-Patrick O Okigbo III
The Catholic mass on television this morning was fulfilling. It was in a beautiful church (Holy Cross Cathedral Lagos) and an intelligent sermon by the Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins (Archbishop of Lagos and the Metropolitan See).
The organizers of the mass ticked almost all the social distancing boxes as expected in this new COVID world. Almost! The missing points are the subject of this post. Millions of Catholics tune in for the masses (including the ones at noon everyday) so this could be a good platform for communicating the behavioral changes required today’s world.
— The Mic And Bible —
As is traditional during the mass, a microphone and the Holy Book were held up for the Metropolitan See to speak into and read from. This, I assume, is for his hands to be free to offer blessings on the congregation. Unfortunately, this traditional practice does not concur with the tenets of social distancing required today. It brings at least three persons into close proximity with the risk of transmitting the virus if one is infected. A lectern and a mic-stand should suffice. This slight change in practice will communicate to the faithful the seriousness of this COVID-19 pandemic.
— Holy Eucharist—
The transformation of bread and wine into the “body and blood of Christ” (also known as consecration) is the most important part of the Catholic mass. As is traditional, the priests handle the bread (or wafers) with their bare hands and distributed them to the congregation for consumption. This was the case at mass this morning. In fact, the three officiating priests proceeded to drink the wine from the same chalice. Let’s pray that none of them is infected. Let’s pray!
This act is still scary even if all the clergy have been in isolation in their diocese with no contact with the outside world. Furthermore, this practice creates a challenge for those watching from home. It does not convey the seriousness that should be brought to this COVID pandemic.
With these acts, the priests missed the opportunity to communicate to the viewers the need to minimize physical contact. A work-around could have been what the Metropolitan See did at the end of mass when he offered a communion-prayer for those at home who could not participate in the physical communion. If we must, the Metropolitan See can consecrate the bread and wine and consume all by himself without handing any to the clergy. He can explain to the viewers at home that it is part of the efforts to minimize the spread. This singular act will communicate the seriousness of this situation to the millions of faithfuls even more effectively than the dozens of government jingles. In Nigeria, religious organizations enjoy more trust than the government.
— Face Itch —
I didn’t realize how many times I touch my face until I started making efforts not to. Try it and you will see how difficult it is. That said, it still does not make it permissible for the Metropolitan See to touch his eye during the service. It negates the message the government has been pushing out. All those who come on TV in this period need to be more mindful of these behaviors that are sometimes difficult to break.
In conclusion, this post is not intended to criticize the church; rather, it is to highlight that the televised mass is a great platform to educate the faithful on the seriousness of the situation we are in. It is also to ensure those who get on TV are conscious that they are the cynosure of eyes. The people at home are watching and taking cue. Religion has a major influence on millions. These platforms can be effective in communicating the changes we wish to see in our communities to give us a fighting chance against this monster virus.
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