Priests offer online liturgy during church closures
Friday, Mar. 20, 2020
Fr. Stephen Tilley, administrator of St. John the Baptist Parish, is shown during the March 15 livestreamed Sunday Mass. IC photo/Laura Vallejo
UTAH — As the coronavirus pandemic caused the Diocese of Salt Lake City to cancel Masses and other public gatherings beginning the weekend of March 14 and extending through March 31 or until further notice, many parishes started offering online resources to keep the People of God united in faith. For example, the Cathedral of the Madeleine livestreamed Sunday Mass through the YouTube channel COTMTV (abbreviation of Cathedral of the Madeleine TV), where it also is available on demand.
Bishop Oscar A. Solis celebrated the 11 a.m. Mass in English, and Fr. Martin Diaz, the cathedral rector, offered the 3 p.m. Mass in Spanish.
This unusual but resourceful way allowed people to attend the Holy Eucharist remotely, with 1,600 people watching the Mass in English and almost 650 in Spanish.
“I’ve never celebrated this kind of Mass in my life,” Bishop Solis admitted in his opening remarks as he greeted his online audience. “I know that it is a very hard time for us to be deprived of the public worship, especially the public celebration of the holy Mass, the summit of our Christian life and worship.”
He asked for the understanding of Utah’s Catholics in this matter, explaining that Mass has been cancelled to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. The World Health Organization has declared a pandemic, President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency, and Utah Governor Gary Herbert announced that gatherings should be limited to no more than 100 persons.
Catholics are a part of the larger community, and must do their part to help, Bishop Solis said. “We offer our sacrifices, our deprivation of the public worship, especially the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in a spirit of sacrifice and charity, that our efforts no matter how humble it is, may help in eradicating and preventing the further spread of this infectious disease. …”
The situation was impossible to understand, Fr. Diaz said at the beginning of the Mass he celebrated, “but we are here together; we are praying for this disease to go away fast. We are here because we believe in Jesus. He is with us and is in us.”
Fr. Diaz asked the people “to pray, to read the Bible. … When we get back together [physically], we are going to celebrate as a community that we are all the Body of Christ.”
Similarly, at St. Ann Parish, Fr. Omar Ontiveros livestreamed the Sunday Mass through Facebook. He offered the Mass “for all the sick, for all the people who are going through fear, anxiety, depression, and for all who are hurting in their souls, not being able to receive the Eucharist.”
He added that the people could have a spiritual Eucharist “in which we can tell the Lord, ‘I cannot receive you physically, but I want to receive you in my heart, so you can heal me, so you can give me strength in these times and to keep being in your presence.”
St. John the Baptist Administrator Fr. Stephen Tilley also livestreamed Sunday’s Mass.
“St. Teresa of Jesus says this about receiving a spiritual communion, ‘When you do not receive Communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you,’” Fr. Tilley said in his homily.
In other words, “a spiritual communion is when we receive the love of God, which never ceases to be poured out for us, into our hearts,” Fr. Tilley added. “God desires us because we are still ‘somewhere out there,’ yearning for and desiring the love of our Creator although circumstances keep us physically apart. As Catholics, we believe spiritual communion is possible because God’s desire to be with us is greater than our physical distance.”
“Our physical distance does not separate us from the love of God,” he went on. “The Church, rooted in the love of God, has not abandoned you. Please let me say that clearly again: The Church has not abandoned you. The Mass will be celebrated privately for the intentions of our community every day. The Church does not stop praying because our God never stops loving his people. And you can join our prayers by making a spiritual communion every day.”
At St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish, Fr. Jose Barrera also made use of Facebook to broadcast the Sunday Mass, and like his fellow pastors he will continue to use that method to share information and messages.
In a letter to parishioners of St. Mary of the Assumption, Fr. Christopher Gray requested that they prayerfully read daily Lenten reflections that are available on the parish website, where other online resources also are available.
“Although we might not be together for worship, we can still share many things – especially news of our time to return to the altar of God in worship,” Fr. Gray wrote.
“Remember, you are not alone!,” he added. “Let us pray together, a light divided for a time but undimmed, hallowed by God’s blessing to the honor of His Name to overcome the darkness of this night. Jesus Christ, the Morning Star who never sets, will find the flame of our faith still burning. Let us pray to our Blessed Mother and to all the saints to intercede for a speedy return to our life together in the worship of Almighty God.”
All public sacraments within the Diocese of Salt Lake City have been suspended. To receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum, Catholics should contact their parishes.
The Cathedral of the Madeleine will livestream Sunday Masses at 11 a.m. in English and 3 p.m. in Spanish, as well as weekday Masses at 8 a.m. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmbsh8NP-fKKleFvyhTjkNA
The diocesan website, https://www.dioslc.org, offers links to resources for spiritual communion and livestreaming of parishes throughout the diocese.
Saint Ann Parish will livestream Sunday Mass at https://www.facebook.com/padreomar. Through that link Fr. Omar Ontiveros also will share information and Lenten messages.
St. John the Baptist Parish will livestream Sunday Mass at https://www.facebook.com/St-John-The-Baptist-Catholic-Church-120428814639630. Through the link Fr. Stephen Tilley also will share resources for prayer and spiritual communion.
St. Mary of the Assumption Parish is offering online resources at http://www.stmarysparkcity.com as well as the parish Facebook page.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish will livestream Sunday Mass at https://www.facebook.com/sttheresecc
St. Joseph the Worker Parish will livestream daily Mass through the Facebook page of Fr. Javier Virgen (Javier Virgen Guzman).
St. Marguerite Catholic chuch through the parish facebook will be steraminmg Sunday Masses and Fr. Rafael Murillo is sharing daily reflexions.