How should the Catholic Church in the United States prepare to carry-out her mission in a “post-COVID” world?
As the now-infamous year 2020 has ended, and the world eagerly awaits the benefits of recently approved COVID vaccines, American Catholics should mobilize for a new wave of evangelization. There is no reason to wait until anti-COVID restrictions are lifted before deciding how best to share Christ with an ever-more wounded and distant world.
To be clear, by “post-COVID” I am referring to the situation after the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control and is no longer a dominating feature of people’s lives. That descriptive does not refer to “going back to normal,” as such a shift seems far-fetched at this time.
The COVID crisis has worsened the estrangement of civil society from the Church, of many Catholics from the practice of the Faith, and of family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers from each other. The increasing distances between individuals and groups was a poison of the human heart long before COVID. But the current pandemic has quickly made matters much worse.
The Catholic Church is the instrument of unity par excellence in God’s relations with mankind. Christ established his Church to draw all peoples into communion with the Holy Trinity. The Church’s mission of unity is especially true of the Holy Eucharist. The Mass is the sacramental representation of the Sacrifice by which the entire world is saved. In Holy Communion, Christ feeds his people with his own Body and Blood, drawing them into transforming intimacy with himself and union with each other.
It is a bitter irony that the COVID crisis has had a most deleterious effect on participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And so fidelity to the Eucharist is the first priority among the following ten ways the Church can intensify her evangelizing efforts, beginning today:
1). Renew the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Clergy and lay ministers frequently discuss the effects of various COVID-induced practices, including those pertaining to the Mass. Should public Masses be cancelled? Should the faithful be dispensed from their obligation to attend Mass on the Lord’s Day? How elaborate and rigid must our safety protocols be before, during, and after Mass? How many people will return to Mass when this crisis is over?
While each of these questions merits attention, dioceses and parishes must not ignore the opportunity this time offers to review and renew everything about the celebration of the Mass. Are priests following the Roman Missal? In its entirety? Is the sacred music truly sacred? Could minor ministers—sacristans, altar servers, lectors, cantors, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion—benefit from additional training and formation? Is the church’s sound system adequate? Is the church clean and the sacred art and decoration all that it can be? Are ushers and greeters well-trained and hospitable? Is everything done in and for Holy Mass truly aimed at giving glory to God and saving His people?
2). Renew people’s appreciation of the Mass. The Church has a prime opportunity to share the Good News of the Eucharist with her own members and the world. This time of spiritual “fasting” from normal Catholic sacramental life can be a time of increased hunger for and love of the Mass. But that hunger and love need encouragement. Witness to the power of the Holy Sacrifice and catechesis about the riches of the Mass would do much to promote Eucharistic piety.
3). Assemble and share information about online resources. Catholics today are living through a renaissance of digital evangelization. There are more resources, more readily available, than at any time in the history of the Church. But millions of Catholics are still under-informed about the existence of these resources, and need help distinguishing between good and unhelpful resources, so that they can make the best use possible of their time online.
4). Make strategic use of video conferencing technology. Complaints about video conferencing are ubiquitous today, as people are growing tired of doing online what would normally be done face-to-face. Nevertheless, incredible strides have been made both in the development of video conferencing technology and effective use of this technology. There are surely a great number of ways the Church can leverage these gains for future evangelization and discipleship formation.
Read more at Catholic World Report