April 3, 2020

In wake of coronavirus epidemic, Holy Week liturgies and Easter Sunday Mass to be livestreamed online

Where and when to watch Holy Week and Easter Masses
 
All Masses can be viewed at www.archindy.org.

April 9 at 6 p.m. —
Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper; celebrant: Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

April 10 at 3 p.m. — Good Friday, Celebration of the Lord’s Passion; celebrant: Archbishop Thompson

April 11 at 8:45 p.m. — Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night; celebrant: Archbishop Thompson

April 12 at 11 a.m. — Easter Sunday; celebrant and homilist: Archbishop Thompson

April 13 at 9 a.m. — Easter Monday; Celebrant: Father Beidelman
 
 
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By Sean Gallagher

The liturgies of Holy Week—including Masses of Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday, the commemoration of Christ’s passion on Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil—as well as Easter Sunday, are the high point of the Church’s liturgical year.

But Catholics across central and southern Indiana will not be able to gather to worship together in these liturgies because of the pandemic of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Decisions made by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson regarding public celebration of Holy Week liturgies and the celebration of the sacrament of penance were posted on the archdiocesan website on March 25.

Out of concern for the health of archdiocesan Catholics because of the pandemic, public celebration of Holy Week liturgies have been suspended. This follows the March 17 decision of the bishops of Indiana to suspend public celebration of the Mass until further notice.

The most recent decision was made based on guidance from public health officials, the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The annual chrism Mass, ordinarily celebrated on Tuesday of Holy Week at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, will be celebrated at a later date. This is the liturgy in which priests renew their ordination promises and the archbishop blesses oils to be used in the celebration of sacraments.

Holy Week liturgies

Holy Week liturgies such as the Masses on Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday, the solemn commemoration of Christ’s passion on Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil will be celebrated by the archbishop and priests in the cathedral and parish churches around the archdiocese. The rest of the faithful, however, will not be able to participate in these liturgies in person.

These liturgies as celebrated at the cathedral, however, can be viewed and prayed with live online at www.archindy.org.

Father Patrick Beidelman, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization and rector of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, spoke in a March 25 interview with The Criterion and said it was difficult for him knowing that the public celebration of Holy Week liturgies would not take place.

“I think it will be most intense when we begin the prayer without our brothers and sisters in faith, at least physically present,” Father Beidelman said. “Knowing that we’ll be livestreaming those liturgies and that people will be connected to us in real time I think will help alleviate some of the intensity of how it will feel without them.”

Videos of daily and Sunday Masses celebrated by the archbishop and archdiocesan priests are available at www.archindy.org. That is also where Catholics of central and southern Indiana can go to view livestreamed Holy Week liturgies, as well as those for Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

Father Beidelman has heard from many archdiocesan Catholics about how grateful they are for the availability of such videos.

“It’s a reminder to me that the Eucharist is the source and the summit of our unity with God and with one another,” he said, “and that that communion can be expressed although we’re not physically in one another’s presence and not receiving the Eucharist together.”

Father Beidelman said that resources “rooted in the liturgies themselves” are being developed to facilitate the prayer of Catholics across the archdiocese during Holy Week. They will be available at www.archindy.org in the coming days and can be used on their own or while viewing livestreamed celebrations of the liturgies.

“These are our most significant days of celebration for us as Catholics,” he said. “We can mark those moments by uniting remotely through the prayer of the Church in the liturgies of Holy Week and make them very personal in homes where families pray together with the resources that we’ll provide.”

Recognizing that not all archdiocesan Catholics may have the capability to view livestreamed liturgies, Father Beidelman said the archdiocesan website will be updated in the coming days to include additional resources available on the Internet to help the faithful enter more fully into Holy Week.

Forgiveness of sins

In another statement posted at the archdiocesan website on March 25, Archbishop Thompson announced that, because of the pandemic, “until further notice requests for individual confession should be postponed unless it is requested by one who is in imminent danger of death.”

The same statement also noted the Church’s teaching that, when sacramental confession and absolution are unavailable, forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones, is available through what the Church calls “perfect contrition” (see Catechism of the Catholic Church #1452).

Perfect contrition occurs when the following conditions are met:
 

  • A person is sorry for his or her sins out of their love of God.
  • That sorrow is expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (such as an act of contrition).
  • There is an intention to go to sacramental confession as soon as it is offered.

“The Church never asks us to do the impossible, and always is interested in the salvation of souls,” Father Beidelman said. “And so, even in this extraordinary time where we don’t have widespread availability to individual confession and absolution, the Church still allows for that option for perfect contrition.”

Although Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a stay-at-home order that became effective on March 25, the ministry of priests in cases of imminent death is still allowed.

Father Beidelman said that, in such circumstances, priests can minister “with an abundance of caution and in great collaboration with health care professionals who can make that happen in whatever way they determine.”

“Hopefully those situations are few and far between, but we know that there are going to be some,” he said. “Some people are really going to be putting themselves in harm’s way. The more people that can stay at home, the better.”

The archbishop’s statement regarding the forgiveness of sin also included information about plenary indulgences made available by Pope Francis that are specifically related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Father Beidelman said the indulgences are “a wonderful offer” made by the pope in response to “the heaviness of this time, with all its restrictions and the sacrifices people are having to make.”

“The opportunity for a spiritual load to be lifted is expressed beautifully in pursuing a plenary indulgence,” Father Beidelman said.

Decisions made by Archbishop Thompson related to the suspension of public celebration of the liturgy and the sacrament of penance, said Father Beidelman, have been motivated by the desire to help stop the spread of the virus.

“It’s an act of charity when we embrace staying at home and uniting ourselves spiritually to one another, the works of the Church and especially to our Lord in prayer and sacrifice,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to participate in the great good of caring for others.” †

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