Domestic church. These words might mean a lot more now than they did a mere two months ago. As all of us have experienced, Covid-19, social distancing measures and the cancellation of Masses to stop the spread has affected the greater Catholic community in large and small ways.
“Mom, we are the people who walked in darkness,” my four-year-old said to me one day last week, citing the psalm we’ve been singing after sharing the Liturgy of the Word the last few Sundays before Easter, but even though there is much to be prayed for, I am seeing a lot of light shining through.
Many of us familiar with social media already know the hope that can be gleaned from the apps and resources that popular Catholics produce for wider consumption, but this unprecedented situation has had many of us reaching for our phones and computers, not only for connection with others but for prayer.
Alane Boudreau, with children and grandchildren ranging from 6 months old to 25 shared with me that their family took up an Instagram offer that Fr. Alex Mijangos, LC at Sacred Heart Church in Calgary made to join families for a live online rosary, and that night realized how well it might work for their family and friends to join in too.
“We have been saying a nightly family rosary after supper for a few years now. We always invite anyone who is with us for supper to also join us for the rosary, but we had never thought to do it live online until the social-distancing measures were introduced.
“We send out a Zoom invitation each day, and when we have all gathered, we share our intentions and then take turns saying a decade. There are usually around 6 logins, bringing us to around 20 people.
Simple and effective, this is one way for families to both connect and to receive the grace of prayer together.
“As the weeks have passed,” Boudreau said, they have focused efforts on her husband Rene’s parents who live in Nova Scotia and are “finding these weeks especially lonely and isolating.”
The nightly rosary also comes with a special treat:
“Our kids all go to the wonderful St John Choir Schola in Calgary, a choir school for homeschoolers, so they have been taught to sing. Their grandparents are true Cape Bretoners who love music, so at first, we would simply sing a song for them before and after the rosary.
“As these things tend to grow, it has expanded into all ages singing songs, now with choreography and costumes, using whatever we have in the house.
“It has definitely brought cheer and laughter to the grandparents, and our married adult children who are living in other cities.”
I am inspired by stories like this and of others’ too, who have taken the initiative within their homes to keep the life of the Church alive and well through this time apart from our church communities.
“For us, it’s been important to keep Sundays set apart,” said Caitlin Marr, a Calgary mom of two girls. The family still dresses up for Sunday Mass, and Marr and her husband Todd rearrange their dining room, putting candles and icons around their TV screen to livestream Mass, “so the girls know that it is more than just family movie time.”
Social media is awash with ideas and postings of things families are doing. From a seven-church pilgrimage on Holy Thursday with a few socially distanced friends to a visit here and there from friends dropping Easter gifts and spiritual aids, we as a church are finding ways to thrive in both beautiful and innovative ways.
I’ve had feelings of emptiness accompanied by feelings of abundant grace. We were already choosing to homeschool this year with Saint John Choir Schola to support us, and fortunately, that transition has been seamless, but I know the stress of being a new homeschooler, and that is what many are going through now.
Being trained in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori-based program for children, I felt somewhat equipped to guide the children through Holy Week alongside my husband, though we have mourned the loss of being surrounded by our friends and family as we celebrate the liturgy.
On Holy Thursday, a fellow catechist was kind enough to drop some material for a presentation of the Last Supper. I felt so blessed as my seven-member family sat around our coffee table, looking at a miniature version of the disciples around a table with a peg doll Jesus, a cup, bread and wine.
On Saturday night we lit a fire for our very own Vigil and passed light to one another from a homemade paschal candle. As we explained the liturgy to our children, my husband and I had a deeper understanding of the great mystery we were missing, and a sense of urgency to pray for the day when we can unite within the walls of our churches again.
“I like it when Father does this better,” said one of my sons, which will hopefully gratify our parish priest, whom we value very much.
“So do I,” I thought.
And in the midst of this, our priests and religious are still hard at work to provide spiritual food for us. With online homilies and messages of hope, as well as reaching out online, our Church is making do and getting by as we have for thousands of years across the world in times of crisis.
Written by Jessica Cyr for Faithfully
Photo courtesy of Jessica Cyr
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers