7 Things to Do When You Can't Receive the Eucharist

I know there are a lot of posts out there about COVID-19 right now. Rest assured, this article is not going to be about social distancing, infection rates, self-quarantining, hand washing, or toilet paper. Instead, I'm going to address a consequence of the pandemic that is affecting a growing number of Catholics around the world: many of us can no longer go to Mass on Sunday (or any day) to receive the Eucharist. This article will not tell you that there is nothing to be sad about, or that this has happened before, or that everything is going to be fine. Sorrow - and even anger - are natural and appropriate responses to being separated from the Real Presence. But I do think there are things you can do to ease the pain a little bit. Here are seven things you can do while you wait for the world to go back to normal:

1. Watch a stream or recording of Sunday Mass.
It's not the same as being there in person, but there are plenty of places to watch Mass online. Your pastor may even be recording or streaming Sunday Mass for you and your fellow parishioners. Chek your parish's website. You can also tune into a live-streamed Mass from EWTN, Ascension Presents (celebrated by Fr. Mike Schmitz), CatholicTV, Word on Fire (celebrated by Bishop Robert Barron or Fr. Steve Grunow), and probably a host of other websites or YouTube channels.

2. Take advantage of any resources your parish is offering (if you can safely do so).
Check your parish's website. In addition to videos of Sunday Mass, they may also have other messages for their parishioners. And even though parishes have suspended masses (which are large gatherings), they may still have opportunities to receive grace in the church building. At the time I'm writing this, my parish is still offering confession and adoration. Of course, make sure you are doing what's best for your own safety, and especially the safety of those with whom you might come into contact.

3. Set up a sacred space in your home.
One of the special things about a Catholic Church (besides hosting the Real Presence of Jesus, of course) is that it is separate from the rest of the world. We don't (or shouldn't) read the newspaper, or do taxes, or chat about the weather, or get a haircut, or play video games inside the Church. There may be social events or committee meetings in the social hall, but the church itself is reserved for prayer and the sacraments, especially the celebration of the Mass. So when that building is not available for liturgy, it might be helpful to set up a sacred space in your home. You could convert  a spare room into a home chapel, and stream the Mass in that room. Or, if that's not possible, you could rearrange the furniture and designate a certain area as the place you will pray and watch the Mass. In addition to helping you get into a more prayerful disposition, it might also signal to the kids that you're doing something more important than just watching a video. (Results may vary, though; our kids were pretty rowdy last Sunday.) Below are some pictures of our temporary chapel, which we set up in our guest room last weekend.

4. Make an Act of Spiritual Communion.
An Act of Spiritual Communion is a prayer - and a disposition of the heart - in which you express your desire to receive Jesus, despite the fact that you cannot physically receive him in the Eucharist. Here is an example that I found on EWTN:
My Jesus,
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.

5. Pray more throughout the week.
Consider adding more prayers to your day. You could stop what you're doing at noon to pray the Angelus (click here for instructions on how to pray), or add a daily Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet. Or perhaps you want to start praying one or more prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours.

6. Hunger for the Eucharist. 
Of course, as much as they may help, none of these things will be able to fill the hole left by the temporary loss of the Eucharist. So just recognize that you're going to long for the Blessed Sacrament. And that's a good thing. Not the fact that you're not able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, but the fact that you long for Jesus. Don't try to dismiss that feeling of longing. Embrace it. Allow your desire for Jesus to grow during this involuntary fast. It won't make the waiting any easier, but it will make your eventual reunion with the Sacrament all the more joyful.

7. Offer your sufferings.
And finally, you can take that sorrow you feel at losing access to the Eucharist, and any other suffering you are experiencing because of the pandemic, and offer it up to the Lord. What exactly does that mean? Isn't "offer it up" just Catholic code for "get over it"? On the contrary, it's not that at all. As Catholics, we have the beautiful teaching of redemptive suffering. Jesus became one of us and suffered and died for our sins. By doing that, he transformed suffering and death, and he allowed us to participate in his redemptive act. We can unite our suffering to Jesus, and ask God to use it to bring about salvation for ourselves and for the whole world. But knowing and doing are two different things. My advice is to start small. At the end of the day, when you say your prayers, think back on the moments of suffering you experienced during the day. Tell God, "I would like to offer up this suffering for..." and choose an intention. Maybe you want to offer it for an isolated elderly relative, or for the healthcare workers on the front lines, or for the researchers developing and testing a vaccine. It's up to you. If you build up this habit of offering your sufferings every night, it might start to become easier to offer those sufferings in the moment.

Can you think of any other ways to cope with the temporary loss of the Eucharist?  I'd love to hear them. Check the next paragraph for ways to interact with the blog.

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