By Fr Adrian Sharp
I am currently in mandatory self-isolation since I returned last Thursday after a couple of weeks in England visiting other Oratory communities.
Thursday was the same day that the Archbishop, responding to the current health crisis, suspended the public celebration of Sunday Masses, as part of the Church’s attempt to limit social contact between people with the aim of reducing the potential for the spread of the coronavirus.
Today was therefore, for me, the first Sunday of Mass in isolation, and for all faithful of the Archdiocese, a Sunday with no Mass to be physically participating in.
For the faithful to be asked not to attend Sunday Mass has, of course, prompted many reactions.
Some are very upset; some think this is absolutely necessary.
There is no, one, reaction to the current situation.
Mass without a congregation is not overly unusual for me.
In normal weeks I would often have one, two or sometimes three Masses without a congregation.
Canon Law recommends that all priests celebrate Holy Mass daily.
The law also presumes that at least one person will be present to make the responses, but jurisprudence recognises that sometimes even this will not be possible and the priest will celebrate on his own.
Those physically participating in Mass obviously gain graces from doing so, but the graces of the Mass go far beyond the priest and whatever congregation might be present.
As we believe, the graces of the Mass are infinite, regardless of the number of worshippers present.
In every celebration of the Mass, worship is given to Almighty God.
The Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is made present on the altar.
Each Mass strengthens the Church on earth and all her members.
Every Mass benefits the Holy Souls in purgatory, whose sufferings are soothed by the offering of Mass, and whose purgation and passage to heaven is advanced.
One Mass said by a monk in an unknown monastery in a hidden corner of the world sends forth hidden graces to the other corner of the world.
We are constantly benefitting from Masses being offered near and far away, whether we know about them or not.
It’s amazing to think that as dawn rolls across the face of the globe and morning Masses are offered in every place, a great tidal wave of grace is being poured forth to the praise of God and all His assembly in heaven, for the benefit of the Church on earth, and for the relief of the suffering souls in purgatory.
So, it is certainly extraordinary that the faithful are currently prevented from participating in the public celebration of Mass.
Hopefully this will pass quickly, and we will all be reunited at the altar of praise and sacrifice.
But at the same time, that tidal wave of grace will continue to pour forth as priests daily offer the Holy Sacrifice wherever they are.
My hope and prayer is that this imposed fast from physical participation in the Sacred Mysteries together will cause us all to value the Mass all the more.
Perhaps we will take the Mass a little less for granted, and when the restrictions are ended, our churches will be full to overflowing even daily, as we appreciate all the better the great treasure that God has given to us for our own sanctification and for the salvation of the whole world.
Fr Adrian Sharp is moderator of the Brisbane Oratory in Formation and a canon lawyer. He is based at Annerley.