Martyrs, prisoners of war, Catholics in remote parts of the world and others have at times been unable to receive the Eucharist. In those situations, they have made a simple act of spiritual communion.
Catholics in the Archdiocese of Louisville and across the country can follow their example in the coming weeks in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.
All public Masses in the Archdiocese of Louisville were suspended March 16 by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz. Priests of the archdiocese will continue to celebrate Mass in private.
“I pray and hope this will be a short period of time, because you and I know how deeply we need and love our Lord present to us in the holy Eucharist, how much the Eucharist brings us together in the body of Christ,” the archbishop said in a video announcing the suspension of Masses.
Spiritual communion is a simple act of prayer expressing a desire for closeness to the Lord.
In the 1700s, St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote a special prayer for spiritual communion, Catholic News Service reported. It goes like this:
“My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you. But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul at least spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.”
On Monday, Archbishop Kurtz said he made the decision to suspend public Masses in consultation with priests of the archdiocese and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He also asked parishes to refrain from events that gather more than 50 people — including fish fries, formation events and parish meetings.
Confirmations and first Communions will be postponed. And weddings and funerals are being restricted.
The archdiocese recommends that weddings be postponed, if at all possible. Weddings that go forward must be limited to 50 or fewer people and those in attendance must practice social distancing.
Social distancing has become a way of life in the United States. People are urged to stay at least six feet apart, with the exception of household family members, to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Dr. Karen Shadle, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Worship, lamented these restrictions, but said they are for the good of all people.
“We’re just heartbroken that has to be the case. We understand it’s a financial burden and it’s supposed to be a joyful event,” she said of weddings. “For funerals, it’s hard at a time when we need the church the most.”
Funerals must be limited to 50 or fewer people, close family only, with social distancing. For now, funerals will consist of either a grave-side service or a service without Mass at a church, funeral home or elsewhere.
A record of deaths will be kept during the suspension of public Masses and families may have memorial Masses for their loved ones once the restrictions are lifted.
The archbishop has urged pastors to find creative ways to make their churches accessible for prayer, “provided there are clear safeguards in place that honor the need for social distancing.”
Reconciliation, adoration and similar opportunities for individual prayer can be made available in parishes, he said, as long as good hygiene and appropriate social distancing can be observed.
Last week, in a letter urging vulnerable people to stay home from Mass, the archbishop said giving up Mass for the sake of others is an “act of Christian Charity.”
He has suggested those confined to their homes find other ways to keep a prayerful routine by watching Mass of the Air and reciting the rosary. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear Monday directed all bars and restaurants to cease dine-in service. Only carry-out and drive-thru orders are allowed. Most parishes have canceled their fish fries, though a few are providing carry-out and drive-through meals. Check The Record’s fish fry listing on page 6.
As of March 17, Kentucky had 26 reported cases of COVID-19 and one death. According to the CDC, nationwide there were 7,038 cases and 97 deaths as of March 18. Worldwide, more than 200,000 cases have been reported and more than 8,000 people have died.