I miss Mass. A lot. For the past four months, I have followed stringently the guidelines concerning self-quarantine and social distancing as we strive to halt and eventually rid ourselves of this terrible COVID-19 pandemic. I "attend" Mass via the Internet, but it is not the same.
As much as I miss encountering Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, I also miss being with my fellow Catholics, gathering as a community and offering prayers together to God.
There is something about worshipping together with other Catholics that reminds me of – and maybe reinforces – the truth that I am part of the Mystical Body of Christ. My isolation sometimes has caused me to feel alone as I face the uncertainty of a society affected by the coronavirus. But, in reality, I am not alone. There are more than a billion of my fellow Catholics worshipping and praying and looking to God just as I am.
So, if I am not attending Mass in person, what connects me to my billion or so brothers and sisters? The rosary does. As does the Miraculous Medal I wear around my neck, and the crucifix that hangs in each room of my home and the prayers I offer every day to Our Lady and my beloved St. Philomena. They are outwards signs and practices that demonstrate devotion to Christ and love of His Church.
Pope Pius XII, in his 1947 encyclical letter On the Sacred Liturgy (Mediator Dei), said that such devotional practices “attract and direct our souls to God, purifying them from their sins, encouraging them to practice virtue and, finally, stimulating them to advance along the path of sincere piety by accustoming them to meditate on the eternal truths and disposing them better to contemplate the mysteries of the human and divine natures of Christ.”
These prayers and holy objects are particular to the Catholic Church and are “a means of permeating everyday life with prayer to God,” according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Our bishops said such devotional practices “do not replace the liturgical life of the Church; rather, they extend it into daily life.”
I know my daily prayer and private religious practices do not – and cannot – take the place of attending Mass and receiving Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, but they do help me daily to focus on God and His Church and Jesus’s promise to remain with us to the end of time.
I might not be seeing my fellow Catholics at Mass, but I know someone somewhere is praying the rosary as I am, or contemplating on the crucifix in their home, or asking the intercession of the Communion of Saints. That means we are united in our Catholic faith, and that gives me immeasurable comfort.