Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
“The singing - not well executed, but our hearts were there. The prayer intercessions were more intense and heartfelt. In the end, this year’s Palm Sunday was better than I imagined it would be. I had my family with me and felt very blessed. After watching the Mass online, we went outside and sang around and round the veranda with Palms in our hands,” said Charity of Zimbabwe. Her nephew, Louis, particularly relishes playing a part in the family prayers. The family has already planned what to do for Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
Our neighbours at first were surprised
In Zambia, Musonda, a university student now at home with her family, said they planned to watch the Mass on television but had to change plans.
“We woke up to the usual power cuts by ZESCO. So, we had no electricity. My mother said we could still gather. So, dad read the Bible on Jesus entering Jerusalem. Mum explained to us the meaning of Easter and in particular, Palm Sunday. Actually, she preached very well. I was surprised. Later, we went outside the house singing with Palms. Our neighbours at first seemed spooked to see us but then later, in a text message, asked us to remember them in prayer. When we finished, we waited for electricity to be restored and had lunch together. It was nice,” concludes Musonda.
Francis, an ex-seminarian who now works in IT and lives in a small flat alone, in Kenya, says he spent his day in bed. “I had my laptop and so followed the Mass on my laptop. Afterwards, I just slept and listened to my favourite hymns. Nothing much really. About 2 pm, I got up and prepared something to eat and then went right back to bed. I have told myself to do no work on Sunday."
Three persons in every pew
In Malawi, Chikondi says she is happy the priests in her parish increased the number of Masses. As a result, parishioners could attend Mass, but only three persons were allowed on every bench.
Nothing new in the rural areas
Ngangula, a Catechist in Namibia says the experience of Palm Sunday, this year, is not any different from previous years. The Catholic community of about ten families has Holy Mass every three months when the priest comes. The nearest town is 200 km away. Ngangula leads the Sunday Service every weekend and that is what he did on Palm Sunday. The community is aware of COVID-19 and they held the Sunday Service outside becasue the outstation chapel would have been too small for social distancing.
The experiences vary and are rich. A parish priest told me he is worried that when all this lockdown is over, people might start to think they can now replace the Holy Eucharist at the parish with Mass on TV. That remains to be seen.
Hymn book now our best friend in the family
Back to Charity’s family in Zimbabwe. She believes the Catholic faith is helping them through the lockdown.
“Imagine the hymnbook that we didn’t love so much is now our best friend. It gets us through the day. As a family we fight, we laugh, we cry, but at the end of the day, we are happier. Not just happy but happier, more fulfilled and respectful of each other,” she affirms.