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Covid-19 and Religious Practice


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Machine_Washable

Hello Phatmass,

I thought it would be interesting to share how the pandemic has affected your religious practice. I will start.

Some quick background on Muslim worship. You've probably seen it on the news or tv. It's when we stand and kneel and prostrate. Muslims must pray five times a day. At dawn, at noon, the early afternoon, the late afternoon, evening. While it is best to pray right at the start of the prayer time there is a range of time to complete the prayer. The time is a little different every day because we base the time of prayer by the position of the sun in the sky. When Muslims pray together we call it Jummah. All Muslim men are obligated to pray their noon prayer on Friday in Jummah at the masjid. The imam gives a Khutbah (sermon) and then we pray.

It is better to pray your daily prayers in the masjid in congregation. But this is not required. Few people who work could pray all of their prayers at the masjid. But often you might pray one or two of them in the masjid, depending on your schedule. The masjid is usually a social place. Old timers will hang out there during the day. Reciting the Qur'an or the names of Allah. Often chatting in between acts of worship. You'll run into the masjid to make noon prayers during your lunch and they'll come up and talk with you. You'll run into a friend and catch up after prayers as you head back to your work. Things are even more social for Friday Jummah. There is usually food, the kids play, you run into a bunch of friends and catch up, and get introduced to new people.

Aside from the social thing there is a great experience of unity. Some Masjids are all one madhab and dominated by one ethnic group. But usually there is a big mix. The masjid I went to was in the middle of the city. So the person to your left might be a homeless man who came to the country as a refugee and is sleeping in the masjid and the person to your right might be a doctor. The masjid is usually open all day except for late at night to dawn.

We have been dealing with this pandemic for a year and it is still strange how much more solitary worship has become. I stopped attending the masjid regularly in February. I was a driver and made a lot of trips to a large, international airport. I worried about the older worshipers who would always come up to talk with me. So little was known about the virus and nobody wore masks. So I stopped attending. Things opened up in my city a bit in the summer. I attended a few Jummahs during that time. But it was very different. No talking or milling about. You had to go in and out. Then the rates went up again and things shut down again.

Now we are a month and a half from Ramadan. A very blessed time. We fast for 30 days. No food or water during the day. We break the fast with a meal called Iftar. Before the pandemic this was a very festive time. You'd go to the masjid and have Iftar with everybody. You'd pray tarawih. A prayer where 1/30th of the Qur'an is recited so the whole Qur'an is recited over the month. Obviously this will not happen this year. Last Ramadan was so strange. This one will be too. You fast out of love of Allah. Not for the social bonding. But it just doesn't feel like Ramadan.

When Muslims are asked how we were doing we are supposed to respond with "Alhamdulillah" (praise be to God) because a sign of the believer is to be optimistic no matter what the circumstances. We must always try to earnestly hope for good because we know Allah (swt) is the compassionate and the merciful. And so I say Alhamdulillah to this situation. I have seen members of my family return to prayer during this time. I have gained much more appreciation for jummah and the masjid. But it is strange. And I hope that things will return to normal this year. Inshallah.

Edited by Machine_Washable
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Ash Wednesday

I've been a bit busy and didn't have time to answer because I knew my answer would be a long one. But the long and short of it is that Catholics are required to attend Mass every week (Sunday, or Saturday vigil) and on Holy Days of Obligation (examples are Christmas, or specific Marian feast days like Immaculate Conception). There is also a requirement to have confession and receive communion at least once a year, traditionally this is during the Easter season. Communal worship and reception of the sacraments from priest to the faithful (receiving the Eucharist, getting baptized, going to confession, being confirmed, among other sacraments, total of 7) are always in person and is the most vital and central aspect of the faith. So, obviously the pandemic has had a negative effect on many of us being able to attend Mass or to be able to receive the sacraments. Naturally there are dispensations from the obligation to attend mass -- illness, being old and infirm, a parent needing to care for a child, when mass is not available nearby, travel to mass being a dangerous journey, etc.

Off and on depending on where someone is, churches have been closed or they have had to curb the number of people allowed to attend in a building. In places where places of worship have been shut down or a limited number of people are allowed to attend, some bishops have issued a dispensation where people aren't required to attend mass -- that has been the case here in England and in Wales.

There has been some debate among Catholics about these things. Some agree with churches being closed or numbers curbed, some do not. Some agree with bishops issuing dispensations, some do not. I think a lot of it really depends on how someone views the pandemic and virus in general. 

For me personally, the local parish does have mass available but there are limits to how many people can attend. I have an autoimmune disease and am on an immunosuppressant so in my condition I have been advised that the prudent thing to do would be to stay home during the lockdowns and periods when covid cases have been high except when attending medical appointments. My husband does the shopping that I normally do, and our office has been working from home. I'm expecting this situation to just be temporary, though.

I'm like an introverted owl, so if I'm honest being this cooped up hasn't bothered me too much in general with some exceptions, with the biggest exception being the spiritual aspect. I still have weekly meetings on zoom with a local parish group that I had involvement in prior to the pandemic, so that bit of fellowship has been helpful.

One thing this pandemic has affirmed for me, is that we generally aren't meant to worship and pray alone (though you have exceptions such as people given permission to be hermits), and watching a mass over the computer is not a sufficient replacement for being there in person. Understandably it's been an uphill battle for people that want to attend confessions regularly, people wanting to baptize or have their children receive First Communion, wanting to join the Church but programs being suspended, and there are other areas of concern such as people dying being unable to receive last rites. So this has left many feeling distressed and spiritually starved.  
 
I trust that this isn't a forever thing but it's certainly been a cross to bear. 

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Machine_Washable
13 hours ago, Ash Wednesday said:

I've been a bit busy and didn't have time to answer because I knew my answer would be a long one. But the long and short of it is that Catholics are required to attend Mass every week (Sunday, or Saturday vigil) and on Holy Days of Obligation (examples are Christmas, or specific Marian feast days like Immaculate Conception). There is also a requirement to have confession and receive communion at least once a year, traditionally this is during the Easter season. Communal worship and reception of the sacraments from priest to the faithful (receiving the Eucharist, getting baptized, going to confession, being confirmed, among other sacraments, total of 7) are always in person and is the most vital and central aspect of the faith. So, obviously the pandemic has had a negative effect on many of us being able to attend Mass or to be able to receive the sacraments. Naturally there are dispensations from the obligation to attend mass -- illness, being old and infirm, a parent needing to care for a child, when mass is not available nearby, travel to mass being a dangerous journey, etc.

Off and on depending on where someone is, churches have been closed or they have had to curb the number of people allowed to attend in a building. In places where places of worship have been shut down or a limited number of people are allowed to attend, some bishops have issued a dispensation where people aren't required to attend mass -- that has been the case here in England and in Wales.

There has been some debate among Catholics about these things. Some agree with churches being closed or numbers curbed, some do not. Some agree with bishops issuing dispensations, some do not. I think a lot of it really depends on how someone views the pandemic and virus in general. 

For me personally, the local parish does have mass available but there are limits to how many people can attend. I have an autoimmune disease and am on an immunosuppressant so in my condition I have been advised that the prudent thing to do would be to stay home during the lockdowns and periods when covid cases have been high except when attending medical appointments. My husband does the shopping that I normally do, and our office has been working from home. I'm expecting this situation to just be temporary, though.

I'm like an introverted owl, so if I'm honest being this cooped up hasn't bothered me too much in general with some exceptions, with the biggest exception being the spiritual aspect. I still have weekly meetings on zoom with a local parish group that I had involvement in prior to the pandemic, so that bit of fellowship has been helpful.

One thing this pandemic has affirmed for me, is that we generally aren't meant to worship and pray alone (though you have exceptions such as people given permission to be hermits), and watching a mass over the computer is not a sufficient replacement for being there in person. Understandably it's been an uphill battle for people that want to attend confessions regularly, people wanting to baptize or have their children receive First Communion, wanting to join the Church but programs being suspended, and there are other areas of concern such as people dying being unable to receive last rites. So this has left many feeling distressed and spiritually starved.  
 
I trust that this isn't a forever thing but it's certainly been a cross to bear. 

Jazakallah. Thank you for sharing. I have a family member on immunosuppressants and it has made all of us even more cautious and made this time much more stressful. May God keep you safe while we wait for this trial to pass.

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PhuturePriest

Thank you both for sharing your experiences! I think it's a really good and healthy practice to open up about our experiences and how difficult they have been. It was really interesting to hear about your experience of the lockdown as a Muslim, Machine.

As for me, I must confess that spiritually I have had a very different experience of the lockdown. As a seminarian, I was privileged to be one of the chosen special snowflakes who got to serve Mass every day even at the height of the lockdown. I remember during Lent and Easter living at home doing school and yet also leaving in the mornings to serve a private Mass of just me and my parish priest. Serving the entire Triduum (the special liturgical services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil) with just me, another seminarian, and a priest will be a memory that I keep with me. It was so odd to look out at the empty parish and wonder why I got to go to Mass and receive the Eucharist every day instead of the many parishioners I knew who were far holier and more deserving of it. In that sense, I have never had to experience the "spiritual ache" that so many others have had.

Rather, it was formative to me in other ways. First, it made me very grateful for the vocation that I have which, it cannot be denied, affords me certain privileges that others do not have. Along with that, it reinforced in my head that I am not where I am because I am better and more deserving than others, and I have often considered the thought that I had access to the sacraments because I am weaker than others and would have floundered more than they did.

I also experienced the consoling power of intercessory prayer. When I realized how fortunate I was and read so many of my friends discussing their struggles without Mass, I got inspired and began asking them for prayer intentions that I could begin offering up Masses for. This, along with the experience as a whole, helped me to understand the communal reality of the Church. Mass and the Eucharist are not my own private devotions, my own time to pray about me and my problems, but they truly draw together the whole Body of Christ together in common worship of God. The Church Triumphant is of course present at Mass, but there is something truly missing when more than 90% of the Catholics here on earth are not permitted to take part in Mass. I remember the first time we were allowed to have people back in Mass, and it was an incredibly beautiful and powerful experience -- life came back in to what had felt increasingly stale and dour.

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7 hours ago, PhuturePriest said:

Along with that, it reinforced in my head that I am not where I am because I am better and more deserving than others, and I have often considered the thought that I had access to the sacraments because I am weaker than others and would have floundered more than they did.

It is a nice comforting excuse not to find the way to give the parishioners Holy Communion (and compliment them in a process). If a local priest would tell me that he needs communion because he is so weak and I am so strong that can do without I would shrug my shoulders because quite clearly he just does not get it. I probably would say to him that he has no right to make such a conclusion. How many people during the lockdown have died without communion and the last rites? Oh, maybe it is because they are "so strong"? - No. It happened because the clergy was too cowardly to ignore the rules imposed by those who do not understand what the Holy Communion is.

Holy Communion has the absolute value. It is Christ and before Him those "strong - weak" definitions are nothing. I wish you when you become a priest to remember this and also remember that you primary duty is to do the public Mass and to give people Christ.

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PhuturePriest
28 minutes ago, Anastasia said:

It is a nice comforting excuse not to find the way to give the parishioners Holy Communion (and compliment them in a process). If a local priest would tell me that he needs communion because he is so weak and I am so strong that can do without I would shrug my shoulders because quite clearly he just does not get it. I probably would say to him that he has no right to make such a conclusion. How many people during the lockdown have died without communion and the last rites? Oh, maybe it is because they are "so strong"? - No. It happened because the clergy was too cowardly to ignore the rules imposed by those who do not understand what the Holy Communion is.

Holy Communion has the absolute value. It is Christ and before Him those "strong - weak" definitions are nothing. I wish you when you become a priest to remember this and also remember that you primary duty is to do the public Mass and to give people Christ.

I had no authority or power whatsoever on this matter, so I do not know why you are addressing me as if I did. Seminarians do not even have a say in where we go to school, let alone whether parishes are open during a global pandemic. My opinions and thoughts on whether parishes should be closed were, and remain, entirely irrelevant. I had no power to do anything other than to personally refuse to serve Mass, and I am not going to be made to feel guilty for choosing to go when I, undeserving though I am, had the opportunity.

Edited by PhuturePriest
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27 minutes ago, PhuturePriest said:

I had no authority or power whatsoever on this matter, so I do not know why you are addressing me as if I did.

I commented on a fine line, between humility ("I am weak") and not thinking about how the people deprived of communion feel. If you know that others are being deprived then it takes empathy to feel that your discourse on their "strength" would probably not be appreciated by them (and objectively it is not so). I pointed to you that you were given communion because you are privileged, yes and it has nothing to with being weak or strong so as the deprivation of laity has nothing to do with their weakness or strength. Laity are not privileged and their clergy abandoned them.

Your attitude to that situation depends on how you think of the matter. If you say "oh, I am weak and they are strong hence I have communion" this line of thoughts does not require you to do anything, even not to think. You feel OK. But if think "I, the young man, am having communion and the sick, old and dying do not - it is not fair" - that line of thoughts would (I hope) propel you into doing something, at least discussing that or speaking to your superiors etc. - whatever. It would definitely prevent you from thinking "they are strong, all is well".

I know that you could do nothing being a seminarian but I chose to write what I wrote, in a hope that when you are a priest you may chose to disobey the orders for the sake of giving communion to those who need them, especially dying - or at least make your disagreement public. 

My major problem with the clergy during the lockdown is they they seem not to get it, what they were doing (depriving the laity of the sacraments). There was no lament, not even mentioning it when the churches were opened.

Apart from commenting your message what I wrote is also my experience of the lockdown. While you "had a privilege" to do be in the church on Good Friday I rushed to the Cathedral because I had a thought "what is it is open?". But it looked perfectly dead, no sound - while some "privileged" were inside but they did not even think about opening the window etc. so some could hear the signs of a life.

27 minutes ago, PhuturePriest said:

My opinions and thoughts on whether parishes should be closed were, and remain, entirely irrelevant.

You are quite wrong. No opinion is irrelevant even if the churches remain close. Just to know that some clergy is against and tried makes the madness more bearable. People who had an experience of being in catacomb Church would agree with me.

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ReasonableFaith
7 hours ago, PhuturePriest said:

Rather, it was formative to me in other ways. First, it made me very grateful for the vocation that I have which, it cannot be denied, affords me certain privileges that others do not have. Along with that, it reinforced in my head that I am not where I am because I am better and more deserving than others, and I have often considered the thought that I had access to the sacraments because I am weaker than others and would have floundered more than they did.

When/if you become an ordained cleric, I hope you hold close to these words, particularly if you find yourself holding a pastorate.  

I wish you the very best in your discernment and continued education, particularly in the trying times of these conditions. This particular time in formation will provide you, and others, with a different experience than many of your predecessors and successors. I detect the the foundation of a solid, genteel and influential countenance; I am quite pleased. 

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ReasonableFaith
9 minutes ago, Anastasia said:

I know that you could do nothing being a seminarian but I chose to write what I wrote, in a hope that when you are a priest you may chose to disobey the orders for the sake of giving communion to those who need them, especially dying - or at least make your disagreement public. 

I would point out your are directing your argument to a seminarian, self-admittedly. It is very easy to turn a seminarian into an ex-seminarian, extraordinarily so. Even an expression of a particular opinion, as suggested in your final paragraph, could potentially result in such an action; even more so some type of action against current protocols.  

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it is extraordinarily difficult to turn an ordained cleric into an ‘dispensed cleric’ if they do not desire such a change in status.  I would suggest directing these types of arguments to clerics themselves. 

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Who am I ReasonableFaith? - Just a mere Orthodox iconographer. You attribute to me much more significance that I have. It is so easy to dismiss my opinion precisely because I am not a Roman Catholic. Yet I believe that a priest must have empathy otherwise it is better if he does not become a priest. I recall you said in another thread that a seminarian cannot be shaken by a communication with a young woman who has a crash on him - so here I trust my opponent is quite safe.

57 minutes ago, ReasonableFaith said:

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it is extraordinarily difficult to turn an ordained cleric into an ‘dispensed cleric’ if they do not desire such a change in status.  I would suggest directing these types of arguments to clerics themselves. 

You are wrong, unfortunately. It is easy for a Bishop to "shut down" a cleric, I am speaking from an experience of helping such a cleric. Speaking of your suggestion, what make you think that I do not "direct these types of arguments to clerics themselves"? 

Anyway, I am quite sure that PhuturePriest can do well even without your defense.

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ReasonableFaith
15 minutes ago, Anastasia said:

Who am I ReasonableFaith? - Just a mere Orthodox iconographer. You attribute to me much more significance that I have. It is so easy to dismiss my opinion precisely because I am not a Roman Catholic. Yet I believe that a priest must have empathy otherwise it is better if he does not become a priest. I recall you said in another thread that a seminarian cannot be shaken by a communication with a young woman who has a crash on him - so here I trust my opponent is quite safe.

What an interesting vocation; I was unawares. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing several persons with an interest and talent in iconography. 

If somewhere the suggestion has been made I view ‘Romanism’ as a superior position,  my apologies. In truth, I find orthodoxy far more interesting. In addition, I too find empathy an important quality of a cleric. 
 

Thank you for recalling my post concerning a person with a friendly and potentially romantic interest in a seminarian. You will undoubtedly remember I suggested the seminarian deal with any professed romantic interest in the internal/interior forum. The suggestion in this thread seems to be an opinion ought be expressed or action ought be taken by a seminarian in the external/exterior forum; quite different situations. This distinction of forum is critical in a formation environment. 
 
In parting, I would strongly argue a ‘shut down’ cleric is an entirely different situation from a cleric dispensed from the clerical state against the cleric’s own wishes. I am in agreement with you; the seminarian commenting in this thread can do more than well without any defense whatsoever.  My comment was intended to encompass seminarians in general. You will also note my suggestion to ‘direct such arguments to clerics themselves’ does not indicate you have not in fact done so, but rather is a suggestion to refrain from directing these types of argument to seminarians, as opposed to clerics. 

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Our local Mass and confession hub (not a parish) has been shut for a year with no plans to reopen anytime soon.

The local parish really came through. Even when public Masses were disallowed initially, they provided daily adoration and confession, twice a day, which still continues.

7 hours ago, ReasonableFaith said:

If somewhere the suggestion has been made I view ‘Romanism’ as a superior position,  my apologies. In truth, I find orthodoxy far more interesting. In addition, I too find empathy an important quality of a cleric.

Your forum affiliation indicates you've selected Catholic. I have difficulty understanding why a Catholic would apologize for finding his or her own faith the most correct.

I understand your own personal position may be somewhat different. I am just reacting to the phrasing of it as an apology.

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ReasonableFaith
2 hours ago, chrysostom said:

Your forum affiliation indicates you've selected Catholic. I have difficulty understanding why a Catholic would apologize for finding his or her own faith the most correct.

Correct; I have selected Catholic. Does this imply Romanism is superior?  Does this imply Romanism at all?  Are there 22 or so other expressions of Catholicism?

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6 hours ago, ReasonableFaith said:

Correct; I have selected Catholic. Does this imply Romanism is superior?  Does this imply Romanism at all?  Are there 22 or so other expressions of Catholicism?

I was confused since the language of "Romanism" I grew up hearing as a Protestant expression whilst I knew nothing of the East. I didn't realize for a moment that it had to do with intra-Catholic stuff, etc (whatever your preferred one is ;) ) Confusion resolved.

Edited by chrysostom
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