A New & Unwanted Lenten Practice
Monday, March 16th was almost the midpoint of the Lenten season, but also the day we were told at the seminary to make arrangements to return to our home dioceses because of the COVID-19 Virus. This would mean a number of things for me: an unusual end to the spring semester, classes via webcam, no more living in community, and the most difficult of all — no more daily reception of the Eucharist.
This difficult realization hit me as I was preparing for my last Mass on Wednesday morning at the seminary. This would be the last time that I receive the Eucharist for a number of weeks or maybe even months—who knows? This later took me back to my first semester in the college seminary when a priest-professor enlightened our class on the most difficult part of the priesthood. Father clarified that it is not celibacy nor obedience that is most challenging, but rather, it’s becoming too accustomed to the Eucharist. What he meant is that just about every day, the priest holds God in his hands! Indeed, a privilege that is not surpassed by anything in the world. The temptation here is that a priest can lose appreciation, the sense of wonder, the gaze of awestruck adoration as he looks at and then receives the Holy Eucharist
The question that I am asking myself, and which many Catholics may be asking themselves is: “Have I become too accustomed to receiving the Eucharist?” Whether at the seminary or at home, I could always find a Mass. Seven days a week, I could approach the Communion line and receive Jesus Christ. But now, that’s gone. Now I will be a soul that longs for the Bread of Life, but can only receive Him spiritually, not physically. All of us are like the disciples after the Lord’s Crucifixion. Jesus is no longer in arms reach for us, as we were so used to before. The doors to our churches are now closed, and we will not have access to the Body and Blood of Christ during this time of social distancing and even self-quarantine.
None of us probably would have thought that we would be giving up receiving the Eucharist for Lent. Yet, here we are facing unprecedented circumstances. Circumstances which call us to prayer, and a time to reflect on our own appreciation of the Eucharist. We pray for the hand of God to eradicate this plague that is ravaging the world, our nation, and our Church. We realize that the word “church” is not merely describing a building, but a community. A community of faithful individuals that make up the Body of Christ. Whether we are together or apart, gathered in pews or quarantining ourselves at home, the Church is still alive! The coronavirus will negatively effect this world for many days to come, but it will allow us to positively reflect on how we can love and adore the Holy Eucharist as it so deserves.
Lent is always a time to anticipate Easter—the Resurrection of the Lord—and now, we must continue that anticipation as we await the joy of Easter, and as we look forward with hope to the day when we will approach the Body and Blood of Christ in our parishes once again, and may silently exclaim those faithful words of St. Thomas upon seeing the risen Christ: “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28)!