We are a Sacramental People
Our churches are open. The premier has announced that as of June 5, up to 20 people can participate in the celebration of Mass. The government requires high levels of hygiene and adherence to the practice of social distancing. Doing our best to comply, we have been able to provide Mass and Confession in a number of our parishes once again.
It has been a challenge for parishes to meet these requirements and it has meant the necessity for a booking system for Mass, but it is welcome progress on the way to a fuller resumption of normal parish life.
As we move away from the stringent demands of social isolation and a degree of normality is restored, there is an opportunity to reflect on our experience. Certainly it has been a very difficult period for us all, and the longer term effects on the economy and on mental health are yet to be determined. However, the experience has provided some important lessons.
With the busyness of life reduced there has been the opportunity for time for personal reflection and perhaps a re-examination of the way we have been living our lives. These opportunities are so important for the nourishment of our interior life. We need space and time to enter more deeply into ourselves.
We are spiritual beings and modern life has often robbed us of the opportunity for our soul to breathe. We may now be more conscious of the need to build in some regular times for quiet so that we are able to be more attentive to the life of the spirit. It may reawaken in us the need for an annual spiritual retreat.
The experience of denial of access to Mass and Confession has been a trial for many Catholics. However, a certain “Eucharistic hunger” may have heightened our appreciation of what a wonderful gift the Eucharist is. It has reminded us not to take the reception of Holy Communion for granted. Returning to Mass and receiving Holy Communion can be now appreciated much more. We can savour the precious gift that it is.
Similarly, many Catholics missed the opportunity to go to Confession prior to Easter this year. This has no doubt enabled us to better appreciate the liberating nature of hearing the words, “And I absolve you from your sins,” during Confession. With the reopening of our churches it has been deeply moving to witness the number of people who have taken the opportunity to go to Confession before the additional weekday Masses in the Cathedral parish.
We are a sacramental people. Our encounter with the Lord is via the sacraments. This was the gift of the Lord to his Church. It is through the sacraments that we receive saving grace.
As we move forward and restore many of the more familiar aspects to our lives, let us not forget the lessons learnt and insights gained during this period of forced social isolation.
Archbishop Julian Porteous
June 7, 2020