By Lisa Zengarini
“Clearly it will be impossible for our usual large congregations to assemble for Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day," but “Christmas is about more than just one day” and families can attend Mass at some point during the twelve days from Christmas Eve to Epiphany."
Irish Bishops made that remark in their Pastoral Letter for Advent, also reminding that Christmas Masses will be widely available online.
The letter points out that Catholics can experience the spiritual richness of this special season in many ways, including gathering as a family to pray and sing a carol round the Christmas crib in their homes.
The Bishops also suggest paying a visit to a local church at some time during the twelve days between Christmas Eve and the Epiphany to offer prayers for family members and for those particularly impacted by the pandemic.
According to the Irish Bishops, the hope of Advent and the joy of Christmas should inspire the faithful “to reach out to those in greatest need at this time”, namely people whose livelihoods have been seriously threatened by the pandemic, people coping with bereavement, families that cannot be together, those in care homes who can only have limited visits from their loved ones.
Act of Perfect Contrition
Although it may not be possible for all who wish to go to Confession to safely avail of the Sacrament, the Bishops also encourage the faithful to confidently place their trust in God’s mercy through an Act of Perfect Contrition.
Public Masses have been suspended again in Ireland since 6 October, following the decision by the Irish Government to step-up the restrictions on gatherings to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which reached a new peak in mid-October.
In their letter, the Bishops note that these restrictions, offer “greater opportunities for prayer and for reflection, for family time and space to enter into the true meaning of Christmas.”