20, 2020 until after Easter, when the situation can be re-evaluated. Visitation to Churches to pray is also suspended.”
Now I do not know whether the China Virus, the Wuhan Flu, or whatever you want to call it, is a divine punishment or not. But the closure of my parish church—for wholly valid prudential reasons, it would seem—certainly felt like a punishment. Why would you deny the faithful access to the sacraments, especially now when the need is so great, if there was any way to avoid it?
Worse yet, I couldn’t shake the thought that my beloved Church was abandoning the field of battle.
Would military chaplains leave the battlefield just because bullets are flying, or would they run—not walk—to the sound of the guns so they could succor their wounded and dying comrades?
I think we all know the answer to that. And if anyone doesn’t, I suggest that they read the biography of the Servant of God Vincent Capodanno by his postulator, Fr. Daniel Mode.
I thank God that Bishop Dewane and Father Mayer have been willing to set up a “field hospital” to treat the spiritually “wounded.” Some of those souls are suffering from mortal wounds. Others from less serious ones.
But whatever their sins, here in Ave Maria parish, at least, they will not be without the healing balm of the Sacraments. Which even during a pandemic, is the best medicine of all.
Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of Bully of Asia” Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order.