As we all seek to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and protect one another, especially the most vulnerable, many of our bishops have wisely suspended Masses for the time being. This time of physical distancing will be difficult for all of us, including those of us who are “church” – a people who “gather” – who are “called together” as the Body of Christ.
As is obvious online in the last few days, many of us in ministry are deeply aware that our parishioners, families, and friends are in need of spiritual support during this time of vulnerability. This event is also coming during the Season of Lent, when we seek to grow deeper into God’s mercy and love.
Late last week, I sent these resources as an email to those I serve. My hope then was to provide a few tools for those who would not be coming together on Sunday, and indeed to help all to pray over a tumultuous weekend. However you are cooped up during this week and beyond, I hope these resources might still be helpful for prayer and reflection.
This post is a bit of an orientation: In weeks to come, I and my colleagues (like many churches) will continue to post similar resources for each week, drawn from our Sunday Gospels and biblical and liturgical images, to our parish website. I will also post them here at FAITHSHAPE. Though we may not be able to gather together, surely we all need to pray at this time – to keep Sunday holy; to allow Christ’s presence to build up the faith and hope within us; to direct our attention outward to those most in need.
As we seek to protect the vulnerable in this time, by doing our part to lessen the spread of COVID-19, so too our prayer can center us in Christ. And it can allow us to embrace our mission as disciples who care for our families, friends, and for those most vulnerable, as God embraces us.
Justin Huyck, Director of Adult Faith Formation,
St. Michael the Archangel, Canton, Ohio
Reflecting on the Readings
This past Sunday’s Gospel – the Woman at the Well – is a powerful story of encounter and connection. The woman is thirsting for this connection and to be noticed in her vulnerability. We know what this is like right now, and in coming days may thirst for it more!
Suggestion: Read and Pray through the Sunday Readings with this Prayer Path from St. Louis University (click here) – the “prayer path” includes links to the readings themselves. This site offers a similar prayer path, written by Anne Osdiek, and many other resources each week. One great page on this site, drawing from Liturgical Press’ Living Liturgy series, offers key words and phrases to focus your prayer. What other words or phrases from the biblical readings resonate with you and your anxieties, fears, hopes, or yearning right now? This is a good way of starting what is often called lectio divina, praying with the Bible.
If you’d like to learn about lectio divina, you might try Father James Martin’s video on lectio divina for America Media.
Entering into Prayer
Diana Macalintal has prepared a simple form of Morning Prayer (click here) and Evening Prayer, which you can print out for you and those in your household, or pray online (see the web links for music and readings). Although intended for prayer last Sunday, it may be a good source of prayer even late this week, to re-connect and reflect further on images of thirst and hope. Diana has announced she will continue to offer simple versions of Morning and Evening Prayer for the Sundays to come, as a way of keeping the Lord’s Day, even when we can’t gather for Eucharist.
Additionally, in this time of isolation: the periodical Give Us This Day (which is available in print on my parish’s kiosk each month in the Gathering Space), is graciously offering, for free, a digital copy (click here) of this publication for daily prayer, along with daily Mass readings and reflections. Free access to their app is also available.
Many pastoral musicians have graciously recorded live prayer events online, which are available to watch, listen to, and pray with – and you can even print out your worship aids so you can pray and sing along. Tony Alonso has recorded sung evening prayer here, Zach Stachowski and Bex Gaunt also have led a prayer concert, Evening Prayer with the Taize Community, and more resources can be found at the One Call Institute.
Some have asked where they might watch Mass during this time. Many parishes, including my own, will be streaming Mass online during this time, as a way of staying connected as a Eucharistic parish family. These include:
- CatholicTV has launched watchthemass.com, where daily and Sunday Masses from their studio will be uploaded
- Daily Mass from Saint John’s Abbey
- The National Shrine in Washington, D.C. will live stream Mass at 12pm EDT here and then archived here
- Already established diocesan projects for the homebound, like Diocese of Youngstown’s CTNY – this is a good time to remember those who are served by these projects on an ongoing basis
Flowing from this past Sunday’s Gospel of the Samaritan Woman at the Well, we pray this week in a special way for those adults preparing for baptism: that they may encounter Christ and the living water that wells up from deep within them. This is a remarkable time to be preparing for baptism – many have been preparing for a long time to be baptized at the Easter Vigil, and will now almost certainly be baptized at a later date. Let us continue to keep them in our prayers in this extended time of deep longing, anxiety, and thirst.
As baptized disciples, and as those preparing for baptism, I invite you to take some time to reflect and pray:
How does it feel to review my life, like the Samaritan woman does in today’s Gospel? How does it cause pain? And in what ways do I know Christ sees goodness in my brokenness? | May those preparing for baptism review their lives before Christ and acknowledge their sins, we pray.
Like the Samaritan woman, in what ways, perhaps because of life experiences, do I mistrust others? Mistrust God? | May those preparing for baptism be freed from the spirit of mistrust that deters people from following Christ, we pray.
In what ways do I, like the Samaritan woman and the Israelites in the first reading, find myself grumbling? What am I truly thirsting for? How can I open my heart to wonder and, like the woman, share with others the good things God is doing in my life? | May those preparing for baptism share with their friends and neighbors the wonder of their own meeting with Christ, we pray.
How am I aware of the hungers and thirsts of others? Who can I reach out to? | May those whose lives are empty for want of the word of God come to the Gospel of Christ, we pray.
In the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis, how can I continue my Lenten observances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving? How is Lent different this year because of health concerns for ourselves and others, especially the most vulnerable? | May all of us, in preparation for the Easter feast, seek a change of heart, give ourselves to prayer and persevere in our good works, we pray.
God Abiding, world-igniting,
God of sun and moon and earth,
All our living, moving, being
Rests in you and finds it worth.
Though the storms of life may shake us,
And our hearts be filled with fear,
Still your peace lives deep within us,
And your promise always near.
God Abiding, hope surprising,
God of strength and tender might,
From the waters you have claimed us,
You have robed us with your light.
When we step into the darkness,
Ever faithful you remain.
You prepare a road of glory
Through despair and loss and pain.
Intercessory Prayers adapted from the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, Scrutiny Prayers for Week 3 of Lent.
Closing Prayer by Justin Huyck
Bernardo Strozzi, Christ and the Samaritan Woman (1650?) – accessed from St. Louis University Liturgy Website
Christ and the Samaritan Woman, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54773 [retrieved March 14, 2020]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13384589@N00/5629776709/