Given the difficult separation we have experienced during the more than eight weeks we were unable to gather in our parishes to celebrate the Eucharist, our celebration of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (“Corpus Christi”) should have deeper meaning for us this year.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a Catholic instinct fueled our longing for the Eucharist, our yearning to be fed the Bread of Life. This is an authentic Catholic instinct which we recognize by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is a desire expressed by the faithful of our parishes who want and need the nourishment of the Real Presence.
When we were not able to have public gatherings for Mass, people throughout the diocese wrote to me about their deep desire for the Eucharist — we miss it when we’re not there, just as we miss the real presence of our family when we’re distant from them. As a result, there is emptiness and sadness in our hearts..
We value being part of the Body of Christ — the Church into which Jesus has welcomed us and of which he is the head. More than an institution, the Church is our family, a living entity that forms us in the faith. Immersed in that faith, we carry out the mission we’ve been given — to proclaim the Gospel with our words and actions.
As many parishes have resumed limited public celebrations of the Mass, and as members of the Church have returned to their parishes, they have not only experienced the peace and elation that comes from receiving the Eucharist, but they have celebrated with their fellow parishioners, yet all the while adhering to guidelines necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. With the Body of Christ, the faithful, are fed by the Body of Christ, the Eucharist and manifest the charity toward one another, which the Eucharist nourishes in us.
During the time public Masses were suspended, our churches remained open nonetheless for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. I know so many of you took this opportunity for adoration and private prayer. As public celebration of Mass resumes, I encourage you and your parishes to continue to express devotion to the Blessed Sacrament by celebrating Corpus Christi with some form of personal Eucharistic devotion on June 14.
In our physical longing for the Body of Christ — to receive the Eucharist and to worship with members of the Catholic community — we will go to great lengths to be united and experience communion with God and one another. My role as bishop is to facilitate this, but to also ensure that it is done in a way that is not going to cause danger to our physical health and well-being.
Throughout the pandemic and as we return to the celebration of public Masses, our Office of Preparation Task Force has been exploring ways to address this matter, seeking a balance between our care and concern for the physical health of our neighbors, friends and fellow Catholics, as well as ensuring the spiritual health of all.
That care and concern is an expression of divine law, that we love God and our neighbor. All other laws and individual rights are subordinate to that supreme law.
A key word in Catholic life at this time is transition. It will take several weeks, maybe even months, before we return to what we consider “normal.” We have to remain adaptable in the midst of change. I encourage you to please continue to be patient, charitable and, most importantly, prayerful as we navigate these unsettling times.
As the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit has blessed us with the gifts we need to address with faith and hope the challenges COVID-19 presents. Let those gifts, especially wisdom and fortitude, guide all of us toward the blessings God desires for us.