An idea keeps coming to my mind and heart of something akin to a “Lay Dry Mass.” This liturgy would be offered for times when a) no priest is available, and b) no deacon, nor reserved Eucharist is available. The simple form could be in the back of each missal, like morning or evening prayer, as a resource for any group of the faithful at any time.
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.
After the modified Liturgy of the Word, the gathered faithful could pray something simple such as, “Lord, I cannot receive you physically today, but I ask to receive you spiritually, now.” More eloquent prayers could be written, paraphrasing words of the saints or verses from Scripture. The intention would be to renew the graces of previous communions and to join spiritually with our Eucharistic Lord. This prayer could be followed by a short period of silence. Finally, the faithful could offer a hymn of thanksgiving and a prayer for protection, courage and strength to the Blessed Mother.
That is all. This liturgy would offer nothing fancy and, if it was written carefully, nothing heretical. In its simplicity it would serve to keep the faithful who are for one reason or another deprived of the Mass, united in prayer, and spiritually united to the Blessed Sacrament, to Jesus.
I don’t know why this idea keeps coming to mind. But I do know that when something persistently comes to mind, and the desire to see it come to pass grows rather than dissipates, it is something worth discerning further.
Perhaps the idea persists because of the post-Christian world we live in. With priest shortages growing and the numbers of Catholics dwindling, we truly do not know what the future holds for the practice of the faith in our lifetime. Might we be in a situation similar to the faithful in the Amazon one day? Only God knows.
Right now, I am blessed to live in a time and place where Mass is offered dozens of times each day within a half hour drive from my house. This abundance is simply not the case for many of our brothers and sisters around the world. A simple liturgy like the one I’m describing could be an aid for the underground Church around the world, as well as being a future blessing for any of us in the entire Church.
Monsignor Charles Pope’s Five Stages
Although we think of persecution as only happening in places like China, this simply isn’t true. Monsignor Charles Pope has described the Five Stages of Religious Persecution which occur in our world.
Very briefly, they are:
- Stereotyping the targeted group – Through the media and other propaganda outlets, Catholics and Christians are made to appear as uneducated, blind followers of an outdated system, which we rely on due to fear and ignorance. Taylor Swift’s recent video easily falls under this category.
- Vilifying the targeted group for alleged crimes or misconduct – Beyond being fearful and ignorant, Christians are depicted as intolerant, hateful and bigoted for remaining faithful to God’s laws and not giving in to moral relativism. At this stage, those persecuting describe Christians as dangerous to various protected minorities or to supposed civil rights in general.
- Marginalizing the targeted group’s role in society – The propaganda now in place and having successfully painted Christians as bad and against freedom, the persecutors now seek legal and social means to remove adherent Christians from the mainstream of life. No public expression of faith is now allowed. Faith is to be kept behind the walls of the Church. Any decisions affecting anyone in the public must fall in lockstep with the dominant anti-God dogma.
- Criminalizing the targeted group or its works – At this stage increasingly people will have to go to court just to exercise their rights to practice their religion. Laws will be passed taking away those rights.
- Persecuting the targeted group outright – The faith is outlawed. Practicing Christians go to jail or worse.
According to Monsignor Pope’s list, we are somewhere between stage two and stage four with some examples of stage five in this country and Canada, and many examples between stages four and five worldwide. If you are working or training in medical fields, you might be further along this scale than the average American Christian. If you live in an area where the Christian faith is dominant, you might not even be experiencing the first stage yet, at least not from local sources.
The progression we have seen over the past 50 to 100 years, or even since the so-called “Enlightenment” of the late 17th century, does not appear to be halting nor reversing. Barring heavenly intervention, 21st century Christians need to be spiritually prepared for the possibility that the remainder of the century might look a lot more like the days of the catacombs than the days in which we were raised and formed.
We might just need a Spiritual Communion liturgy in place in every missalette before things progress much further. It could be a powerful font of grace for a very dark time, giving courage and strength when these both are almost despaired of.
Written with the Mind of the Church for the Body of Christ
Of course, this liturgy would have to be carefully written so there would be no lay usurping of any ordained role. Overcoming this challenge would allow the priestless laity to pray along with the Mass they are unable to participate in due to persecution, disaster, priestly shortage or any other reason.
Perhaps the laity are already doing this somewhere. It seems as though it should be an approved form, centuries old. In a way, I do this on my own on the days I’m unable to go to Mass and derive great strength and comfort from it. But the “communal” characteristic is important for the Church, the Church in crisis especially.
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.
Lord, you know that we depend upon you every day. There are so many times and places where we Catholics are unable to receive you physically. For some of us receiving you is an extreme rarity. Please help us to come together in a suitable way to receive you spiritually within the Body of Christ, using the gift of the liturgy.