It was 2009 when I started my involvement in the church as an altar server.
Altar servers are ministers on the altar composed of young boys who wish to serve the Lord through the ‘alter-Christus’, or the priest. They are responsible for assisting the priest in his various needs during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and other sacraments.
Apart from being an altar server, I also served as youth minister not only in our parish but also in the diocese.
I and my team were responsible for planning and implementing various activities for youth formation such as seminars, talks, teambuilding and as such. Furthermore, I also joined the ministry of lectors – those who read at Mass.
I am active in all of these ministries up to date.
However, on 15 March, 2020, the local ordinary has mandated that all public celebrations of the Eucharist shall be suspended until further notice as a precautionary measure against the COVID 19, to ensure that transmission of the virus is minimized.
With a heavy heart, I wasn’t able to serve on that day – that very day which marked my 11th year in the ministry.
I was saddened by this reality.
Churches, as I have been used to even before joining the ministry, are always filled with people, especially on Sundays, to hear Mass.
I grew up with the notion that churches will never run out of church-goers; that churches will remain open for the people. Thus, when I actively involved myself in the church, this thought solidified – that our faith, our Church is essential.
Never did I think that this will be closed down by no less than the institutional hierarchical power.
With this, I felt that, seemingly, the darkness has engulfed the light.
There were lots of questions in my mind like, ‘Why should it be closed?’, ‘What has gone with their minds?’, ‘The church shouldn’t conform!’
Having been active in the church for almost half of my life, I was just overwhelmed by what has just occurred – churches are closed. It’s just so unusual for the house of God to be closed for the people who seek shelter in it especially in this time where it is much needed.
But, the church, our parish, has resorted to new ways to bring God to the people which I found touching.
During the Holy Week, the traditional way of celebrating such was not executed due to this pandemic.
However, instead of people going to church on these Holy Days of Obligation, it was the Blessed Sacrament that visited them on Maundy Thursday while they were waiting at their doorposts waiting for the Lamb of God to pass by.
I saw how emotional the faithful were.
Having been deprived of the sacramental communion with the Lord, while the mobile procession went along, tears from the faithful’s eyes showed how much they are willing to embrace Him and pour out all of their distress.
Furthermore, during our patronal fiesta which we celebrate every first Saturday of May, we usually have a pilgrimage for peace and a Sayaw sa Obando, a festival tradition where participants dance from the Cathedral to our parish.
But, this time, it was the Blessed Mother who visited the parishioners and devotees from their respective homes during a mobile procession. The faithful showered flowers for Mama Mary as she passed by.
The faithful are already crying out that the churches be opened once more.
If the supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential businesses are open to serve the people wherein health protocols are often than not exercised, why cannot they allow the church to open its doors since it is much essential than the aforementioned?
Just like our bodies that need the nourishment of food and minerals, so do our souls need its nourishment by receiving the bread of life. I am pretty sure that, unlike those people who push each other upon claiming their “ayudas” from their barangays, the church can strictly implement the health protocols taking into consideration that most of the churches are wide and spacious for only “10 people” – which is seemingly unreasonable.
However, despite all these, lots of realizations have been drawn out.
God never abandons His people.
I was struck by the verse in Matthew 6: 26 which says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
This truly captures the present situation wherein I was filled with worries of what is going to happen now that these uncertainties have taken place.
Thanks to social media, Masses are still available for the people, but the communion cannot still be consumed sacramentally.
But, this is also an eye-opener for all of us especially for those who took for granted the Holy Eucharist.
We always knew that we will never realize the value of something unless it has been taken from us.
We are being brought back to what is essential — to what really matters.
Lastly, I can say that our faith is being tested. I have always believed and have faith in the power of God that despite this pandemic, the Body and Blood of Christ will never be contaminated every time it is broken and shared.
“You of little faith… why are you so afraid?” Mt. 8:26*