by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Faithful Catholics take the Mass obligation seriously and often have to go to great effort to attend.
The Third Commandment admonishes us to “keep holy the Sabbath,” and the catechism tells us that “on Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.”
But there have been many times when Catholics have been unable to access the sacraments through no fault of their own.
The church has always taught that Catholics do not sin when they are unable to come to Mass for “grave cause” or “serious reason.” This includes illness, care of others, remoteness or unavailability of the Mass for a variety of reasons.
Such a “grave” and “serious” reason has arisen with the worldwide pandemic of the COVID-19 virus, also known as the coronavirus. Bishops have the power to dispense the faithful from the Mass obligation, and this is what Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann did on March 13.
“Effective immediately, and until further notice, I have dispensed the faithful of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.”
He then, on March 17, canceled all Masses in the archdiocese until further notice.
No one should feel guilty for not attending Mass during these circumstances. But even with a free conscience, many Catholics feel a sadness that they cannot go to Mass and receive the Eucharist.
So, what do you do? You’ve got options when you must “pray in place.”
Make a Spiritual Communion
You can make a Spiritual Communion individually or with a group. Here’s a method from the Archdiocese of Washington:
• Gather with others in your household and begin with the sign of the cross.
• Read and reflect on the Sunday readings of the Mass.
• Share prayer intentions quietly or aloud.
• Pray the Our Father.
• Pray a prayer of Spiritual Communion, such as this:
“My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were already there and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.”
• Close with the sign of the cross.
Make a perfect Act of Contrition
It is recommended that when Catholics have sinned but are unable to go to confession, they pray a “Perfect Act of Contrition.” This means: “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins of it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible” (Catechism, 1452).
Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.
There are other, traditional devotional prayers that Catholics can pray if they are unable to leave their homes. These include the rosary, the Stations of the Cross, and other prayers listed here.
Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
A Prayer for Priests
O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests; for your unfaithful and tepid priests; for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for your tempted priests; for your lonely and desolate priests; for your young priests; for your dying priests; for the souls of your priests in purgatory.
But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priests who absolved me from my sins; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me your body and blood in holy Communion; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way. O Jesus, keep them close to your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.
O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. In this faith I intend to live and die. Amen.
Prayer for the Sick
Dear Jesus, divine physician and healer of the sick, we turn to you in this time of illness. O dearest comforter of the troubled, alleviate our worry and sorrow with your gentle love, and grant us the grace and strength to accept this burden. Dear God, we place our worries in your hands. We place our sick under your care and humbly ask that you restore your servants to health again. Above all, grant us the grace to acknowledge your holy will and know that whatsoever you do, you do for the love of us. Amen.
Prayer for the Dying
Most merciful Jesus, lover of souls, I pray to you, by the agony of your most Sacred Heart, and by the sorrows of your immaculate Mother, to wash in your most precious blood the sinners of the world who are now in their agony, and who will die today. Heart of Jesus, once in agony, have mercy on the dying. Amen.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions but, in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.
Online and other options
Many area Catholics already had to avail themselves this past weekend of televised or live-streamed Masses when they learned at the last minute that their parish Masses were canceled. Here are just three options for live-streamed Masses via the Internet:
• Ascension Parish in Overland Park: kcascension.org. (Check the parish website for days and times.)
• St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center, Lawrence: 11 a.m. each Sunday on its Facebook page.
• Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri, will live stream daily Mass, lauds (morning prayer) and vespers (evening prayer). They will also place them on the abbey’s YouTube and Facebook pages. Also see them online at: conceptionabbey.org.
The schedule: Monday-Saturday, 7:15 a.m. lauds; 11:45 a.m. Mass; 5:15 p.m. vespers. Sunday, 7:45 a.m. lauds; 10:30 a.m. Mass; 5:30 p.m. vespers.
• There is a live stream of the rosary from St. John Paul II Parish in Olathe at 8 p.m. Go to the parish Facebook page.