Sherry Hayes-Pierce contemplates how the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we connect to our faith communities.
Through this challenging year, my connection to my faith and my faith community provides me with hope and peace that God is in control. Like the Scriptures say,
“The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
As a Catholic social media strategist, it’s been hard for me to disconnect from media. I mean, it’s my job to review news on the faith, my community, country, and world to share it. There have been so many times in the past year when the circumstances of living in a pandemic have broken my spirit. In the early days I became acclimated to attending Mass daily as a connection to my community via our livestream of the Mass. As members flooded the chat for the Mass with calls for prayer and the sign of peace -- I felt connected! But seeing the priest receive Communion made me yearn for the Eucharist. Then we began praying the prayer of “Spiritual Communion.”
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 now 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.
It was a new concept to me that I could receive my Lord spiritually, and I found that spiritual connection so soothing. Adoration is also a wonderful way to connect with our Lord, and having it stream daily virtually allows me to still myself so that I can hear the will of my God whisper into my soul. Praying the Rosary with one of our priests who prays it daily on Facebook LIVE has helped me remain connected to our clergy, and sharing prayer intentions with him has been powerful too.
As more and more states open up and allow parishes to have in-person Mass, some feel that virtual experiences should end. Being present in person is always the most direct connection to Christ through the sacraments and to the Body of Christ in community at Eucharistic celebrations.
However, with a solid six months of exclusive virtual experiences many have developed habits, and many Catholics have become reliant on finding their Catholic connections virtually. I personally attend our daily 8:10 AM Mass virtually, and it’s become habit for me. It is a great way to start my day!
While some people stand in judgment of those who are feeling fearful around returning to Mass, that fear is real and the decision to connect virtually should be respected. In other cases, people who discovered or re-discovered elements of our Catholic faith through a virtual experience should be allowed to continue with this connection.
Last year, our pastor and Knights of Columbus traveled to Guatemala to help build a church for a community. Seeing the people gather in open spaces to worship at Mass through word of mouth invitations that spread for miles, and knowing that people walked for miles just to have the opportunity to attend a public Mass, was sobering. We so often take for granted the gift of being able to attend a Eucharistic celebration whenever it’s convenient. In my community there are four churches within a 15-minute drive of my home. When I travel, I can visit MassTimes.org on my phone and find a church nearby. In this time of pandemic, many parishes have reduced the number of Masses available and struggle to find ways to connect with their members.
Our parish reopened last June, and four months later we have been blessed to have some of our volunteers return to support our five Masses on Sunday, with two being Livestreamed. But, it may be another year before people feel comfortable returning to an in-person Mass attendance experience that brings our number of attendees back to what we once had.
“Though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.” (Colossians 2:5)
This is why as a Church we must pray for a cure or vaccine for the coronavirus. We must pray about how we can serve our parishes. How can we evangelize our faith online through sharing social media posts from positive pages like Catholicmom.com or share how we are living our faith personally to inspire others on our own pages?
How we connect to our faith is uniquely personal, but always remember: whatever you have been or are going through, that there is a saint who has gone before you! Lean into the intercession of that holy brother or sister in Christ to help or guide you.
May the peace of Christ be yours in these times when we are challenged to remain connected to our faith.
Copyright 2020 Sherry Hayes-Peirce
Image courtesy of American Martyrs Catholic Community on Facebook, all rights reserved
About the Author
Sherry Hayes-Peirce is a Catholic social media strategist, blogger, conference speaker, podcast guest and contributing author of the Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers. She serves as Digital Engagement Coordinator for American Martyrs Catholic Community in Manhattan Beach, CA, and St. Monica Parish in Mercer Island, WA. Sherry has a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and is grateful to be a digital disciple of Christ.