There remains a major scandal in our Diocese as well as many Catholic Dioceses in the United States – the lack of public Masses for the faithful. A reader sent this to us. We believe this is a reasonable response with regard to Masses during the current Coronavirus chaos:
This diocese of Gaylord possesses a unique treasure of priceless value in this new and strange time of COVID-19: a beautiful, working, outdoor sanctuary, complete with a communion rail. It is located at the Cross in the Woods National Shrine in Indian River. WHY is it not being utilized—right now—in order to publicly offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for at least some Catholics? Outdoors, the risks of contracting the coronavirus, or any disease, through airborne means are negligible. And of course congregants can very easily space themselves appropriately in this large outdoor setting (bringing their own chairs if desired) to avoid spreading any virus by physical contact.
While the Order of Franciscans Minor out of St. Louis provides staffing for the National Shrine, the property itself belongs to the Gaylord diocese, and the parish centered there answers to the Bishop. Because the Franciscans currently living at the National Shrine are older and therefore more at risk, their role should not be to offer such Masses, but rather to welcome and facilitate their brother priests’ celebration of the sacraments.
Younger priests from around the diocese ought to be welcomed to use the outdoor sanctuary, and encouraged to take turns doing so. Any priest possessing the determination and courage to accept this offer would use the rite of their choosing, whether the usual Novus Ordo, an Ad Orientum Novus Ordo, or a Traditional Latin Mass, high or low. Mass could be kept quite short, using brief homilies and no music, whether to accommodate difficult weather, to facilitate numerous Masses, or to work within a priest’s travel window. Communion could be offered, or not — using the communion rail, or not — as each individual priest would determine. Of course, distributing Holy Communion to a congregant who is kneeling and stationary is much safer than distributing to one who is standing and in motion. A priest who nevertheless felt he touched someone could easily turn around, wash his hands (using a sanitizer with 65-70% alcohol), and resume communion distribution. Somewhat larger hosts could be employed. Temperature checks could be offered at entry on a voluntary basis.
These are just some thoughts of a lay person. But WHERE are the creative and on-fire prelates and priests who should be thinking about such things, instead of merely “going with the flow” – a “flow” which at best devalues the Mass, but at worst may be diabolically aimed at eliminating it forever from the face of the earth?
Rain, wind and temperature must be contended with in an outdoor setting, of course, in addition to other scheduling challenges, but just think how much better we have it than our first brothers and sisters in Christ who met in the catacombs for hundreds of years, without modern means of communication, and subject to interruption, arrest, persecution, torture and death at any moment? OR than our brothers and sisters in mainland China, who TODAY endure the same horrendous risks?
We have an outdoor sanctuary sitting idle in our diocese. Let’s use it.