When I was based at the U.S. Navy submarine base in Bangor, Washington, from time to time a sailor would come to my office at the chapel. “Father Barber, our boat is going out, and I need some Catholic materials.”
“Oh,” I’d say. “Where are you going?”
“Sorry, that’s classified.”
“Okay,” I’d reply. “How long will you be gone?”
“Sorry, I can’t tell you,” he’d say.
“What’s your mission?” I would push.
“Father, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” He smiled, like Tom Cruise in “Top Gun.”
Then I would give him a dozen rosaries, with leaflets on how to say the rosary. I would give him a supply of Sunday missalettes, St. Christopher medals and holy water. I also gave him a link to Father Robert Barron’s “Word on Fire” website, so he could download in advance sermons for the Sundays they would be underway. With these materials, the senior Catholic sailor or officer onboard would be authorized by the Commanding Officer to conduct an informal worship service for the Catholic crewmembers “in the absence of a priest.”
Something like that is possible now in our homes because of the COVID-19 lockdown. We just heard that Gov. Gavin Newsom has halted indoor worship services in 41 California counties, including Alameda and Contra Costa. This comes as a blow, as we were just getting used to going back to indoor Mass, while taking all the precautions. Now we have to move back outdoors, not easy in the coming winter months, or have livestream Mass, or both.
The Mormon Church has a laudable practice called “Family Home Evening,” where outside activities take second place to all the family staying home one night a week for prayer and discussion of family issues. Maybe it’s time we Catholics rediscover the “domestic church” of our own homes. Do you have a place in your home for the crucifix or the image of Our Lady is placed? Maybe you could pray together before or after participating in a livestream Mass? Maybe you could make a small home altar, with some statues of Christ, Our Lady or your favorite saints? You could write out and place your urgent prayer requests under the feet of the saints. Pope Francis does that with his “Sleeping St. Joseph” statue. I have so many prayer needs, I have two of those statues.
In this time of frustration, trials of patience, and even sickness and death, let’s not lose hope. Hope is the hallmark of the Christian. Bring the holiness of God from your parish church into your own home. Your home is a holy place. Worship the Lord there. The first Christians were not free to come together for Mass and worship openly, so they gathered in “home churches.” Maybe we can learn from our Catholic sailors in the submarines on months-long underwater deployments, and come together as best we can to recognize Christ in our midst.
Full story at The Catholic Voice.