To say that celebrating mass in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed is an understatement. A tradtion that can be so initimate yet universal has had to evolve under these uncertain and trying times. Yet even with these changes, the celebrations remains the same at its core.
Last March 16, St. Alphonsus Parish Priest Monsignor Matt Garcia announced that with the enchanced community quarantine (ECQ) set to be placed in Metro Manila due to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), the church would need to stop holding masses as we know it indefinitely. The reaction was both somber and disheartening, as many regular churchgoers realized that this pronouncement meant that the pervasive disease hit close to home.
Yet when life gives one lemons, you might as well flip them into lemonade. Parochial Vicar Fr. Lorenzo Ruggiero’s online masses were a welcome respite for those who missed their daily mass going habits, while Fr. Matt continued saying private masses aside from lending a hand out to parishioners and neighboring parishes. Being apart was a necessary sacrifice but technology and exercising caution where need be helped bridged the gaps made by COVID-19.
As the community quarantine was eased following the national government’s advice, more and more people were able to return to the church. The familiar sights, sounds, and traditions slowly came back to life and those who have attended mass in the church itself can attest that it felt as if they didn’t see a close friend or relative for a long time. There were understandably some new practices like filling up contact tracing forms, maintaining social distancing, and staying apart during The Lord’s Prayer. Yet these are minor sacrifices all for the safety of everyone.
Indeed the church was closed physically and the parish grounds remained quiet for a few months, but the spirit of the Eucharistic celebration remained. Technology has paved the way for a new way of celebrating the mass and it has in turn provided a new way of apostolate. The way we celebrate mass has changed and moving forward, while our masses will look different, the essence of the celebration will remain the same.
As of this writing, a maximum of 80 people are allowed to physically attend mass but more will be allowed once restrictions are further relaxed.