The Faithful's Testimony
A small focus group was assembled to inform the next aspect of this study. Through a brief online survey forwarded to believers, participants engaged in sacramental dialog. The purpose of this part of the work, was to request, prayerful and joyful insight sharing. Respondents provided heartfelt and qualitative replies to four questions dealing with sacramental praxis in these pandemic interrupted days. Individuals selected for the focus group required minimal computer literacy. Clergy, lay catechists, educators, music ministers, and medical professionals describe the group's vocational composition. The bishop's office and pastor, granted permission and the inquiry proceeded. Analytics affirmed, although, admittedly generated from a small sample group, several themes presented throughout this project. The following paragraphs, detail the invitation and questions, presented for discussion. Statements from each of ten anonymous respondents showed passion, for the complexities aroused, when a pandemic scrambles both secularists and sacramental practitioner to the nation’s side.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Sacramental Praxis
COVID-19 arrested the world's citizenry in ways unknown since the Second World War. From the Silent generation (1928-1945) to Generation Z (1997-2012), factions of today’s population experience the disease in discrete and complex ways. Will sacramental praxis be a casualty of this contagious virus or a beneficiary? In what creative ways can religious leaders modify sacramental praxis balancing sacred tradition with ministerial outreach?
How has Covid-19 influenced your sacramental praxis?
Since I reside at MSF Retreat Centre with the Friars, Mass continues but in a very liturgically truncated way. There is no music, for instance, and communion is served only in the bread. The giving of the "Peace" is only gestured, lacking the added sense of connecting that physicality lends. The number of people who can attend is minimal, making the communal aspect even more diminished. I no longer connect with the larger parish of St. Mary's in Cochrane on Saturday evening as I would typically do at least twice per month. St. Mary's tends to be a parish that celebrates the sacraments well. I am a musician of sorts, and I miss the musical aspect in the celebration of the sacraments at Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours." Respondent Nine
I am grateful for 'live streaming, the opportunity to share Celebrating the Word by email with Jean Dinning. Miss the community, as I am restricted not just by COVID-19, but I am also Ken's caregiver. His memory loss has affected our lives minute to minute, despite our sacramental praxis. Respondent Eight
2. How do you imagine history, theology, science, and politics shaping people's response to COVID-19?
Even after so many months of dealing with the pandemic, it is apparent that, as a culture, our response deals with physical safety AND only one aspect of our physical security. What has been exposed is the minimal vision we have of the 'fullness of life.' History: We have looked back at the post WW1 pandemic, but almost exclusively, for whether they wore masks. We could use accounts of impact on peoples' lives, mental health, family and community support, etc. Theology: We should not be afraid to consider Covid-19 as chastisement from God and an opportunity for repentance and a return to sacred values. We are the first culture in history not to consider its relationship with God in such conditions. Science: has been weaponized against those who have various interpretations of data, i.e., we have not to gain permission to have an open and honest public discourse on interpreting and evaluating the available scientific data. Respondent Seven
Science is helpful if the evidence is correctly interpreted and conveyed consistently. Ideological interference and lack of strong leadership have disrupted science's ability to have much effect on people's responses to COVID-19. Inconsistent messaging leads to people making irrational decisions because messages are confusing. Similar, political ideology, without attention to science, is currently driving policies about how individuals must respond to COVID-19. Thus, other groups of scientists and clinicians are doing 'end runs' around the political directives about responding to COVID-19. This condition further confuses and ultimately leads to complete distrust of both science and politicians. It is sad to know that policymakers respond to ideological views rather than science in the face of the pandemic. Respondent Six
HTSP all shape our responses to the pandemic; however, each individual will respond in different ways. Similar to the prisoners in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. They were all prisoners bound for an almost inevitable end; however, some of them kept their minds intact, while for others, the stress and the horrible conditions were too much for them to bear. I am not sure how I would respond if I were there with them. I pray that I would not lose my hope in Christ amidst that turmoil. I need to work on hiding more of God's Word in my mind and heart so that when and if I am in a similar situation, I could remain steadfast in my hope in Christ. Respondent Five
3. How do you expect future generations will evaluate the current generation's sacramental response to this present-day pandemic?
With doubts & confusion, they will approach the situation. Changes that took place can be a question mark for them. Respondent Four
One would hope that governments would have in place better strategic emergency plans. People will be more willing to make short-term sacrifices for the health and safety of all. Public facilities and services will have in place expected levels of cleaning. Respondent Three
4. What sacramental ministry opportunities might emerge from exposure to this public health crisis?
Spending more time with people via reconciliation, prayer, and counseling. Respondent Two
I can see a deepening appreciation for the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, leading to thinking through how we work with our families in follow-up and seeking to make sacraments more personal. Respondent One