By: Bro. Richard Tia —
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted liturgical celebrations of the Catholic Church worldwide. It has become not only just a medical issue with social and economic implications, it has become a pastoral problem as well.
While the Philippines awaits for the arrival and subsequent widespread distribution of coronavirus vaccines, the country continues to follow the guidelines set by the COVID-19 Inter-agency Task Force to prevent the spread of the virus.
All the churches, particularly the Shrine of Jesus, are required to strictly implement the minimum public health protocols set by the Department of Health: social distancing, wearing of face masks and face shields, hand hygiene, contact tracing, thermal scanning, disinfection of all pews after each Mass. They are all non-negotiable. Our Shrine rector, Msgr. Bobby C. Canlas sees to it that these guidelines are followed.
Despite the many restrictions, the Filipino faithful will not be hindered from practicing their faith, or observing and celebrating the Holy Week traditions. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday, and is the most important celebration in the Catholic Church.
Most Filipino Catholics would still want to celebrate Lent and Easter despite the pandemic amid so much uncertainty. Because of the restrictions and cancellation of the traditional Lenten activities like the Palm Sunday blessing and procession, Holy Thursday washing of the feet of Apostles Actors, Good Friday Way of the Cross and procession, Easter Vigil Pakulo, and Easter Sunday concelebrated Masses, one would opt to pray instead at home via television or social media.
With many churches resorting to social and mass media for broadcasting their Lenten and Easter activities, the question of how they may affect one’s faith cannot be ignored. Most Catholics express their grief for not being able to be physically present to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and receive Christ’s real presence in the form of bread and wine.
We are forced to ponder the deeper essence of celebrating Lent and Easter, our own values, and God’s plan for us in this time of pandemic. The season of Lent is a time of penance, a time to pray, fast, and give alms to the poor, which will bring us closer to God’s grace and mercy. It’s time to contemplate on God’s message for us in this time of spiritual renewal, and reaffirm our belief that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.