Before this week, I can remember only one time I presided at a Mass with no congregation. I was on retreat at a very nice resort in California (long story), and there were Mass intentions assigned for the days I was there. On day one, no one else showed up. What to do? They were clearly expecting a Mass for the people listed in the book, and had asked me to do it. So I did it. It felt awfully strange and isolated.
Today I helped out at St. Austin’s Church, and presided at their morning live-streamed Mass. I wasn’t totally alone. We had a terrific lector, a camera operator (thanks, Rich!) and one of our Paulists in residence came over.
But I was also acutely aware that there were plenty of people watching on Facebook live. FB says there were 815 views, but that includes anyone who watched for as little as a few seconds.
Although I wasn’t aware of how many people might be watching, and most of them weren’t “my” parishioners, I had a definite sense of connection. And in this time of isolation, that’s important.
To be sure, these live-streamed Masses fall something short of the full glory of the Church’s liturgy. The church seems empty and dark, and the sound echoes in a way that seems to emphasize the emptiness. The Church’s official documents on the liturgy speak eloquently of the full and active participation of the faithful in our worship. While it’s not possible to fully participate (I.e. receive) in the Eucharist at a distance, for now this is what we can do.
For anyone who’s watching these many live-streamed Masses, I want you to know that we know you’re there, praying with and for us— with and for the Church and the whole world. We can’t see you, but we are in spiritual communion with you. Thank you.
If your parish isn’t able to provide you with a live-streamed Mass, The Paulist Fathers have lots of good options for you: www.paulist.org/watchmass