SURVEY: Faith in the Time of a Pandemic

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This global pandemic has taught us more about our lives than we expected it to. Our routines have been disrupted and our lives upended. Weekly appointments have been indefinitely suspended, and for many Maltese people who cherished attending Sunday Mass, this was no exception.

The pressure was on for the Church to find innovative ways to bring sermons to its congregants. Technology has allowed mass to be televised, and adorations to be live-streamed. Gadgets spoke to Reverend Dr Stefan Attard and Reverend Fr George Dalli, more affectionately known as Dun Gorg, for their takes on the matter.

Father Attard

“It’s actually quite surprising to me that people have been attending Mass more in these past 3 months than ever before”, said Dun Gorg, chuckling at the thought. “Being able to participate in the celebration of Mass in the comfort of one’s own home by switching on the television or tuning into live-streams on social media has proven a convenient alternative.” 

Father Attard reminds us however, that while it was certainly positive, interaction is strictly limited through this medium: “I think it is just provisional. It falls far too short of conventional Mass. One cannot fully celebrate the Mass without sharing the Holy Eucharist, an essential and fundamental sacrament”

“While it has proven an invaluable interim measure, it’s just not the same,” sighs Dun Gorg in concurrence. “The fact that you’re losing that sense of community, the belonging with others, it just seems to me that Mass wasn’t made to be enjoyed individually”. While home-streaming serves its purpose as a personal, intimate service to bring one closer to their faith, other social elements are lost in translation. 

Father Dalli

“During Mass, we’re present physically in a shared sense of belonging. We sing together, we share communion, all in a warm, social atmosphere. After Sunday Mass, I would spend some time outside the Church, speaking with members of my parish, enjoying a coffee with church-goers and overall enjoying the company of people, and yet I cannot do this anymore.”

Fr Stefan reminisces on the importance of building up each other, and the inspiration we provide to each other. “There is an old man who struggles to walk, and yet he comes to church without fail every single day. The example and inspiration he creates would be totally lost if he worshipped only from home. The comfort would be more convenient, but offering that sacrifice to God gives him a strong sense of drive and purpose, and it would be a shame for that to be taken away from him.”

Even in intimate relationships, communication without presence is untenable. For a period of time, it may be doable, and while it is true that we are living in trying times, there is nothing quite like being present physically. A relationship with God is no different, and while short-term measures which help to bridge the gap are necessary, a return to normality also means a return to the conventional ways of celebrating Mass together, the way it was intended to be.

Fr Stefan emphasizes the importance of creating spaces for different purposes. Your office should not be in your bedroom, as the former puts you in a frame of mind related to work whilst the latter is there to help you switch off and relax. “The church is a sacred space where psychologically and spiritually one feels prepared to participate in a holy ceremony, which cannot be emulated when one is on his couch at home.”

Both of them shared the sentiment that online videos could be a useful tool for learning. “While there wasn’t much I could do personally, I was glad to have had the opportunity to celebrate Mass and provide Catechism over Zoom,” Dun Gorg says. “Needless to say, I’m no tech wiz, but those who asked me to provide the service were kind enough to patiently show me how to make use of it, and in the end, we got the job done.”

As with all other stop-gaps, televised Mass is a reliable alternative for those who cannot be present physically, however the way it was intended to be celebrated must always be remembered. After all, being present somewhere and witnessing it through video are two completely different experiences.

What do you think? Gadgets is conducting a quick, 5 question survey about this topic. Have your say and let us know your opinion!


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