By: MaryBeth Eberhard
As Catholics around the world move to celebrate mass virtually during this unusual health crisis, many families are seeking ways to bring the sacred into the home. As a mom of many, the challenge of gathering everyone in one room on their best behavior to participate in mass is real. Kids don’t sense the need to “be ready” for mass as the living room has been such a sense of comfort and relaxation. It is where we gather to decompress from the day of hard work but in these times it must serve two purposes. As a parent I find myself continually setting the stage for my family to be successful. In times like these, we must also set the stage for our family to stay nourished in faith. We have been privileged to have mass said in our home a few times when we had visiting priests so preparing for virtual mass was similar. When it comes to celebrating mass at home or virtually, here are some of our family’s traditions along with some recommended by Father Dave Sizemore from St. Francis de Sales Parish in Newark, Ohio.
- Clear any clutter out of the room so it feels ready. For us that means all our school books, clothing, toys, remote controls, etc. The table is wiped down and a tablecloth is placed upon it.
- Create a family altar. Ask every family member to gather their favorite prayer cards, holy medals, statues, and candles. I love when we have this opportunity because objects from my older kid’s youth: a little Franciscan cross, a favorite prayer card, a first communion statue and other holy objects to remind us of the church are placed upon our family altar. My youngest daughter received white roses from her father on her first Reconciliation which she dried and also places on our family altar.
- Have holy water in a bowl so family members can bless themselves as they enter. It reminds us of the sacredness of the moment in which we are going to be sharing.
- Put a crucifix in the room if there is not one.
- Have your bibles marked with the readings for the day or print up the readings for the mass so everyone can follow along. If your parish posts the music online, then have it available. Giving everyone the tools to participate is essential in making mass accessible whether in person or virtually.
- Encourage family members to change out of their pajamas. In an attempt to remind everyone of the sacredness of the mass, we ask that pajamas not be worn and day clothes be put on.
- Offer your mass for someone. In our parish, we begin mass by turning to our neighbor and asking them for their prayer intention. When celebrating mass virtually we are able to ask our family members for their intentions as well as thinking of those intentions we hold in our heart and offer our mass for them.
- Make a spiritual communion. One of the hardest things when celebrating mass is the longing for Jesus in the Eucharist. The longing is a beautiful thing and draws our hearts closer to Jesus. As Catholic Christians, we can make a spiritual communion during the time the priest is receiving Jesus by saying this prayer.
“My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”
- Have donuts, coffee and juice ready for after virtual mass. The social aspect of gathering together after mass is a way for us to check in with friends after mass. When celebrating mass virtually, we place the donuts, drinks and plates on the table in the other room. There is even a mad dash by our younger kids for donuts after the last verse of the song is sung.
As a final note, and as a mother of eight children, I think it is really important to take time to breath in the fact that your family is gathering within the walls of your home to worship the Lord. How many Christians before us have had to do this in secret on fear of persecution and death? See the seeds of faith you are planting and take the time that has been given to us in this period of social distancing and staying at home to water and nourish them. There is no greater gift we can give our family than the gift of family rooted in Christ.
About the author: MaryBeth Eberhard writes about marriage, life experiences of a large family and special needs. She attends Sunbury St. John Neumann Church with her husband Ryan and her 8 children.