“To those who are used to daily Mass there is no privation more terrible than that of having to do without it.” These words are from the book This War is the Passion by Caryll Houselander. Houselander was born in England in 1901 and became Catholic at the age of six, when her mother entered the Church. She had several mystical experiences in her life and became a popular spiritual writer. Many of her reflections were written during the Second World War, the war referenced in the title of the above work. Her writings are penetrating and are filled with images that linger long after you’ve read them. The Reed of God is one of my favorite books about the Blessed Mother.
Houselander continues her above meditation on the experience of being deprived of the Mass as a member of the faithful. She likens it to being deprived of ordinary bread. “We do not realize what bread is to us until we have to do without it, but then we know well enough that it is indeed life to us.” The circumstances of the Second World War made it difficult in her day for many to attend daily Mass. And she warns that, “the time may come, and come soon, when for an indefinite time war conditions make it more and more difficult for any of us to hear Mass at all, even on Sundays, and we shall all understand why our forefathers in the days of persecution were willing to give up everything – property, honors, freedom, even life itself – for the glory of being present even at one Mass.” Her words certainly resonate in our current situation, when the hunger for Mass and the reception of the Eucharist is intensifying in the hearts of the faithful as we wait for the eventual reinstatement of public Masses.
In the meantime, Houselander offers a suggestion to her readers as to how the faithful might prepare themselves for the possibility of being completely deprived of the Mass. She writes about how important it is to understand what the Mass is. “It is not only a set of old, beautiful prayers offered each morning in our parish church. No, it is a sacrifice which is always being offered and in which we can always take part at any time and anywhere…. It is a sacrifice which gathers every circumstance of our life to itself and is the very core of our being” (emphasis added). Because we know that the Mass is always being offered somewhere in the world and always will be, according the Our Lord’s promise to us, we can unite ourselves to the Mass even from a distance. “There is never a moment when the Host is not being offered up for us, never a moment when we cannot lift ourselves up with Christ crucified.” We can do that, she says, by internalizing the structure of the Mass and participating in those elements throughout the day, namely: 1) expressing sorrow for sin, 2) making ourselves an offering to God, 3) allowing the Lord to take our offering and change it into Himself through the consecration, and 4) accepting the Lord’s gift of Himself in Communion. “Keeping these elementary facts of the Mass in mind we can, without a missal, join in any Mass going on, and be really present to Christ on some secret altar. And such a habit can weave itself all through our life and absorb all our life into itself.”
In these days, as the faithful are deprived of attending Mass, it is possible to unite yourselves to the Masses that continue to be offered in our parish and throughout the world. It is a habit that we can develop in times when we don’t have access to the Mass, but it is a habit that need not be given up once public Masses are restored. It should be, in fact, a habit of being, where our whole lives are acts of sorrow for sin, offerings for sanctification, consecration, and Communion. Thus, our whole lives will be united to the Mass until the day when we enter into the fullness of the great mysteries, the eternal banquet of heaven, at which the faithful are always perfectly fulfilled but never satisfied.
Again, for your convenience, I am also posting the novena prayer to St. Joseph:
Novena Prayer to St. Joseph the Worker
Joseph, by the work of your hands and the sweat of your brow, you supported Jesus and Mary, and had the Son of God as your fellow worker. Teach me to work as you did, with patience and perseverance, for God and for those whom God has given me to support. Teach me to see in my fellow workers the Christ who desires to be in them, that I may always be charitable and forbearing towards all. Grant me to look upon work with the eyes of faith, so that I shall recognize in it my share in God’s own creative activity and in Christ’s work of our redemption, and so take pride in it. When it is pleasant and productive, remind me to give thanks to God for it. And when it is burdensome, teach me to offer it to God, in reparation for my sins and the sins of the world.
O good father Joseph! I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows and joys, to obtain for me what I ask.
(Here name your petition).
Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers, everything that is useful to them in the plan of God. Be near to me in my last moments that I may eternally sing the praises of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Amen.
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be)