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Eucharist in time of pandemic

They will know it when they see it -- Real Presence

Susan Roll, Special to The Review | September 15, 2020

Twenty years ago I was teaching a course on the Eucharist to students who included a number of seminarians and several lay students who were enrolled in the M.A. program.  One day we were discussing what was meant by the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist.  A young seminarian, who had grown up Protestant and had not long before been received into the Catholic Church, made a great deal of noise arguing, “People don’t believe that the bread and the wine are the real body and blood of Christ because we don’t teach it to them.  We have to insist, and teach, and teach some more, until they believe it.”  When he paused for breath I interjected, “And why would they believe us?”  He fell silent.  Then one of the lay students, a woman who directed the diocesan RCIA process, said softly but firmly, “They will believe it is the body of Christ when they can see the presence of Christ in us who receive.”

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RCWP Liturgies on Zoom

  • They will know it when they see it -- Real Presence
  • Feed my sheep:  A Reflection on the online celebration of the Eucharist in lockdown
  • Celebrating an Expanding Theology of Christ Presence in Eucharistic Liturgies in Times of Pandemic
  • Timeline of Catholic Women’s Ordination in the Context of Work by Women’s Ordination Worldwide
  • Comments to the Editor
  • Liturgical disruption – what it looks like -- both for the good and for the bad
  • Real Presence and Virtual Liturgies
  • Nothing Sacred -- Living out the Eucharist
  • RCWP Canada Bishop's Message:  Theological and practical aspects of using Zoom for liturgies
  • Stirring WATERS a 35th Anniversary Splash!
  • Restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy was first document of Vatican II
  • Extravagant Affections: A Feminist Sacramental Theology
  • Eucharist with a Small "e"
  • Eucharist and Human Liberation
  • Francis Comics
  • Comments to the Editor address and form
  • RCWP Canada Links
  • Related Links

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 RCWP Canada Bishop's Message
Theological and practical aspects of using Zoom for liturgies

As the global pandemic began to take hold, churches and communities of faith scrambled to find ways to adapt liturgy and prayer to serve the people.  Live-stream programs from a centralized location were made available to the people.  They saw the presider and an assistant or two say the Mass.  As passive observers they could follow along with the prayers and make an act of spiritual communion while the priest consumed the consecrated bread and wine. 

Alternately, some communities gathered by Zoom or Facebook or Skype.  These options provided for engagement of the participants in the rituals and prayers.  Reflections on the Scriptures could be shared and the community could say the Eucharistic Prayer together with the offerings of bread and wine that each household prepared and then receive communion at the same time as everyone else present.

Initially most people thought of this as a short-term experience – that before long, the coronavirus would be under control and we would be back to safely gathering in our communal spaces.   But weeks passed and then months went by; we are now in the sixth month.  The question is no longer when, but if.  Will we ever be able to gather in churches or community centres who made space available to us or as small faith communities in the intimacy of the house church setting many of us experienced? 

The May 15, 2020 issue of The Review addressed the initial experiences of people using Zoom to gather.  Questions about the real presence were raised.  As time has gone on, more and more discussions are being held on using Zoom for liturgies.  Our faith calls us to reflect on our experiences of life and seek wisdom and understanding of where and how we encounter the risen Christ. 

Recently an on-line forum encouraged consideration of the theological and practical aspects of using Zoom for liturgies.  This present issue of The Review gives you the opportunity to read the presentations given at the forum.  Other pertinent articles and messages to the editor are included.  I hope you will read them and give them your consideration.  You are always welcome to share your thoughts and experiences on this, or any other matter.  Send your responses to the editor for inclusion in future issues. 

On another matter, September 1st – October 4th is observed as the Season of Creation.  May our hearts be filled with gratitude to our Creator for blessing us in abundance even as we are challenged to move over and make room for the uninvited and unwelcome coronavirus. 

What are we called to do at this time to allow the greater gifts of love to flourish and give glory to God?

+ Jane

[Jane Kryzanowski, Regina, SK is bishop for RCWP Canada]

Stirring WATERS a 35th Anniversary Splash!

Stirring WATERS: Feminist Liturgies for Justice by Diann L. Neu, 339 pages

Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press,, March 2020. Available in hardcover and Kindle at

Book Review by Teresa Elder Hanlon, DMin, Lethbridge, AB

The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)’s anniversary celebration publication by Diann L. Neu is a refreshing dive into a feminist sea of liturgy. One entry explains “feminist” in its “Affirming Feminist Ministries” ritual. The rite names numerous political, community-building, theological, healing, gender and racial justice, as well as leadership and organizational ministries. A sampling of these socially conscientious activities includes “those who work against trafficking and domestic violence, grassroots organizers . . . those who work in partnership with women across religious traditions . . . mentors, writers, religious educators and artists . . . eco-feminists . . . those who work for racial justice . . . community leaders” (152). With Stirring WATERS you can take a walk of gratitude with Hildegard of Bingen’s Viriditas, learn about “ancient agricultural rites” (132), “recall the female lineage in your family” on Mother’s Day (208), move into solidarity with “Comradres and Martyrs of El Salvador” (80) in November. However women and others gather to name and remember. Neu’s compilation provides words and actions to focus the community meaningfully.

As the book’s title indicates, the forty-eight plus liturgies are themed generally around justice. The services are arranged in four sections of twelve months each under the subject headings of “Drink from the Well,” “Step into the Pool,” “Let Justice Flow Like Water,” and “Be Well.” They are rich in suggestions for language, dance, food, song and they open up the reader to liturgical seasons of the Christian church as well as American and International commemorative days and earthly seasons. “Take Action” sections in the liturgies kick-start possibilities for advocating, speaking out, and tending to feminist causes for justice in one’s personal life e.g. “Search for a woman online whom you admire, read her biography, and let it inspire you to shape your own story” (197).

There are also Eucharistic liturgies. “April,” in Section Three, for instance: “Imagine a Church for Our Daughters and Take Them to Work.” Its “Sending Forth” in part reads “In solidarity with our daughters, let us go forth from this circle to spark courage and hope in those who need healing, to speak truth to church leaders and government officials, to tend the bold flames of justice and peace for all” (205). Or December in that same section includes “Blessing Bread and Water.” It names the “Nourishing One” and the divine “Thirst Quencher”, invoking the gifts to “strengthen” and “keep us alive” (252).

The liturgies reach back in time and encompass the world around in their readings, music, and thematic content. Section Five, “Ever-flowing Streams” features four liturgies inspired by listening to contemporary women such as those advocating for #MeToo. This section also gives guidelines for putting liturgies together, forming activist and worship communities, and meditating in a liturgy setting. There are helpful indices of readings with authors, blessings and prayers, as well as one for songs and composers. Their inclusion encourages one to create liturgies.

In these challenging times of pandemic, the book is very relevant. I adapted a September liturgy for the RCWP Canada prayer circle meeting on a Zoom platform by changing directions “to stand” when one hears a ministry s/he is involved in, to “place a hand over your heart.” As Mary Hunt says in her introduction to this historic collection, “Add your own touches; leave out what does not fit or work in your setting” (xii). For those engaged in prophetic obedience to create or adapt liturgy, this resource is invaluable.

Restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy was first document of Vatican II

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as „a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4–5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

[Quotation from Number 14, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, solemnly promulgated by Pope Paul VI, December 4, 1963]

Read More of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Extravagant Affections: A Feminist Sacramental Theology

Excerpt from the book by Susan Ross

This is not a question of “playing Mass,” observes Susan Ross, “but of challenging the powers that tried to keep the sacred bottled up in expensive… clerical jars. My own sense is that the criterion for authentic Eucharist ought not so much to be location or whether there is an “official” presider but rather to what extent the Eucharist “effects what it signifies- that is unity, community, a sense of radical inclusion… a living out of the real presence of Christ in the midst of human life…The sacraments are increasingly in the hands of the community, not solely in those of the priest and, thus the institutional church”

[Susan Ross, Extravagant Affections: A Feminist Sacramental Theology]

Eucharist with a Small "e"
By Miriam Therese Winter, MMS

Book Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

A clarion call for Christians to live sacramental lives always giving thanks to God, telling their stories, and walking in the Way of Jesus.

In this cogent paperback, Winter challenges us at the outset with the words: "Imagine a spirituality rooted in doing what Jesus did, one that adds a sacramental dimension to our everyday lives." We are familiar with the grace inherent in the Eucharist but the author is interested in eucharist with a small "e."

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Eucharist and Human Liberation
Tissa Balasuriya, OMI

The Eucharist presents us a paradox. Jesus gave a challenging spiritual meaning to the festive meal of the Jews commemorating their liberation from slavery in Egypt.

In bequeathing this to the community of his followers Jesus manifested his
genius as a spiritual leader of humanity.

Read More of this free downloadable 114-page book

Feed my sheep:  A Reflection on the online celebration of the Eucharist in lockdown

Diane Willman photo               
Diane Willman, RCWP South Africa | August 20, 2020

The onslaught of the pandemic has impacted many physically, emotionally and financially. Some have lost family members, some lost jobs through lockdown, others became trapped in homes that are violent, and many struggle with depression and anxiety which has been identified as the hidden pandemic. Some may have been impacted spiritually, asking God what is the meaning of this suffering, or even blaming God for such suffering.

As both individuals and humankind as a whole, we need help to survive this time in our history. Our faith in God is one such key support, a faith that needs to be nurtured through God’s Holy Word and the bread and wine, or body and blood of Christ.

At the start of lockdown in South Africa (and indeed elsewhere in the world), Catholics were encouraged to participate in the celebration of mass online by way of spiritual communion. Attendance at mass was either through watching a recorded mass, or attendance at a live online one but which was a one way celebration with the celebrant saying the parts meant for the priest and the faithful. There was and is little if any active participation in the service by attendees. In respect of receiving Holy Communion, believers were to participate through exercising their spiritual imaginations of receiving the body and blood of Christ, or be satisfied in receiving Christ in the form of the spoken Word, or find value in their sudden enforced fast from actual bread and wine, that is, the body and blood of Christ.

Read More

View 16-minute presentation

Celebrating an Expanding Theology of Christ Presence in Eucharistic Liturgies in Times of Pandemic


Bridget Mary Meehan, | August 20, 2020

During this time of pandemic, women priests and inclusive Catholic communities are walking toward the future as we celebrate Eucharistic liturgies on Zoom. We are co-creators of an expanding, evolving theology of the Christ Presence within us, and within community in our Eucharistic liturgies.

Read More

View 9-minute video presentation

Timeline of Catholic Women’s Ordination in the Context of Work by Women’s Ordination Worldwide

Timeline 14

2018: Women’s Ordination Worldwide holds a vigil in St. Peter’s Square during the Synod on Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment.  WOW calls for Votes for Women.  Vatican police attempt to intimidate those present.

2018: Augustinian priest John  Shea writes a letter to Pope Francis stating that the exclusion of women from priesthood is a heresy.  He points out that the continuing discrimination against women is puerile sexism.

2019: February - In a public address sponsored by WOW member group We Are Church Ireland, Ireland’s Minister of Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, lawyer, mediator and Catholic warns that Catholicism’s prohibition on women priests is ‘brazen  discrimination’ and could bring about the Church’s ‘slow death’. In an address titled, ‘A Community of Faith: Why the Catholic Church  Should Open All Ministries to Women’,  she says that the role of women in the priesthood  is still a taboo topic at the highest levels of Catholic  Church. ‘What is the Church afraid of?’ she asks.  She says further that unlike the priests who could be censured by the Vatican, as an ‘ordinary member of the Catholic Church’, she is ‘at  liberty to speak about the inadequacies and the discrimination that I  see in the church.’

2019: In February, Pope Francis acknowledges a longstanding dirty secret in  the Roman Catholic Church — the sexual abuse of nuns by priests.  It's an issue that has long been kept under wraps, but in the #MeToo  era, a #NunsToo movement has emerged, and now sexual abuse is more  widely discussed.  Sexual Abuse of Nuns: Longstanding Church Scandal Emerges From The Shadows

[This is the fourteenth
excerpt of a timeline we are serializing here.  For the full timeline, see the Women's Ordination Worldwide website.]

Comments to the Editor

We want to express how much we appreciate the hard and work and dedication that we have witnessed over the last two liturgical masses. Not only from both the presider and the host, but other participating members. It has been our pleasure to participate in a transformed Mass that is inclusive rather than exclusive. We really appreciate the sharing process in regards to the homily as it brings out aspects that we may not have considered before. It allows us to hear many different perspectives on the gospel. Thank you so much for all that you are doing to bring about a new way of being Catholic.

[Marie and Heather, Nanaimo, BC]

I just watched Bridget Mary Meehan's pretty much confirms how I have been led to believe about Eucharist.  Because of what she confirms, the Zoom liturgies from Saskatchewan that we participate in are most meaningful and nourishing for me (us..I speak for my husband here too).

This past weekend he was out of town, but still I had the chance to experience church with familiar faces, most of whom I have never met. We live in Fort Frances, Ontario ... a good ten hours from where the presider lives ... and the REAL Presence of Christ transcends that space to make us the REAL Presence. "What good is it if the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, if we don't?"  I think Joan Chittister said that ... or maybe Edwina Gaitley ... either way ... it makes sense.

So very grateful to be a part of this new way to be church. Thank you.

[Jacklynne Guimond, Fort Frances, ON]

Eucharistic liturgies on Zoom have allowed members of our Sourdough community to keep in touch during the Pandemic. We’ve had some new people ask to celebrate with us.

From once a month meetings, we decided to meet twice, and will probably move our dates to not coincide with liturgies in Regina and Calgary. Not everyone is comfortable with Zoom, but everyone receives the liturgy and can pray in union if not on line with us.

For now at least, our members want to continue with the “women’s prayer group” format. All of us are grateful to have Cathy as our Zoom coordinator.

[Marie, Sudbury, ON]

Our experience with the online Eucharist with Mary of Magdala Inclusive Catholic Community enhances our sense of family.  We read the Scripture readings together and discern what they meant to our lives. It enhances our Sundays. We thank the presider and Zoom host for all the work they put into this.

We were nostalgic for the intimacy of our celebrations when we were able to be together face to face. We miss the atmosphere, the hugs, the feeling of family and the many conversations during lunches.

[Bob and Elizabeth, Regina, SK]

While Zoom technology has made live interaction possible, I think we need to remember that Zoom is not accessible to certain categories of members.  In order to access Zoom one needs good up-to-date hardware, reliable Wi-Fi access, and the ability to work with new technology.  This eliminates many participants who cannot afford computers or smartphones, or who cannot pay the monthly fees for service which can run $70-100 per month, or who have limited or no local coverage.

As a point of comparison, one local diocesan newspaper just printed its last edition, and will only be available online from now on, even though the editors acknowledge that this cost-cutting move will eliminate a significant percentage of their most faithful readers, especially the elderly.

We need to think creatively about outreach and community-building beyond Zoom.
[A longtime supporter of RCWP, Ottawa, ON]

Liturgical disruption – what it looks like -- both for the good and for the bad

J.P. Grayland, | August 26, 2020

The transference of Mass's performance-based ritual from the sanctuary to the screen did not disrupt already existing liturgical behaviours; priests did what they normally do – perform the rituals, and believers did what they normally do – watch the rituals being performed.

Thus, the ritual behaviours didn't change because the already dominant operative behaviours were not disrupted.

The behavioural disruption came with the inability to recreate the physical presence of the community and physical participation in the shared eucharistic meal – even to the point where concelebrating presbyters use separate chalices and individually consecrated hosts rather than sharing these elements.

If anything, the online mass has unwittingly contributed to the liturgical disruption of the physical liturgical community through taking the viewer from the pew to the couch.

Read More of this article which compares our current liturgies to disruptive innovation in business corporations

Real Presence and Virtual Liturgies

Felix Just, S.J., | April 28, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic, tragic as it is, is also inspiring pastoral reflection and theological debates that will hopefully bring the Church to deeper insights and renewed practices. One current topic of heated discussion is the "virtual" celebration of the Eucharist, and the related question of about what is "real."

(Part I) "Virtual" celebration of the Eucharist, and the related question of about what is "real."

(Part II) - The difference between watching Mass on TV and participating in a live-streamed liturgy

Read More of both parts

Nothing Sacred -- Living out the Eucharist

Nothing Sacred is a movie drama series. It stars a passionate priest/teacher who questions his calling, his existence, and his faith as he deals with the problems of the poor and the troubled.

Nothing Sacred is an focuses on the life and times of the administration of St. Thomas' church, a Roman Catholic parish.  It is a realistic (if somewhat fast-paced) show that takes real issues facing people today... and puts a religious spin on things.

Perhaps the best aspect of the show is its unabashed belief in the existence of God. The main characters pray, and they talk about their faith. We see actual Roman Catholic liturgy in action. We hear homilies that drive the point home.

The overwhelming message of the show is that we are to love and care for other people, just as Christ did when he was on Earth.

For your convenience, here are direct links to the first two episodes:

Episode 1 -- Nothing Sacred -- Proofs for the Existence of God

Episode 2 -- Nothing Sacred -- Song of Songs

Francis, the comic strip  by Pat Marrin August 27, 2020
National Catholic Reporter

Used with permission

To send a Comment to the Editor, please use this email address: or use the form below:

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