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Zooming in on New Ways to Pray

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By Father Alberto Olivera 

I am writing this on the evening of Monday, March 23rd. I just finished praying the Rosary through the Zoom video conferencing service with 58 families of the Chinese Catholic Mission, who were each in their homes following the shelter-in-place orders due to the Coronavirus. We pray the Rosary every day, and every day, there is a different group that leads the prayers. Every group assigns a different person to pray each mystery, and the beautiful part of the experience is that we begin and finish with a song that leads to another family. 

Starting last Monday, I invited our community to this daily virtual prayer gathering to pray for the end of this pandemic, for those who have become sick, and for the doctors and nurses who are on the front lines of this battle saving lives. As Catholics, we believe in the power of prayer, and we know they need them! 

Today, I reminded our community that we can get a plenary indulgence for saying the Rosary together. At the end of our prayers, we take time to visit with each other as we would outside of church, and we can sense Jesus among us as he promised. Although we are in a time when we practice social distancing, we feel that we are probably more united than ever. And how can I forget to mention the words of Fr. Patrick Peyton, of the Rosary Crusade? “The family that prays together, stays together.” 

During this time of home confinement, many people feel loneliness, depression, boredom, and an emptiness that no series on Netflix can fill. Praying together as a big family is a better answer. 

Yesterday we had Sunday Mass – 118 families joined the online streaming from the little chapel in Cupertino where I live. I was alone, in front of my cell phone’s camera. From their homes, these 118 families were spiritually participating in the Holy Mass with devotion. I was alone in the chapel, but we were together as a community.  

Yesterday was the second scrutiny for our elect, and they were also following the prayers from their homes. When it was the time for the laying on of hands, I imagined each of them in front of me, extended my hands, and I prayed for them. At the back of the chapel, Fr. Robert Léger was taking a picture of this new reality. 

At the end of the Mass, we all were joyful. Even though we had some technical problems, we are learning and improving every day. Someone even told me: “I prefer the Mass through Zoom because I can feel the presence of the community. It is much more real than just following a one-way video streaming.” 

Last Friday, we prayed the Stations of the Cross, which we have never done before because the Catholic Chinese community does not have a local parish. In fact, our community is spread all over the Diocese and, in normal times, each family will eventually go to different local parishes. But, now through this online video conferencing, we were all together. 

We all pray for the end of this painful time for humanity. We are longing for that glorious day when our doctors and nurses will be able to return to their families, when we will attend Mass in our churches, when our children will go back to school, and when our workers will return to their jobs. We pray that when this happens, we will have a new heart – a more spiritual and a more compassionate heart. We also pray that our communities and families will be more united than ever and closer to God. Amen.