Rituals or Spirituality?

Brad Rozairo, OMI – During this time of the pandemic, those involved in parish ministry begin to ask, what is going to be the future of our churches? When the state of emergency is imposed, the churches stop celebrating masses and other activities, but when the state of emergency is lifted, the masses resume. Is this going to be the pattern from now on? No one knows, except the virus!

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Mt. 6:26). These words in the Bible clearly teach us that Jesus gave more value to human life. At this time of the pandemic as we treasure the gift of life, we are also being invited to think about our spirituality and way of worship.

As you know, we are so used to a liturgy-centred spirituality which has made us think that if we do not go to church, attend mass and receive communion we will not be saved. But the present pandemic crisis is inviting us to look beyond a liturgy-centred spirituality.

We need to realize that a church building is not the only place where spirituality sprouts. How about our families, workplace, schools, nature etc.? These are also places where spirituality takes root. Church worship is good, but according to my observation people gather without being anybody to anybody. Whereas, a family that comes together to pray, helps foster better spirituality because of its closeness.

As COVID-19 forces us to maintain social distance many are turning to natural settings to re-connect with nature or Mother Earth. We admire the beauty of God in creation. Nature for example is not just a collection of mountains, trees and rivers, but a powerful source that enables us to connect with God, and thus, it enhances our spirituality. I feel that when we get used to a liturgy-centred spirituality, there is a tendency to forget that creation itself is a sacred text through which the presence of God is revealed to us.

If you take for example a few Catholic schools or church-run kindergartens, you will notice that in these places it is not only the mind is being fed, but also the heart. When the soul is nourished by the teachings of some great religious leaders like Jesus or Buddha, it kind of helps lay the foundation for spirituality.

When you listen to some non-Christians who have been educated in Catholic schools, you begin to feel that they have developed a certain sense of spirituality. I regret to say that now-a-days you do not really see this in many baptized Christians who attend mass and church services. One reason could be that we have given more importance to rituals than help one develop his/her spirituality.

Jesus did not come to this world to advocate an institutionalized spirituality. We go back to the Scriptures to learn what he said to the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus told her that “a time is coming, and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks”. (John4:23). Don’t you think that Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to worship in spirit and truth anywhere? I think, instead of blaming the pandemic for not having our usual church services, let us find other ways and means of practicing spirituality.

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(One Example) Sri Lanka: Poson Poya is an annual Buddhist festival marking the introduction of the religion to Sri Lanka. This year, Buddhists have stopped all their community activities and temple rituals due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, they participated in live online and recorded programs during the festival which was celebrated on June 24, 2021.

Poson Poya – recorded participation
Poson Poya – online participation
Poson Poya – family participation
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