COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: Hungering for the Eucharist

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Father David BonnarReality is setting in. Life is not just very different for us priests, but for the faithful as well. Do you want to know what it appears from the outside looking in? Let me just share with you some interactions with our faithful, most of which have been through email or on the phone.

In our diocese, the bishop canceled all Masses. We priests continue to celebrate Mass, but it is private. Nevertheless, we remember our faithful at all of the Masses we celebrate. And we know that our faithful are remembering us.

Shortly after celebrating Mass, I received an email from a very faithful parishioner who deeply misses the Eucharist. She wrote: “I am writing to ask you, no to beg you, in the least to please consider offering a daily holy Eucharist service. It can be done according to your safe practices — in an open-air setting, in staggered groups of 10 or less, or however you feel comfortable with it.” This woman is hungering for the Eucharist.

It just so happened that this same woman pulled into the church parking lot as I was returning from the pharmacy. She got out of her car, and, as I let my window down, we carried on a conversation at a safe distance. She even more passionately begged me to have the Eucharist available. Of course, I did my best to let her know that all of us priests are praying for our faithful at every Mass we celebrate. Furthermore, I told her that this decision by many bishops to cancel public Masses was made in prudence to contain the virus and to protect most especially those whose immune systems are compromised. I could feel her ache missing Jesus in the Eucharist. Her thirst was overwhelming. Her passion could not be contained. All I can say is that I appreciate even more what a fast it is for our people to not have the Eucharist. We priests need to receive for all of our faithful at every Mass.

And yet, the paradox in all of this is that love continues to pour from people’s hearts even with the cancellation of public Masses. God’s love simply cannot be contained. I received a phone call from a parishioner who identified herself and wanted to volunteer her time for any elderly person who was in need. She said she would be happy to gather groceries or do whatever they need. What a beautiful offer of service to those in need!

And it is so humbling, that our faithful deeply love their priests. I received an email from a parishioner who said, “I wanted to check in to see if you and your fellow priests need any supplies or food or anything like that for the next couple of weeks?” He too was hungering for the holy Eucharist. For he said, “Also, is there a contingency plan to distribute the holy Eucharist, perhaps outside now that the churches are closed?” It was evident once again that our faithful really miss Jesus in the holy Eucharist. Thankfully, though, our churches remain open and Jesus is in the tabernacle and his love cannot be contained, because it continues to ripple through the hearts of our faithful.

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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