My faith and understanding of God has always been deeply rooted in community. My favorite memories growing up involve my Church in some capacity, and my best friends to this day are from that community. My favorite memories include Saturday night Mass, running into friends and going out to dinner together, only to be reunited again at Youth Group on Sunday night.
Community is essential to the Church. Jesus called together a community for his ministry. Then Jesus instilled those in his community to be the ones to spread the Gospel to the rest of the world. The Church started in people’s homes; breaking bread and sharing Jesus’ message. Throughout history, Churches became center points of towns, places where communities would gather, pray, and build relationships with each other. For many people, that is still what the Church is; a gathering place, a second home, a place where God comes down to earth in the people you share pews with on Sundays. The Church is where we receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but it is also where we build community.
But what does community look like during a pandemic? What can we do when the doors to our Churches are closed, Mass is suspended, and are unable to meet in person?
- Attend Mass together virtually. I am so grateful that the Mass is being offered virtually and that we are still able to celebrate it. But I deeply miss the communal aspect of Mass. I miss seeing friends and connecting afterwards in the gathering space. I miss discussing the homily and catching up on life over coffee and doughnuts. And just because we are streaming our Masses from our living rooms, rather than in the pews does not mean that we need to lose that aspect of Mass. Set a time with your community to stream Mass together and after Mass, connect over FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangout, or the countless other video chat platforms. Have those post-Mass conversations with your community. Use this as a time to connect with those you may not regularly be able to attend Mass with, such as your out of state family.
- Devote time to phone calls to friends near and far. If there can be one positive thing to come out of this time, it has been my ability to reconnect with people I had lost touch with. Most of us are at home, with extra time on our hands that we previously did not have. This is a great opportunity to call those who are special to you, check in, and reconnect. A phone call means a lot to everyone.
- Visit loved ones from a safe distance. If you are healthy and physically able, try to visit your loved ones from a safe distance. Volunteer to purchase and drop off groceries for someone who is unable to shop for themselves. Have conversations through windows or across driveways. Just seeing the face of someone you love can make all the difference.
- Set a time to pray together virtually. Set a time together as family or friends near and far to pray together. It can create a sense of community knowing the people you love are also praying the Angelus at noon or a rosary at three. When we pray together, even if physically distant, God is present here too.
I cannot wait until we can meet together again. I miss you all, and I pray you and your family are staying safe during these uncertain times. Know that we are all praying for you. And until we can meet again, I hope these tips can help you connect with your community in new and unique ways. When this is over and we can meet again, I hope we never take for granted a Sunday morning conversation, a hug from a friend, or the ability to receive the Eucharist.
May God bless you all and keep you safe!