Over the next few weeks, and very possibly months, we will have to get used to a new way of living. So how do we adjust to a Church without public Masses? How can we help the most vulnerable? And might there be opportunities to live better lives than we did before? This week, six writers offer their suggestions for thriving in a lockdown. Here, Sofía Abasolo writes on family life.
By Ash Wednesday, Mass had been suspended in Liguria, where I live with my husband and two young sons.
The diocese assured us it was a temporary measure to prevent the spread of the virus – Mass would return by the following Monday.
Mass was reinstated for one week. On Sunday the four of us went, breathing a sigh of relief. The following day, Mass was suspended across Italy, until further notice, as the spread of the virus grew.
That Sunday, Rai1 televised the Mass from Santa Marta, and a whole nation (or its believers) joined in. I dressed myself and the kids up in smart clothes. I kneeled and stood and joined in with the prayers as required. My kids ran around me on scooters, shouting “I don’t want to see church on TV!’’ It was both chaotic and lifeless. I watched as the priest held up the Eucharist, feeling confused and sad.
‘‘I think if the Mass is suspended we need to accept it and not live it as a tragedy,’’ a local parishioner tells me when I ask her how she feels about it all. ‘‘The Mass is also loving one another, praying the Rosary, Adoration – all these things are the Mass for me.’’
I’ve asked her because I’m trying to figure out how I feel about it all, or how I ought to feel. For me the Mass, especially when attended with my children, is a way for us to truly be with Jesus – they always point saying ‘‘Jesus! Jesus!’’ with an excitement that images (illustrated or televised) simply don’t evoke in them. Now that we find ourselves without the Sacraments, the pressure is on me, and on the whole domestic Church, to keep that excitement and friendship alive. And I’m not sure I’m up to it.
One thing that helps me is a quote I first read on the @onehailmaryatatime blog, written by a full-time banker and mother of seven, Kristin: ‘‘Lower your expectations. Lower them again.’’ I decide to allow myself to waste time. To allow myself and the kids to be bored, together.
From this decision I rediscover something I last experienced in my own childhood: that from boredom arises creativity and imagination. Not everything has to be a pre-planned activity taken from Pinterest. My son empties a toy basket, wears it as a hat, growls and declares: ‘‘I’m a brontosaurus!’’ With nothing to take me away from these moments, I can enjoy them, and perhaps that’s what God wants from me now, more than the ability and time to build an impromptu shrine in our living-room. He wants me to waste time, to be bored, to simply be, and to be with my children.
My husband and I set a time to check the news each day – the same time when the daily figures are released. We talk about it then, and then we do not mention it again (if possible) until the next day, when we check the daily update. This not only stops us from getting sucked into the endless bad news cycle, but it also gives us time together each day to talk and listen.
Sylvia Bass, blogging home-schooling mum of 6, says, ‘‘I think it is a tragedy being separated from the Body and Blood of Christ, whether it was necessary or not. The Eucharist is our spiritual food, and without it our souls are starving.’’
It does feel like my soul is starving, which perhaps is a blessing – I hope I will return to the Sacrament with greater fervour and gratitude. But will everyone? As just one third of US Catholics agree that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ, are poorly catechised Catholics likely to ‘‘join’’ Mass by live stream – or to attend in person when they are next allowed to?
I find myself struggling to stay at home surrounded by family 24/7, my work outside the home temporarily suspended, my comforts from playdates and outings stripped away. It’s just me, the kids, and my husband (who is often shut in a room working from home). Somewhat desperately, I run when I see a priest in cassocks on my way to the supermarket and ask him if there’s Confession. He smiles and says yes.
The following day, I go to his church again, and shyly ask if there’s Communion. He smiles and says yes. Afterwards, I text my friend: ‘‘I am full of hope.’’
‘‘This virus is the best way for the greatest number of souls to be saved, or God would have done something else.’’ I try to remind myself of Fr George Boronat’s words from his YouTube meditation, as I realise the extent to which I depend on the Eucharist. For some reason this is more frightening than relying on coffee, as I do.
Minuscule steps seem more important than ever now: crossing ourselves when we walk past a church, blessings before meals – these are the signs needed to remind ourselves that He is with us.