Monday, 20 April 2020 15:30

Commemorating the Lord’s Day at Home: More than Watching the Mass in your PJ's

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Genuflect, kneel, sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, sit, stand, genuflect… For most of us, this is the rhythm of Mass.  It is sort of a bodily routine that keeps us attentive to the spiritual exercise of participating in the Liturgy. For the most part, we do it automatically, without even thinking.  These are habitual movements that at the right moment can be triggered by a word or a motion. At one Mass recently, my son stood at the wrong time, at once triggering a wave of people behind us to stand.  Regardless of where their minds were at the moment, their bodies were ready to react, to participate. This is reassuring in some way, because when we are able to return to Mass with our church communities, our bodies will know instinctively what to do.

But what do we do in the meantime? For many it may seem like the only option is to replace going to Sunday Mass with watching a Mass on TV or online.  This is not a bad thing. However, it can be very tempting to become passive observers of the Liturgy. Once the novelty has worn off, we may find ourselves rolling out of bed and snuggling into the couch to watch the Mass in our pajamas. Or watching Mass while eating breakfast and then carrying on with our day like it were just a bonus Saturday.  We must be careful in this time of separation from our churches to not become couch Catholics. 


To help set Sunday apart, there are five key components to consider including in your Sunday routine if it is not already a part of it.  They are preparation, movement, response, participation, and celebration.

Preparation -  With a few preparations, you can make Sundays stand out.  

Start Sunday by getting up and getting dressed.  Your family should be clean and fresh and ready to participate in the Commemoration of the Lord’s Day.  

Prepare a home altar- There are many helpful websites that can guide you in setting up a home altar.  In my family, we have the simplest set up, just a cloth covered table in white or the liturgical color of the day, a crucifix, a candle, and an iPad stand so we can watch the Pope’s Sunday Angelus and receive his blessing.  Ours is a temporary set up, newly created each week, as we do not have a permanent space for an altar that is large enough for my family to gather around. Choose an appropriate place in your home, or outside (weather permitting) for your altar.   Some families set theirs up in front of the device they will use to watch the Mass on. Get your children involved in gathering the items needed and deciding the location. Let them prepare the place for the altar. Even the smallest children can help pick flowers or add icons to it. 

Choose roles-  If your family will be reading the Sunday readings instead of watching Mass online, decide who will read the 1st reading, Responsorial Psalm, 2nd Reading, and Gospel. If you need more roles, you could have greeters, cross bearers (if you are having a procession), and someone to light and put out candles.  From dressing the altar to reading, everyone should have a duty that is commensurate with their ability.  

Plan a special family meal or dessert for after the Commemoration.  You could even make donuts and have a donut social.  Plan for something you wouldn’t normally do during the rest of the week to make the day special.   


Movement -   Consider beginning your Commemoration of the Lord’s Day with a family procession. Processing with a crucifix or image of Jesus would be lovely.   It would be especially appropriate for your family to process with palms or branches through or around your home to your altar on Palm Sunday. If you will be watching Mass on television or online, sit, stand, and kneel at the appropriate times. 

Response - Encourage your family to say or sing the proper responses if you are watching the Mass at home.   If your family is doing your own at home Liturgy, give everyone the opportunity to contribute a prayer intention to the Prayer of the Faithful

For example: 

Leader: For an end to the Coronavirus, we pray to the Lord…

All: Lord, hear our prayer. 

Next person: For the protection of all nurses and doctors, we pray to the Lord…

All: Lord, hear our prayer.
Next person: For grandma, we pray to the Lord…

Continue going around until everyone has had a chance to say an intention. 


Since we are unable to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament at this time, at some point in the Commemoration, the family should all pray an act of Spiritual Communion together. 

Participation - All of the above suggestions fall under participation. Let this time away from church be an opportunity for teaching active participation to our children.  This is a time unlike any other where you can instruct your children during the liturgy without the constraints of onlookers or feeling like you are disturbing people.  You can get excited about what you are doing without feeling silly.

Encourage your teens and tweens to step up and do one of the readings, or lead the family in song.  This is a good opening for them to realize that they are capable of taking roles in the celebration of the Mass.  It may inspire them to join the choir or be lectors in the future. 


Celebration -  All Sundays are solemnities, and therefore the celebration of them should be of great importance to your family.   Have that special meal or dessert you planned for them. Hang out with each other, have fun together. Discuss the Gospel reading, play some games. Do the family rosary.  Rest. There are so many quality family things you can do together.  

There is so much more that we can do on Sundays than passively watch Mass in our pajamas.  Hopefully some of these ideas will help your family avoid becoming couch Catholics. Engaging the family in active participation in your home liturgy should translate to deeper participation when we return to Mass in our own churches. 

Article contributed by Cathy Taylor