DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - While one prominent prelate recently spoke of lockdown measures as an opportunity for great "spiritual benefit," others wonder if a Catholic revival is on the horizon.
Speaking at the Rome Life Forum last week, Bp. Athanasius Schneider said the "current purifying divine intervention has the power to show all of us what is truly essential in the Church: the eucharistic sacrifice of Christ with His Body and Blood and the eternal salvation of immortal souls."
"In general, I think that the time of deprivation of Holy Mass and the sacraments will have the function of purifying the wheat and separating it from the weeds, as Holy Scripture says," he continued, echoing St. John the Baptist's words in Matthew's Gospel: "He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Schneider explained that absence makes the heart grow fonder and so some say "we will have a new hunger for the Eucharist after the coronavirus epidemic has passed."
He surmised that those whose familiarity with Holy Communion made them less appreciative might "experience a spiritual conversion and understand and treat the Holy Eucharist henceforth as extraordinary and sublime."
Schneider went on to offer suggestions for spiritually benefiting from lockdown measures that have forced "Catholic families to experience literally the meaning of a domestic church."
"Catholic parents should gather their family in their home," he said. "They should dedicate a holy hour of prayers to sanctify the day of the Lord and to unite themselves spiritually with the Holy Masses which are celebrated by priests behind closed doors even in their towns or in their vicinity."
"A Sunday holy hour of a domestic church could be done for instance in the following way," Schneider continued, urging "prayer of the Rosary, reading of the Sunday Gospel, Act of Contrition, act of spiritual Communion, Litany, prayer for all who suffer and die, [prayers] for all who are persecuted, prayer for the pope and the priests, prayer for the end of the current physical and spiritual epidemic."
Another suggestion for Sundays is for parents to "gather their children in the afternoon or in the evening and read to them from the Lives of the Saints, especially those stories drawn from times of persecution of the Church."
Bishop Schneider ended by speaking of the laity's role in restoring public Masses, saying, "The lay faithful should speak and respectfully demand the return of public Masses and also organize outdoor Masses or other creative forms of celebrating worthily Holy Mass."
"I ask you, please, to importune the shepherds, to disturb them, all of us shepherds, so that we can give you the milk of grace, of doctrine and of leadership," he added.
Echoing the theme of absence making the heart grow fonder in the wake of lockdown measures, others are speculating that a Catholic revival could be in the works.
Writing for The Catholic Thing, Michael Pakaluk said a "huge opportunity will have been lost if, when the lockdowns end, the lines outside confessionals aren't as impressive as the lines of patrons outside restaurants."
Picking up on Pakaluk's observation, Catholic journalist Phil Lawler said there is a "central focus is on the sense of awe and wonder that we should feel whenever we participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass."
"We humans are a congenitally ungrateful race, constantly taking the greatest gifts of our Creator for granted," he explained, providing examples from the Old Testament. "Manna is a miracle, but when the miracle becomes routine we long for the fleshpots of Egypt."
"Then something happens. Something that brings things back into perspective. Something like the eucharistic famine of the past few months," Lawler continued. "Suddenly the provision of manna is no longer routine. Suddenly attendance at Mass is exceptional."
While he suspects the costs of lockdown will be enormous for the Church, Lawler notes God can bring good out of evil. "This could be the time when faithful Catholics recover the sense of the sacred," he said.
"Even if more parishes close, and thousands more Catholics leave the Church, this could be the time when a great revival is triggered by a faithful few," added Lawler.
"It doesn't take much to start a chain reaction. It only takes — no pun intended — a critical mass," he concluded.