Ingenious uses of new technology by some imaginative and diligent priests and deacons have done much to assist the faithful to pray, see and hear Masses, liturgical readings, music and prayers during the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The promotion of Spiritual Communion has revived among isolated Catholics a traditional practice of prayerfully desiring union with Christ in the Eucharist.
Good – but no replacement
This virtual “new normal” does not replace the true and embodied sacramental life of the Church. While it is important that Catholic “influencers” and writers remain uplifting, we cannot be tone deaf to the rawness of “exile” which many Catholics are experiencing in both small and in spiritually serious ways.
Fr Marcus Goulding, a young Melbourne priest, is acutely conscious of the real harm of this ecclesial and sacramental separation.
“I am aware that we priests are the ones who have access to the Christ in The Blessed Sacrament, while our people do not,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
Innovation – adoring from afar
He has devised a way for priests around Australia, to carry their people in solidarity and prayer in Perpetual Adoration before The Blessed Sacrament during the seven days of this coming Holy Week.
“It is a really simple idea,” Fr Goulding explains, “Through the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy we are inviting all priests, ACCC members and beyond, to commit themselves to one hour (or several hour-long sessions) before the tabernacles of their own closed churches or chapels, in prayer and adoration.”
“Perpetual Adoration for Holy Week begins at 12am on Sunday, 5th April 2020 (Palm Sunday) and concludes at 11.59pm on Sunday, 12th April 2020 (Easter Sunday)”
Priests get behind new approach
“The continuous prayer before the Lord will be for the needs of our people, for the Church and for the healing of the afflicted and the overcoming of the Coronavirus.”
Fr Goulding is tech-savvy and is using Calendly software to co-ordinate the adoration roster while protecting the priests’ privacy. Through it he will communicate via email and generate SMS reminders within 24 hours of their chosen adoration time slots.
“The response from the priests has been very positive – just from priests around Victoria alone – but we are inviting priests from all across Australia to join us.”
Virus creates new challenges for the Church
Father Goulding, as well as serving as the Secretary of the Confraternity, is also the newly appointed Assistant Priest to the busy Holy Trinity Catholic parish cluster of Laverton, Altona Meadows and Point Cook on the South-west rim of Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay.
Until the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, it was a rapidly developing and culturally diverse area of new housing development with an influx of young families and tradespeople.
Fr Goulding is especially conscious of the social, psychological and economic burdens which the pandemic is imposing on his parishioners. He suspects that the “after” of the crisis will throw up many new questions and challenges for the Church and for parishes like his.
Fr Goulding reflected on the important lessons from this watershed in time: “I wonder now if all the themes raised for the 2020 Plenary will have any relevance post-Coronavirus? We will be forced to re-evaluate how we participate in the Church both as priests and people.”