Simon and Ida sat, dismayed, on their platform couch. “Can you pause it please?” asked a desperate Simon.
“One, it's livestreaming, so no,” replied Ida a bit curtly. “Two, it's Mass. Do you pause Mass?”
“You do when you realize the toys strewn all over the pews should have been cleaned up before Mass began,” Simon replied dryly.
Ida laughed. “Our family room is not used to being a being a sanctuary in Church.” Ida projected her mom-voice. “You have one minute. Toys up. Go!”
Eight kids grabbed their toys and ran, inexplicably choreographed so they didn't run into each other as they bashed the toys into place. Two minutes later they plumped back on the couches. Ida figured that was as good as it could get. “Thank you!”
Simon added, pointing around the family room, “This is Church while we watch Mass. Behave as you do at Church.” The kids shrugged and moped and stared everywhere but the screen.
On screen, Father George was already proclaiming the Gospel. After the Gospel, he began his homily, though in the chaos of the kids, much of it couldn't be heard. When Simon and Ida finally got them settled, they heard:
“Death begins eating away at us the moment we are conceived. Mortal death. We are all going to die. We are all dying right now. This mortal coil is a terminal condition.
“Fear not! Jesus vanquished death! Saint Paul asks 'Death, where is thy sting?,'” not because he had never experienced death, but because of his certain knowledge that Jesus destroyed death.”
“Daddy, why's Father George talking about death so much?”
“Great question, Scholla. Listen and see if you learn the answer.”
“I'm scared. Are we going to die?”
Simon held out his arm to his youngest, Tommy, who snuggled in, somehow still in his pajamas. “How do I explain this, simply?” he wondered. “We all grow old and die someday. That's what Father George is saying, Tommy.”
Meanwhile, in the Branch house, twelve people — two parents, one grandma, and nine children — knelt on the floor before the screen.
“A beautiful way to pray the Mass, when you can't go,” said Grandma, “is to send our guardian angel to Mass. They go for us.” She pulled out a prayer card and prayed the prayer sending guardian angels to Mass. “O Holy Angel at my side, go to the church for me, kneel in my place at Holy Mass, where I desire to be...” She continued praying, concluding, “... Then bring me Jesus' blessing home, the pledge of every grace. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
“Oh, Granny!” said Luke, bouncing as he knelt, “that's just like the art study we did on the Communion of Saints at Mass, the One Mass!”
“Shhh!” urged Anna, elbowing her younger brother in the shoulder, “They're processing in.”
They knelt in silence, praying throughout Mass.
Afterwards, Bernard asked them what they thought about praying the Mass without being there.
“I miss Jesus,” said Barbara, the ten-year-old.
“I read something from Pope Benedict XVI,” said Bernard, “that said Saint Augustine fasted from Jesus as he neared death, and that doing so can help us never to take receiving Jesus in the Eucharist for granted.”
“Like Father George said, I hunger for Him all the more,” agreed Luke.
“What did you think of his telling of why God made us?” asked their mother, Catherine.
“I had never heard it put that way,” answered Anna, now age 18. “He expanded on 'For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son' with: 'before all time and space, God so yearned for deep, abiding, eternal relationship with us that he made the world out of all possibilities, this way, knowing full well the virus of sin would overwhelm us and we would be helpless against it, and Jesus would wash us clean with His blood, that we might have deep, abiding, eternal relationship with Him, and death would have no sting.'”
“That is a beautiful way to succinctly explain our faith,” agreed Catharine.
“I was scared when he said we were all going to die,” said eight-year-old James. “But then he said that knowing we'll die frees us so we can live with Jesus.”
“Mommy, what is death?” chimed in five-year-old Teresa.
“You know how you've seen pictures of Grandpa, but he isn't with us?” asked Catharine.
“Yeah. We pray for him,” said little Teresa assuringly.
“Yes. Because Grandpa died, so we pray for him that he may be in heaven with Jesus,” added Bernard.
“Am I going to die, Mommy?”
“We all will, one day, sweetheart. Whenever God wishes to bring us home to Him.”
This story has ended, our calling just begun. Come Holy Spirit! Pour through our souls, washing away all that is less than your breath you first breathed into us at the moment of our conception, that we may breathe that breath into the world by choosing powerful and simple mercies. May you bless us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.