Social distancing and the sacraments: How the coronavirus pandemic has changed our sense of communion
On a recent walk around my neighborhood (while wearing a mask, of course), I passed my local parish. Outside, two women knelt on the front steps, about six feet apart, each wearing a mask and reading from what appeared to be Bibles.
My heart ached at the sight of them. I understood their desire to be close to this physical space for worship; and I shared it. I also knew that it is unlikely we will return to that space, at least in any recognizable form, for quite a while.
In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, many Catholics have been forced to grapple with their relationship with the church—the buildings, the community and especially with the sacraments, which typically require a physical closeness that is nearly impossible right now.
For many the experience of being separated from their usual patterns of prayer and worship has been challenging spiritually, emotionally and logistically.
Yet many theologians and others in ministry say that this struggle also presents a real opportunity for catechesis, especially around the sacraments. How faith communities respond to this struggle could have a lasting impact on how the sacraments are taught to children and families, how they are prioritized within one’s spiritual life, and whether or not people show up for them in the future.
It will take time to understand the true spiritual effects of the pandemic, said John Baldovin, S.J., a professor of liturgy at Boston College. He added that he has heard anecdotally that the pandemic has prompted many people to look to spiritual traditions to help them cope with its effects. “What the crisis has shown us is people’s hunger for faith,” he said, adding that this is not an unusual response to a crisis.
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With thanks to America Magazine, where this article originally appeared.