By Robert B. Roque, Jr.
Today, being a Maundy Thursday, this corner defers to the solemnity of the occasion and, instead of a rant, enjoin readers to focus on what our priest calls the “unum necessarium” or “the one thing necessary.” In this case, the focus should be given to Christ and His Sacred Passion more than anything else.
* * *
First, it is worth noting that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Diseases (IATF) has finally declared the church or religious sector as part of “essential services.” Thus, it is now categorized alongside food, banking, transportation, and the like, whose operations are considered of utmost importance when the IATF makes its decisions.
It might not completely satisfy the demand of Bishop Broderick Pabillo for the religious sector to gain a seat in the national policy-making body combating the pandemic. Still, hope has been raised that IATF now acts with priority for the spiritual wellbeing of a nation so clung to its faith.
* * *
The Philippines’ Catholic leadership also deserves kudos for contributing to the whole-nation approach to arrest the frightening resurgence of COVID-19 in our midst. Even before Saturday’s announcement of a return to ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) to limit the high level of transmission of the virus at this time, many dioceses and archdioceses have already canceled Holy Week liturgical services that would draw crowds of the faithful.
Instead, many bishops and parish priests promoted “worship from home” and “family prayer” activities aided by live and interactive online church services. For example, the Archdiocese of Manila encourages heads of each family to take the place of priests in leading revered Lenten prayers and activities. If you’re the head of your family, don’t worry. The liturgical services will still be guided by priests whose parishes would livestream religious services through various social media platforms.
* * *
For today, all that needs to be done is very simple. All we are called to do as heads of the family is to perform the washing of the feet of our household members during this evening’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Tomorrow, Good Friday, the whole family is called to tune in to the Seven Last Words at noon and spend time together reflecting on one another’s lives. On Black Saturday, a simple morning prayer could help family members get started and maintain the atmosphere of solemnity throughout the day, then light a candle at night as we keep vigil for Christ’s rising from the tomb.
Then, on Easter Sunday, the family celebrates Holy Mass online with the lighting of an Easter candle at home and the Renewal of Baptismal Vows to be capped by each member tracing the sign of the cross on one another’s forehead.
And don’t forget acts of charity and praying the Oratio Imperata (obligatory prayers) to raise to God our petition that this tragic COVID-19 pandemic may come to an end.
* * *