A majority of local Catholics choose to watch livestreamed Masses from home while they wait out the enduring coronavirus pandemic and hope of a full return to parish life, according to a recent reader survey by Catholic San Francisco.
A substantial number also said their faith lives have been enriched in isolation as they spend more time in personal and family prayer, reflection and study.
Catholic San Francisco sent out a three-question email survey to the nearly 5,000 subscribers of its email newsletter July 17. The open-ended questions asked respondents to describe their current Mass attendance, what they miss the most about their pre-pandemic faith lives and whether their faith has grown stronger (or weaker) in quarantine. Almost 400 people responded to the survey.
Local Catholics are for the most part continuing to choose Masses livestreamed by their parish either by choice out of continuing caution, or because that is their only choice.
However, “there’s a difference between watching and participating,” put one respondent. “I miss the Eucharist, the incense, the music and the people,” summed up another.
The anonymous survey sought a general, qualitative measure of local Catholic attitudes and behavior over the past five months. It was sent to Catholic San Francisco email newsletter subscribers, who reside primarily within the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Livestream is the mainstream
Only one question — asking respondents to describe their current Mass attendance — was posed to produce a sort of statistical picture of how local Catholics are choosing to worship in the pandemic.
Almost 60% of respondents said they view livestreamed Mass from home through a personal computer, tablet or phone.
Fifty churches within the Archdiocese of San Francisco livestream their daily and Sunday Masses on their parish website or Facebook page, according to sfarch.org/livestreams.
Only 20% of respondents said they have started going back to in-person, communal Masses at a church. Another 9% said they are not celebrating the Mass in any way, but will return when it is safe to do so.
The remaining 10% or so reflected a smattering of personal or changing decisions that included attending outdoor Masses, a combination of communal and livestreamed Masses, in-person services at non-Catholic churches that have chosen to defy local health orders by remaining open, and refusal to attend Mass on political grounds.
In a July 17 letter to the faithful at the beginning of the statewide shutdown to slow the spread of the virus, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone released local Catholics from the obligation of Sunday Mass attendance while urging them to keep the day holy. In a July 30 memo, he stressed the importance of following health guidelines and urged priests to hold as many Masses as possible as conditions allow. He said he is “very concerned about the long-term effects this will have on our people’s spiritual health.”
A handful of respondents represented polar opposite reactions to the decisions of both government and church officials to the closure of houses of worship to communal gatherings.
A few respondents were sanguine about the deprivation of Mass and sacrament. “I do miss Mass in my parish, but I would rather be safe than sorry,” said one.
A few were angry. “I feel that the church has been scammed essentially and has failed to stand up for itself,” said one respondent, who described him/herself as a recent convert. “We have placed fear of COVID-19 over fear of God.”
A few respondents said the pandemic has had no effect on the stability of their faith, while a minority lamented that theirs had weakened.
“Without community, my faith is growing dimmer,” said one. “Faith is connected, for me, to the strength of individuals coming together in hope.”
An older respondent said he or she, “feels abandoned in my old age with nothing to look forward to.”
Another said it has caused a crisis of faith: “Why is God testing us this way?”
Full story at Catholic San Francisco.
Pope Benedict XVI said the Church would become smaller but more robust, and this survey shows he was right. For lukewarm Catholics, Covid is as good an excuse as any to stay home, ignore televised or streamed Masses, stop praying, and fail to keep Sundays holy. Diamonds are forged from heat and pressure, and this rareness leads to their high value. It is the same with souls, and we are each responsible for our own, regardless of circumstance.
Great post, Kristen.
Um, where’s the “robust” part. All I see is a declining, weakening, shrinking church. Guess what, without the money that the church used to have from larger collections it’s going to have a hard time doing anything. I think some Catholics are deluding themselves into thinking that there’s a silver lining in any of this. It’s only bad news for the church. In what sense is the near total collapse of Catholicism among those under 40 good news?
You are asking the wrong question. The question is how can you bring the Good News to those under 40? Catholicism is hard and it is hard to understand, but it is also easy and easy to understand. Trust God. Catholics don’t need a silver lining. Catholics know that good comes from evil. Catholics know that all things work together for the good of those who love God.
I am sorry that you are in such a crisis. We are not finding the right words to say to you.
The best things you can do is pray the Mass and pray the Rosary. Read Scripture. Don’t worry about whether you are going to get something you want from doing it. Just do it. Don’t give in order to get. Do it because it is God’s Will that you do it. If you have committed grave sin, seek out confession. Pray the Our Father slowly and mean it.
Quite right. Vast numbers of the sheep are wandering away from the ruins of the sheepfold, and our answer cannot be to simply let them go, consoling ourselves that the remaining flock will be smaller but more robust. Like Our Lord, we have to leave comfort and safety behind to find them and bring them back.
This is the desired effect of Newsome and the Democrats. Keep the faithful away for Mass and hope the Church fades away,
no longer around to stop their evil plans, e.g. Abortion, Homosexuality and erosion of the nuclear family.
My perspective: this is showing that the church’s leaders (the clergy) or maybe the church in its essence doesn’t have any mojo. At times like this, when people need hope, the church should be offering it clearly and resoundingly, like a guiding star in a dark night. The church just looks pathetic right now, like it has nothing to offer anyone that means anything or is useful. You can say the sacraments are valuable, but the people staying away are concluding that maybe it’s just hocus pocus. This pandemic and the closure are demonstrating to a lot of people that the church offers nothing that makes any difference. Will a vaccine come from the church? No. What solution does the church offer? Many people are concluding nothing. Face this fact: this pandemic is exposing the hollowness of the church’s evangelism and liturgy. When it matters most, the church has become like a deflated balloon. Rather than growing stronger, this is breaking the church’s back. And God is not helping his bride, the church, at all. How can anyone prove that the church’s prayers are more effective than some native American shaman doing a rain dance to invoke the good spirits? Right now, when the prayers are being offered for an end to the pandemic and consecrating America to Mary, things are just getting worse and worse. But no bishop is acknowledging the hard truths, and people see the emptiness of the clergy. They will stay away. They won’t return when it’s over, if it’s ever over.
Kevin, I don’t know what you have against Our Lady. Are you a Catholic? She is not responsible for the mess we’re in. Maybe the Church needs to repent of idol worship at the Vatican. It is a free country, so you’re free to join a Native American religion or any religion or no religion of your choice. Jesus Christ is faithful. And, His Mother faithfully prays for us.
You wrote, “no bishop is acknowledging the hard truths.” What are those “hard truths” that ALL bishops are failing to acknowledge?
I urge you to leave behind anything from Native American religion, any Pachamama idols or anything related to other religions or the occult.
May you have the peace that only God can give.
Like you said, that is your perspective. Are you in mortal sin? I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything but, you are not exactly a beacon of Faith. I think people have nicely tried to tell you that you are making of fool of yourself, but you just keep doing it.
We know that you lack Faith, Hope and Love and maybe you have left the Church or are thinking about it? Maybe you want the Church to meet some need that it has not met? Are you afraid of catching the corona-virus? Maybe you want safety for yourself and the Church can not give you that. Christianity has never been about safety in this world. Look what happened to the Apostles.
You seem to be at an extremely immature level of Christianity, like God is some kind of genie and if you say enough rosaries He will do your bidding. The Church asks for the end to the coronavirus pandemic and it will end. Will it end before I catch it and die? I place myself under the mantle of our Lady and I do what the experts recommend and so far, I have not caught it. If I do catch it, I will offer it up to God for the conversion of sinners.
I had to look up the word “mojo”. No you are correct. They don’t have magic powers or magic spells. That is mortal sin. Now your posts are starting to make some sense. Consecration to Mary is not a magic spell.
I hope you do not dabble in magic or the occult. If you do, please repent.
I’m with Clinton R. and his remarks.
I find myself growing closer to God. I am 85 yrs old and had been sick before the pandemic started so had been able to explore EWTN. I can attend mass every day, join in on the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet and some of the talks. I may not be face to face with the people, but in viewing on the TV, I feel that I am not alone in my faith. I can use my missal for mass so am able to actually join in and I can see a lot of what the priest does that I couldn’t see when I was attending mass in church.
Maggi, you are a breath of fresh air! Soldier on!
Thank you Maggi! You are the inspiration I have needed for the day. You’re the best!
I am glad I could help!
Perhaps God does not hear the prayers of the Church because God is offended by the homosexual invasion of the priesthood.
During these times here are the few but significant things to remember to help get through these trying times. God is in control of all things and all times..keep your faith and trust in God.The other is the Holy Mother’s promise..In the end my Immaculate Heart will prevail.This is a trial..a test and perhaps a small chastisement..small because considering the state of the world and the offenses against God..this pandemic is nothing.
Realize that in this void created by the pandemic that governments are taking advantage of the control they have been suddenly given…all the more reason to turn to God..you see the news ..the riots and the slogans of the socialists..Black lives matter..the divisions and hate..Satan is openly working..now is the time to proclaim that only God matters.