Live plays rarely make for successful TV viewing.

The Catholic Church was unprepared for COVID-19.

Nothing particularly new there, countries have been caught unprepared; the transmission speed of this COVID-19 virus around the world has been unstoppable.

The Decree released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from Rome on 25th March 2020, was unusually brief and not thought through.

Two sentences troubled me.

  • The priests are able to celebrate the rites during Holy Week without the presence of the people has also translated to mean that some priests have continued to celebrate Mass in their own parish house bubbles.
  • The faithful should be, informed of the beginning times of the celebration so that they prayerfully unite themselves in their homes waiting for a live-streamed Mass.

The Vatican document deflates the developing and mature relationship between the ordained and non-ordained, of being together as the People of God within the genius of liturgy.

For sure these are unpreceded times. Priests being deemed non-essential, (while the tooth fairy and Easter bunny weren’t) and Sacraments were denied and the people locked out of our Churches.

Simultaneously parliamentarians asking us to save lives when weeks prior they voted that it was okay to kill preborn children and the terminally ill.

My parish hurriedly held a drive through reconciliation on the front step of the church.

To me, this was like getting a McDonalds or KFC, and for me, it betrayed the respect and dignity of the Sacrament.

But to simply inform the non-ordained to tune in for live-streaming of liturgies to gain unity!

I found this very derogatory as a Catholic woman; it questioned my integrity as a non-ordained person.

Could we non-ordained have been credited for our own prayer spirituality holding us over until we could gather in our parish churches around the altar to celebrate Mass?

What’s more, how can a priest privately celebrate Mass on his own, without people, when the gift of the priesthood is for us?

Since COVID-19 levels 4, 3 and 2, we have been inundated with live streaming Masses from around the earth, in fact, anytime, day or night anyone can flick through the internet to find a virtual liturgy that takes their fancy.

People can belong anywhere.

Just how does a layperson, sometimes while having tea and toast, watch Mass from a laptop or TV screen, perhaps skipping from one YouTube channel to another, unite us?

With a minimum internet package, I watched a virtual liturgy once and found it phoney.

  • I was not present.
  • I couldn’t participate.
  • I was not heard.
  • I was invisible.
  • I was nameless.

There’s little to be experienced or to be had by virtual participation. In fact, I suggest this is a serious and dangerous contradiction in terms.

Virtual is not real and liturgy is an engaging living activity of the entire community.

The community comes together, to gather together, to be together, around the altar to celebrate God’s presence amongst us.

Liturgy is live theatre, it is drama requiring participation, listening, eating and drinking.

Live plays rarely make for successful TV viewing.

So in the absence of the live event, in these times when the community could not gather, I prayed daily, read the divine office and dwelt on the daily scripture readings.

This rich Catholic tradition of prayer provides unity.

  • Sue Seconi is a parishioner in the Palmerston North Diocese.
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