Covid19 has certainly changed how we interact with one another. Churches all over the world have had to change their approach and overall interactions with their members moving to virtual sessions to reach audiences. Now whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing is left up to individual interpretation; however, George Rutler of the Church of St Michael in New York, encourages believers to try virtual mass.
He, along with many other members of the church, stress the importance of gathering together. Although there are differences between a virtual attendance and a physical one, they do have several similarities especially in regards to spiritual growth. The most obvious difference is interaction. A virtual attendance of mass or service means that the believer is typically alone, or with close family, watching from the comfort of their own home on a tablet, computer or mobile device. This means that the routine has been altered and even participation and engagement can be impacted. The standing for readings of passage, taking commune, and interacting with other believers is no longer a part of the service unless specific action is taken. This could be ensuring the believer has wine or juice and crackers or bread at home to participate in communion, engaging in a chat if the church offers this during the service, and being mindful to still stand during readings. And although this may seem like drastic change from what a believer is typically used to, the similarities far outweigh the differences.
Father George Rutler believes that attending mass virtually still has its benefits to the believer. Most believers know that the actual building isn’t what provides the growth, healing, and understanding they seek, but it is in fact their heart seeking those things from God that does. Attending mass, whether virtual or in person, provides the path to what is being sought after-God. This is why Rutler encourages believers to attend virtual mass-especially if they aren’t feeling well. He knows that physically being in the presence of God can provide the believer with what they need specifically in that moment. If they are feeling sick physically, spiritually, or emotionally they can find what they need by gathering with other believers-even if it means they aren’t together in person. There is a deeper message that he is trying to get people to understand which is the importance of putting God first in their lives. If the Catholic Church were open and that believer normally attended the mass, then why would they not continue to do so even though the building is not available to them? The attendance is not so they can have a check mark on some spiritual checklist, but to ensure they receive what they need from God in that moment through whoever is speaking as well as the reading of passages from the Word.
Attending virtual mass doesn’t have to be viewed as a negative option. The benefits of attending virtually are the same as attending physically. They provide an avenue to receive from God.