Love in the Time of Coronavirus: Spiritual Communion

eucharist, priest, holy communion

Last July I felt a strong urging to write an article about a “Lay Dry Mass” where a group of the faithful could gather, read the daily Mass readings and pray. In that article I wrote:

The simple idea is that a group of the faithful would gather, read the daily Mass readings and pray. There could be a lector, and it could be held in a church, or it could be more like a prayer group, held anywhere. The semi-formal liturgy would begin with a Confiteor of sorts (but with no absolution, obviously), followed by the readings, and hymns, if possible and desired. Although there could be no “homily,” if someone had a short word or reflection, they could offer it from their seats, indicating that the person offering it is not ordained. If even this is inappropriate (I do not know), reflections could be shared after the service was concluded, in an even more casual way with whomever wants to gather and share.

You may have had the experience of having something on your heart that you were fairly certain was from the Holy Spirit, but which might not have made too much sense to you. It could have been something you knew you should say to someone, give to someone, step out into, or any number of other leadings.

This happened to me late last spring with the idea of a Spiritual Communion service. The idea kept coming to me, though it made no sense for a lay person with no formal training or professional connections to anything remotely to do with the liturgy, to have the idea. Who would I tell?  Who could “make it happen”?  When I finally settled down enough to take it to prayer, and to my spiritual director, it became clear that I was getting way ahead of God. He was simply asking me to write an article about an idea I believe he had given me, then let it go.

So that’s what I did. I wrote the article and promptly forgot about it, until this morning, when I received a comment asking if I had an “update” given the current situation of suspended Masses amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

God is so good. A beautiful Catholic Texas couple was looking to see what was available for the “Mass-less” people of their community and so they searched and found last July’s article and commented. Might their search lead to something real? An actual liturgy? Might the Lord be passing the baton of this little nudge on to them? I have no idea. But I pray it leads to even one small community, somewhere, praying together in a form that consoles both themselves and the Heart of Jesus.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Do you remember the best-selling book, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez? For some reason the title keeps coming to my mind these days, only with the disease name updated for our times. The “love” in this updated story is between each of us and God, between Jesus and me, Jesus and you, and Jesus and every one of us who loves Him. This love looks very different than it did just a few weeks ago because the shape of our lives has changed so dramatically, most especially in the form of our worship. O, how I long for the spoiled-rotten days of dozens of Masses to choose from within a few-mile radius from my home! O, how I did not appreciate it when I had it. But this day, today, is where I live, and where Jesus’ grace flows. And, of course, it does continue to flow. He has promised to be with us always, and He does not break His promises.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus strangely feels deeper and sweeter because of the longing, the loss, the patience, the passio we are experiencing. Though I may not receive my Jesus physically today, here in our beleaguered Diocese of Buffalo, he somehow feels nearer now than ever. Love does not leave when things get rough. Love gets closer. Whether we sense it or not, love gets closer.

Spiritual Communion Service in the Time of Coronavirus

The article I wrote in July was referring mostly to the possible loss of the Mass due to persecution or priestly shortage. This is certainly the case now in parts of our Church throughout the world. But our loss is because of disease. In God’s permissive will, He has allowed that Lent 2020 will draw us near by very different means than any of us has ever experienced. Thanks be to God, we may still exercise our faith, and, thanks be to God, we still have priests. But the Eucharistic celebration is suppressed for the physical good of all. It’s certainly counterintuitive, but unfortunately necessary. We offer it up, the ultimate Lenten sacrifice. So, how might we use a Spiritual Communion service, with or without the blessing of a priest leading it, in a time of coronavirus?

Outdoor Socially Distant Service

We are moving quickly through Lent and it is looking very much like we will not be able to hold our Holy Week and Easter services and Masses. But the weather is improving. In fact, here in Buffalo, we are blessedly enjoying a milder than usual spring. Churches have lawns, families have backyards and towns have parks. Could a Spiritual Communion service take place with plenty of room for social distancing and no touching whatsoever during these precious times we await each year?

The Living Room

For many people it would still be imprudent, or just too cold, to be at an outdoor service. An approved, simple liturgy could easily translate to the living room for families. Members of the family could take different liturgical tasks from creating the setting, to reading, to leading song.

Virtual Church

Prayer groups or just friends could “gather” via technology such as video conferencing, FaceTime, or even as simple as a conference call. No one anywhere need be left out without the ability to come together as the Body of Christ to worship Him and receive Him spiritually.

That brings up one last little “bonus”: Spiritual Communion is open to everyone. In this time when we are all trying our best to come together as neighbors, to overcome political or other differences in order to serve each other, an added ecumenical bonus to a Spiritual Communion service is that you could invite anyone, and they may “spiritually receive” right along with you. The Lord wishes, in so many ways, that we be one. Wouldn’t it be a lovely fruit of this difficult time, if we Christians prayed together more?

In last July’s article I wrote, “A Spiritual Communion service could be a simple grace offered to those who need it most, those deprived of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is many of us right now. But perhaps we can find a liturgically correct way to come together, physically or virtually, and share Love in the Time of Coronavirus. I pray that it will be so and that it will console hearts, ours and our Lord’s.

Lord, you know that we depend upon you every day. We love you. We long to console your Sacred Heart and to console each other’s hearts. We are living in a time and place when we are no longer able to receive you physically. We pray and make our own spiritual communions. But it would be a blessing if we could come together to receive you spiritually within the Body of Christ, using the gift of the liturgy.

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5 thoughts on “Love in the Time of Coronavirus: Spiritual Communion”

  1. Angel Flor E. Avellana

    Let us all unite in prayers always in this trying times.
    Thank you for your post.
    God bless us Mama Mary loves us.

    Jesus, be one with us as we are one with thee.

  2. Suellen Brewster

    Thank you, Mary. So good to see your smile, even virtually. Yesterday “Magnificat” magazine emailed a “Celebration of the Word” liturgy to be celebrated at home – basically what I’m describing/wondering about in these articles. So I guess there’s no formal liturgy to this effect, but people are putting it together on their own. God provides!

    Praying you and your family are well. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Mary Pesarchick

    So glad to see your post! Thank you for following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and as always for your beautiful, gentle reflections.

  4. Suellen Brewster

    Things are changing so rapidly. I wrote this just 10 days ago, and already we are all falling into a nice routine of “partaking” in the Mass via any number of live-streamed options. God provides. But there is something to be said, I do believe, for a very small group of Christians (especially a family) praying the daily Mass readings together, and asking the Lord to come to them spiritually. I pray you all are safe and sound and communing spiritually with Jesus each day.

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