“These days, as I preside at Mass, and look out at the empty pews, I pray with and for the people who cannot be there,” Bishop Dermot Farrell stated in a new pastoral letter, Missing Each Other, Missing the Lord, to the faithful of the Diocese of Ossory. The pastoral was has been offered as spiritual comfort in anticipation of a return of the celebration of the Sacraments following their suspension arising from the public health restrictions caused by the COVID19 pandemic.
In his pastoral Bishop Farrell emphasised the centrality of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, in the lives of believers. He said, “Each time we participate in the Eucharist, Christ nourishes us with the gift of himself. We receive the Body of Christ first and foremost to enter into a deeper communion with Christ, and thereby into a deeper communion with God and with each other. It is this fullness of life, and its celebration among us that we miss in these strange pandemic days.”
Addressing the reality that virtual Mass cannot replace physical presence and participation in the liturgy, the Bishop of Ossory continued, “People have come to the realisation that “watching Mass” is very different from being physically present and participating in the celebration with other members of their family and the community. For all its advantages and immediacy, the virtual is no substitute for physical presence with the assembled community.
Bishop Farrell highlighted how the pandemic has shown many people what is truly important, that communities of faith must come together to celebrate the Sacraments to take part in the fullness of life. He said, “After our initial shock and fear, we began to appreciate that a full fridge might permit us to survive, but was no guarantee of the fullness of life (see John 10:10). For fullness of life we need more: we need the people that are important to us.”
In conclusion, Bishop Farrell said, “The following prayer, which we know from the Mass, has been for me a prayer of hope and strength. May it be same for you:
‘Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.'”