The miracle of God’s love in the Mass is here for us today just as it was for our ancestors in their day. When this miracle is not appreciated, it is a problem with today’s values and attitudes, and not with the Mass? Would we go to the lengths of our ancestors to attend Mass.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Catholics in Ireland were forbidden to openly practice their religion and had to resort to open-air ceremonies where guards could be posted to look out for approaching Redcoats. There was a bounty on priests and especially on Bishops. But the ordinary Catholic practitioner was also at risk. Despite this people gathered in secret at what we know as Mass Rocks to ensure they could participate in Mass and receive the blessed sacrament. Hundreds of Mass Rocks were scattered all over Ireland.
The obligation to attend Mass was removed during the Pandemic. The lockdown imposed by the government in March 2020 was aimed at stopping the spread of the Covid-19 virus and protecting the NHS from possible collapse. This included the closure of churches so public Mass was unavailable to Catholics during that period. When churches began to reopen in the summer of that year, uncertainty over public safety led Archbishop Martin to say that it might be unwise to try to compel frail, elderly, and vulnerable people to go to church while there was a risk, they might contract the disease.
However, the reasons which have prevented Catholics from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation no longer apply. We thank God that this situation has now changed. Most people have resumed the wide range of normal activities and are no longer restricted by the previous Covid measures. There will still be some members of our congregations who, for reasons of health, do not feel safe enough to return to Mass but for most of us the ‘virtual viewing’ of Mass over the internet does not now fulfil the obligation to go to Mass on Sunday.
Singing in church is now allowed, parish bulletins and Mass leaflets can be shared, the sign of peace is restored, and holy water fonts are refilled. The duty to attend Mass is a privilege and there is a duty on us to back up the privilege. Canon Francis Brown, Administrator of Newry Cathedral Parish stated that,
‘Attending Mass is not only a private action, it is also an act of public witness and parishioners are called back to participate in this beautiful hallmark of the Catholic faith. Our obligation to take part in Sunday Mass is not so much an obligation imposed by Church law, but an obligation that springs from something much deeper and more profound. The Mass is not only relevant, but also something we simply cannot live without. So let us be inspired by our ancestors from centuries ago and return to Mass on Sundays and weekdays’.
Mass Rock Sunday
The annual pilgrimage to Mass Rock Ballyholland will take place on Sunday 26th June at 3.00pm.