Practical Matters

– Part II of “How to Worship during Lockdowns”
By Kennedy Hall

Yesterday, in Part I, we spoke about looming lockdowns and how Catholics must love the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass more than life itself. We noted that disciples of Christ will always face persecution and we must therefore trust in God’s Divine Providence. Today we move on to practical matters, as it behooves us to consider how we can still render some worship to the Blessed Trinity during lockdowns.

OPTION 1: ‘DRY MASS’

A ‘Dry Mass’ is a colloquial term used to describe how a father can lead his family through all the prayers of the Mass when it is not possible to assist at the Holy Sacrifice. It isn’t only used during times of deprivation, but I have also heard of fathers using this method when on vacation with family, for example, and no Catholic churches are within a reasonable distance. And even when they assist at Sunday Mass, some families pray this way at home in order for the children to become more familiar with all the prayers and parts of the Mass. It is actually a well recommended devotion.[1]

In essence, a ‘Dry Mass’ consists of leading your family in the prayers of the Mass. It would be best if everyone “dressed up” as if they were going to attend Mass in a church. We wear our Sunday shoes, ties, veils, etc. Everyone should also behave as if they were at Mass (no laughing, moving about, maintaining silence, etc.). This keeps the atmosphere reverent and helps everyone in the family take the prayers seriously.

The father can recite the prayers out loud and one or other members of the family can respond as would the altar boys. It would be best to pray through it at a measured pace, without just ‘blitzing’ through the prayers. Following the Gospel, if he feels sufficiently capable, the father can even provide a small catechesis or some words of instruction to his family on how to grow in virtue and more faithfully imitate Christ. 

Pause in silence at the words of consecration.[1] Truly adore Our Lord. I strongly recommend the “Fatima Prayers” for adoring God at this moment. Following the Domine non sum dignus (Lord, I am not worthy), every member of the family should make a spiritual communion.

It is also fitting to pray the Last Gospel (John 1:1-14) and the “Prayers after Low Mass,” which include the Salve Regina and St. Michael the Archangel prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII. The popes exhorted all Catholic faithful to pray these prayers for the conversion (and thus consecration) of Russia. 

I also recommend decorating a ‘home altar’ as best as you can. Statues of saints, holy images, and blessed candles go a long way in providing a prayerful atmosphere. My wife did an amazing job during our first lockdown; and although we did miss the actual Sacrifice and receiving Our Lord under the sacramental veil, it was a joyful moment for us on Sundays nonetheless.


OPTION 2: Home/Small Mass with a Priest

In many places, the church buildings are off limits, either by order of government or local bishop, but there is still relative freedom with whom you may have visit you at your home. Furthermore, in some places the church buildings are open, but the amount of people allowed to gather is too small to hold a regular Mass schedule. Ideally, I know we would like to have Mass at our parish every Sunday, but under the circumstances, we must work with the ‘cards we have been dealt’.

I recommend two solutions to this. First, if you are free to move about and to have people at your home (decide prudentially about how you do this) then do your best to work with a willing priest to have a home Mass when and where you can. A rural residence can perhaps be ideal, especially if it has a large living/family room, or even a sizeable backyard. Who can forget the famous Mass Rocks in the glens of Ireland? Our fellow Catholics would walk for miles in the middle of the night to assist at Mass, even under the threat of fines, imprisonment and death.

Second, if your parish church is open but big gatherings are not allowed, speak with your priests about scheduling small family Masses on a rotating schedule. Courageous and faithful priests hate the lockdown as much as anyone, and I know for a fact that many of them are eager to find ways to serve their flock and provide them with the spiritual nourishment and grace we all need in difficult times. 

OPTION 3: Public Processions and Public Singing

As I mentioned earlier, if we consider the speed of reopening from lockdown, Christmas is approaching and will likely be restricted in many places. I can handle a lot of things as an adult, but one thing that is hard to take is the effect this lockdown is having on our children. The thought of having a year without Easter and Christmas Mass is not a pleasant one. If you have young children, then you know how difficult it is to explain to them. So, what can we do? Well, I recommend organizing a home Mass if that is possible, but I also recommend public acts of worship, in conjunction with any private celebration.

Our world is in a very ugly situation. Riots are ugly, protesting is often ugly, the masks and sanitary-totalitarianism present in most places is also ugly. If you live in a masked dystopia, then you must be tired of not even seeing smiles. We need to inject The Light of Christ into the world. 

Therefore, I recommend public processions throughout your towns and cities. In the best case, there will be priests leading these events; but if that is not possible, then it is also a great idea to do it with only lay people. There are many ways you can do this, with something as simple as a Rosary walk with friends and fellow parishioners, or something as elaborate as a procession with statues, incense and singing. Whatever you decide to do, I strongly encourage doing these things on Sundays, rather than simply staying home. Even in the most draconian places, walks are still encouraged… Well, how about a walk with fellow Catholics while carrying your favorite statues!

Just for a moment, imagine the scene of a locked-down Christmas Eve: Shops will be closed, restaurants will be emptied, and churches will be vacant. While everyone sits staring at their television screen, isolated from their friends and families, they look out the window to see a long line of people holding candles. As they look closer, they see multiple families, all bundled up for the cold weather, with young men carrying a display of the Nativity on their shoulders. Out of curiosity they go out on their front porch to look even closer, and to their delight they hear the most beautiful hymns being sung by joyful Catholics.

We have seen how groups of people mindlessly attach themselves to insane riots and protests; perhaps we can give them a true Christian witness, and inject the love of Christ into our broken world.


[1] As Catholics, we have to be on guard against a ‘monotonous routine’ of assisting at Mass which is deficient in piety, attention, and, above all, love of God. It is too often the case that Catholics assist at Mass, week after week, and yet they are unaware of what is being prayed at Mass! Therefore, a careful, slow and prayerful reading of the Mass prayers at home can do much to deepen one’s participation at Mass. These prayers are filled with so many great mysteries that one can never read and meditate upon them sufficiently. We should make it a habit of praying them with some regular frequency.

[2] Some families I know even ring a small bell at the prayer of consecration during the ‘Dry Mass.’

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