Speaking Out: Sacramentality needs to return

By  Paula Ducepec, Youth Speak News
  • June 3, 2020

On May 14, Ontario Premier Doug Ford unveiled the first phase of the province’s cautious re-opening strategy. Approved businesses received the green light to resume operations if in compliance with the safety protocols advised by public health. 

However, there is no firm date on when church doors will open or what adjustments will take place to accommodate hosting a congregation. Dioceses are working with public health officials to determine the details, but understandably parishioners are anxious as they watch other provinces slowly return to public Masses.

A growing sentiment to reopen churches is a welcome sign as more and more believers could start regarding online Masses as the future of worship the longer the quarantine gets extended. On various interactions with friends, family and other parishioners, many are beginning to see “virtual” Masses as the best and most plausible way of “going to church.”

“This kind of attendance has been comforting for many people, a good way to connect with their local parishes and to keep them focused on regular prayer life,” said Fr. Favin Alemao, a dogmatic theology student at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. “We have to be clear, however, that this is not the same thing as attending Mass.” 

Sacramentality is what makes the Mass so special, and is a gift from God. 

What is sacramentality? Defined by Joe Paprocki in Practice Makes Catholic: “It is the way of using symbols, rituals and gestures — tangible realities — to communicate the mystery of the faith in our daily lives. This is God’s mode of communication with us: He talks to us in ways that we understand
.  ... Through Catholic sacramentality, God’s Love can be seen, tasted, touched, heard and even smelled!”

Alemao points out that as the priest takes a piece of bread and a plain chalice, and speaks the words, “This is my body, this is my blood,” God makes Himself present in the simplest way. Alemao further explains, “In an instant, what was only a sign, a created thing, becomes God Himself. He enters His creation again. He has a place, a physical location in our church.” 

Our physical distance from church has highlighted the need for us to be there. Alemao says there is a need to understand that “our very proximity to God is a source of healing and consolation, a source of grace.”

“The parallel that comes to mind is the image of those people whose parents were in locked-down nursing homes. They would go close to the windows to see their parents close to them, even if they were separated by glass, even if they couldn’t easily hear each other. Their very presence at that glass was a consolation for both the parents and the children.”

We have an imperative to comprehend that all rituals, images and sacraments allow us to become closer to God.

“After all,” said Cardinal Thomas Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto in one of his homilies, “we do not worship pixels.” 

(Ducepec, 22, is a student at the University of Toronto studying anthropology.)

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