What to Do in Holy Week When Sacraments Are Not Available

Yesterday was Palm Sunday and Easter is this coming Sunday, which means that Holy Week is underway for Roman Catholics. Like me, you might be in an American diocese located in an area under a "Shelter-in-Place" or similar order designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you are, it is likely that you are unable to attend regular public Mass or participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation at this time.

Many parishes and dioceses have addressed the former difficulty by live-streaming Masses. While it is not possible to receive the Blessed Sacrament through this means, a viewer can pray an Act of Spiritual Communion instead:

My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

This prayer can be said while the priest celebrating the Mass is taking Communion. Some priests, knowing that those who are viewing the Mass cannot receive the Blessed Sacrament, will lead their remote audience in this prayer.

The latter problem has a similar workaround: Perfect Contrition. The following steps are recommended by the Catholic Diocese of Dallas in Texas:

  1. Speak to God, express your love for him and his Son, Jesus;

  2. Pray for genuine, loving contrition for your sins;

  3. Enumerate your sins silently;

  4. Ask for forgiveness for your sins;

  5. Say an Act of Contrition;

  6. Promise with true intention to confess your sins to a priest, whom God has placed here for you, as soon as you are able, so that you might be healed and fully reconciled.

Here is a popular, traditional Act of Contrition:

Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

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