That the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has changed our way of worship and other church rites is no doubt. The pandemic has left the planet’s Catholic faithful unable to attend Mass yet Mass by its very nature means a crowd of people coming together to pray. For the first time in living memory, Catholics worldwide did not celebrate Easter together physically.
It is unusual times as religious gatherings are banned and people encouraged to avoid crowded places.
Due to the corona virus pandemic, bishops around the world have currently given dispensations from Mass for the catholic faithful, which according to the Ecclesiastical law means permission has been granted not to attend Mass in this period of Corona virus pandemic, and so you do not commit any sin by not attending Mass.
The pandemic has left church leaders with no option but to reach out to their Christians remotely. They have taken to streaming Masses online, recording biblical reflections and sharing with their flock. In Kenya starting from Palm Sunday there has been live Mass on a national TV to ensure the faithful do not totally miss out in Mass.
It is true that watching Mass on television is not the same as attending it physically, it give the true sense of participation in the Body of Christ. While this physical separation from our parish communities is only temporary, it has real spiritual implications. And the shift to virtual Masses, especially, has left some Christians with doubts. Did I really attend to Mass?
During live-streamed Masses, Catholics are invited to make a ‘spiritual communion’, a tradition that dates to the Middle Ages of praying with one’s desire for the Eucharist.
The closing of churches and other places of worship was prudent and necessary measures designed to keep people healthy. As the Most Rev. Antony Muheria, the Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Nyeri notes in The Interview, God also counts on our human efforts and reason. That is why we must adhere to the other indications of health. Acting in this way would be showing God honour and not tempting him.
This is also the time to put our faith to work by being each other’s social safety nets. Many people have lost their sources of income and there are already calls to help with basic needs, calls which as Christians we need to respond to watch mass and commune in spirit.
As archbishop Muheria notes, “…the Church of Christ has endured and will endure through internal or external difficulties. We may actually be undergoing a renewal which will make us even bolder and committed. God’s plans are indeed very unpredictable.”
At the end of the pandemic we may not be able to count and say, ‘no one is missing,’ but our actions and willingness to follow instructions will help save lives.
The pandemic interfered with funeral rites of the late Archbishop Raphael Simon Ndingi Mwana ‘a Nzeki, emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi. Because of the need for social distancing, his funeral Mass was attended by less than 100 people. The late prelate will be remembered for his stand against tribalism and human rights violation in the run up to multipartism in Kenya. He was among the first African bishops appointed at a very critical time in the growth of the Church in Africa. He leaves a legacy not only for the Church in Kenya but also for Africa.
May his soul rest in peace