FORT MYERS, Fla — There are certain places we just don't expect to sit empty, especially in a time of crisis.
But that's where we are right now, so churches like St. Vincent de Paul in Fort Myers have to close.
“The buildings are closed, is what I would say," Fr. Murchadh O'Madagain says. "The church is as open as ever. The celebrations of the Eucharist continue as ever. It’s just that we can’t physically come together at this time.”
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For Fr. O'Madagain, that means improvising. A parish that, a couple of weeks ago, didn't have a Facebook page, now live streams masses every day from a small chapel in O'Madagain's house.
“It is very hard that people can’t come together to worship," he says. "The last mass we celebrated before we had to close the church; which was during the week, which we normally wouldn’t have a big turnout, had a huge turnout and was very emotional. And I guess everyone was just conscious of what we have and at least temporarily we have to give it up, which is very difficult.”
"What’s nice with the technology at least, is you can see on the screen how many people are watching. And loads of people write in comments, ’thank you’, ‘praying for you’. Which is really nice. That helps a lot.”
He is also offering drive-up confessions. Times and contact information are on the parish's Facebook page.
“People can come in their cars in their parking lot if they want to go to confession," O'Madagain says. "So they’ll just stop and roll down their window and I’ll be six or seven feet back with a mask.”
It seems out of place, especially during Easter, the most important time on the Christian calendar.
“It is a very difficult week for us not to be able to come together," O'Madagain says. "But also, as somebody pointed out, the first celebration of the resurrection of Easter was a woman and two men standing outside an empty tomb, and everyone else locked away in a room. So in some senses, it is almost more biblical this year that we can’t be together because of practical things.”
A lot of people need that kind of positivity, perspective and wisdom right now.
“Of course this is difficult and something we need to take very seriously. But from a faith point of view, the Lord is always with us, whatever is happening. And if nothing else it’s making us realize how much the Lord is with us. How much we can be thankful for. Which is a great thing. And it will pass."
“The big thing that our faith teaches us is that the Lord can always bring us wonderful things out of the worst situations. And does. And out of this situation, I’m sure great goodness will come too.”
Here's the calendar of events O'Madagain will stream on Facebook Easter weekend:
12 pm: Stations of the Cross
3 pm: Celebration of the Lord's Passion
8:30 pm: Easter Saturday Night
10 am: Easter Sunday Mass