In light of the suspension of public worship in many places, some Catholics have found themselves asking, “Am I required to watch Mass”? In other words, since it is impossible to get to Mass, is it a sin to not try to attend virtually?
No, it is not required to watch Holy Mass online or on television (or to listen on the radio for that matter). To those who have already expressed their frustration at slow or over-crowded streaming services or inadequately announced worship schedules, you’re in the clear.
Even though many bishops have dispensed us from our Sunday obligation (dispensation is the legal term for the relaxing of our normal practice), we should still, to the best of our ability, keep Sunday holy.
To that end, I recommend the following practices:
Do not work on Sunday
The temptation, while working from home, will be very great to allow Sunday to be like other days. Fight this with your whole heart. Sunday belongs to the Lord. Do not allow yourself on Sunday to slip into the rhythm of other days.
Do watch or listen to Mass
No, you do not have to, but it is praiseworthy. If you cannot watch it at the “live” time, watch it later in the day. Many places have made archived video available. If that’s the case, you could watch the Mass after it happens; no need to worry that it’s not a “live”celebration.
This liturgy is perfect for quarantine
Read the Sunday readings
It may be the case that in your house, watching Mass is too much like other activities (movies, video games, etc.). I could understand children participating better in a family prayer service. To that end, read the Sunday readings aloud. Perhaps listen to a recorded homily or have a family member give a reflection. Share prayer intentions.
Pray the Liturgy of the Hours
The Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office, is the Church’s rhythm of biblical and monastic prayer. Grounded in the traditions of the first Christians who gathered to recite Psalms and the Our Father, this method of prayer continues unabated. See this article for more on the Liturgy of the Hours.
Change your routine
Maybe on Sunday you could make a “no TV” rule or have a game night. Go for a walk as a family. Take up another Lenten devotion together, such as praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross.
Mass canceled? The Church is still at prayer!
Keeping Sunday holy means claiming time for God. This is done principally in the formal, official worship of the Church, the Mass. The priest stands in for Christ and offers back to the Father every prayer and heavenly blessing. We can still unite our hearts to the sacrifice of the Mass. We are still called to keep Sunday holy.
This is a time of difficulty, deprivation, and sorrow. It is part of our Lent: heading to the desert to sacrifice and pray as Christ did. Let us ask God to make these days fruitful. His grace will be at work in many quiet and surprising ways! Let us beg the Lord that we don’t miss it!
Pray with Pope Francis the entrustment to Our Lady in the time of the pandemic