“There was a real sense of a heavy weight on my shoulders,” Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., said on America’s Jesuitical podcast of his decision to suspend public Masses March 17 to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. “I am depriving all of the people of God in this diocese of access to the sacraments, which I preach day in and day out is so vital to our life as Catholics.” Two months ago, no bishop could have imagined telling the faithful to stay home on Sunday, to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord without the Eucharist. Yet from Lexington to Houston, Seattle to New York, the heads of dioceses and archdioceses last month swiftly canceled Masses and other gatherings that might put lives at risk. They should be commended for making this sacrifice for the common good despite the grave human and financial costs.
And while the doors of our churches are closed for now, the shepherds have not abandoned their flocks. Bishops, priests and lay associates have scrambled to get the technology needed to live-stream Masses and prayer services; parishes have provided online resources to help families celebrate Holy Week at home; and children and young adults have “adopted” elderly members who might not check email and call them just to chat or pray together. As Catholics, we will continue to hunger for the sacraments. But these examples of creativity and care from our church can inspire us to see the holiness of everyday life, to build up our own domestic churches and to be Christ to one another in this time of longing.