PHOTOS: Empty churches, full hearts

Holy Week in the Archdiocese of Denver looked a lot different this year than it has in a long time – perhaps ever. While Colorado was under a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic, parishes around the archdiocese broadcasted their Good Friday and Easter Sunday liturgies over the internet for the faithful to participate in from home. It was unusual to see priests celebrate the most joyous Mass of the year in churches that would otherwise be filled, but as St. John Paul II said: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song!” Regardless if we’re singing it in an empty church or within our own living room, it remains our song, because we are still an Easter people. Alleluia!

Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez celebrated Good Friday Mass in Spanish at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Denver.

Bishop Rodriguez’s Mass was also livestreamed for the Hispanic community.

Father Chris Saliga, O.P., delivers a reading during an internet broadcast of the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

Father Andrew Carl Wisdom, O.P., completes a reading during an internet broadcast of the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

A video monitor displays what a camera is viewing as Deacon Antonio Guerrero, back left, and Father Jim Spahn, O.P., deliver by internet broadcast the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

Father Jim Spahn, O.P., delivers Holy Communion during the an internet boradcast of the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

A large bottle of hand sanitizer stands on a table during the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

In response to the new coronavirus, Father Jim Spahn, O.P., back left at altar, joins Deacon Antonio Guerrero in saying the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church for an internet broadcast for parishoners Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

From left, Deacon Efra Pruneda, Father Jesus Murillo and Father Felix Medina deliver Easter Mass in Spanish during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora, Colo.

Father Felix Medina, front, leads Deacon Efra Pruneda, back left, and Father Jesus Murillo out of the church after they delivered Easter Mass in Spanish during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora, Colo.

To rows of empty pews, Father Jesus Murillo delivers Easter Mass in Spanish during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora, Colo.

Father Jesus Murillo delivers Easter Mass in Spanish during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora, Colo.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila leaves the altar after delivering Easter Mass during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila delivers Easter Mass during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

The organist plays to an empty Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Concetion as Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila delivers Easter Mass during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila enters the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to deliver Easter Mass during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila delivers Easter Mass during a broadcast of the service because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila delivers Easter Mass during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

 

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash