It had almost become a common adage in Catholic media to refer to Lent of 2020 as the “lentiest lent that ever lented.” There was certainly many things Catholics gave up that Lent – and few of them were voluntary.
The initial shockwaves of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly coincided with the beginning of Lent that year, when the virus was causing high death tolls in countries like Italy and resulting in global lockdowns that put many nations to a complete halt. It was the time when things seemed most uncertain. The severity and lethality of the virus was generally unknown, information on its symptoms and contagion was changing rapidly, and Catholic churches around the world made the unparalleled decision to suspend the public celebration of Mass.
With lockdowns in full effect, most of us could only experience Mass from a screen. Of course, this substitute is a far cry from the presence, communion and spiritual regeneration one feels when celebrating Mass in their local parish and among their fellow faithful. As a friend of mine said about watching Mass online – “The fact is you can’t download the Eucharist.” The experience of those months without Mass in 2020 was undoubtedly filled with a sense of loss, that the world around us had been taken away, the Lord remained hidden in His tabernacle and we could only wait with uncertainty in the underground catacombs of our own homes.
But with this came an important lesson in humility, and perhaps this is where God’s providence is most at work during this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. The hustle and bustle of city life, the daily routines of our 9-to-5 jobs, the most basic experiences we take for granted like shaking a hand, hugging a friend or visiting a loved one – all of this was put in jeopardy. The entire world was brought to its knees by a tiny virus that can’t even be seen with the naked eye. This moment has offered us a great spiritual reflection, a definitive proof that the foundations of life on earth are shaky and ever-temporary, and it is faith in God, His guidance and promises – that is the only certainty and constant hope we can hold to. And what does Easter represent if not the true source of all our hope – “Christ is Risen!”
The pandemic is still a reality today. Many attest there are signs it could be intensifying again in the near future, while others say the mass vaccinations will soon lead us back to normalcy. But, at the very least, we can take some solace in the fact that the public celebration of Mass has remained available in our province and archdiocese throughout Lent and Holy Week of 2021. Although it still came with many restrictions, we had the chance to come together, pray, and celebrate what are the most sacred days of our faith – Christ’s death on the Cross and His Resurrection.
– Kyle Greenham, communications director and editor