“We realize that for a lot of people, the Liturgy of the Hours can be confusing or intimidating. It can be really difficult to navigate. And a lot of times people don't know about it or if they're even doing it correctly. So we thought we could put together a little resource for real liturgical prayer in the home on Sundays to help families unite themselves to this one never ending eternal prayer of the Church, which is a part of liturgy,” he said.
The Liturgy of the Hours are a set of prayers, including Psalms and readings from both the Old and New Testaments, that are prayed multiple times a day throughout the world by Catholic priests, nuns, and religious sisters and brothers, Bartlett said, but the Church also invites lay Catholics to pray the Hours as well.
“All of the lay faithful are invited to join in this prayer,” he said.
While watching a livestream Mass can be a place to start for families, Bartlett said he hopes Catholics will also consider praying the Liturgy of the Hours with their families, because of its sacramental and liturgical nature.
“As Catholics, our worship is sacramental... meaning that God communicates himself to us through physical things. And we're able to worship and to pray not only in a purely spiritual way, but also in a physical way with our bodies, with our voices, with gesture, with things that engage all of our senses,” he said.
Mass, of course, uses all of these things, he added. Catholics sit, stand, speak, sing, listen, smell incense and taste the Eucharist.
“It engages all of our senses,” he said. “And this is the way that Christ chose to draw us to himself and to unite us to himself in not only a spiritual way but in a very real sacramental way.”
But if Catholics only participate in prayer through a screen for the next few months, they will miss out on the sacramentality of the liturgy of the Church, he said.
“That can be a little bit more of a passive engagement rather than a real physical participation in the liturgy itself,” he said.
Another reason he would encourage Catholics to pray the Liturgy of the Hours would be because it would feel set apart from the day-to-day activities, which, during a time of pandemic, will increasingly take place in front of a screen, he said.
“Part of the nature of liturgical prayer is that it's intentionally set apart; and another way of saying that is that it's sacred. We use sacred objects. It's set apart from the ordinary aspects of our life,” he said.
“Now, being in our homes will limit our ability to go into a beautiful church and into a sacred place for prayer. But if we think about watching the Mass in the same place where we watch Netflix, there's a kind of challenge there, in that it's not a place that we're setting apart for the sacred,” he said.
“So really what we're encouraging people to do, particularly on Sundays, on the Lord's Day, is to create a kind of sacred space in their home for prayer and to engage in it themselves,” Bartlett added.
Fr. Ryan Hilderbrand, the pastor of St. Mary's in Huntingburg, Indiana, is streaming and posting his Masses on his new YouTube channel. He said watching Mass on a livestream or on TV on Sundays can be a great start for families, but he also encouraged them to participate in “age-appropriate devotionals.”
“Watching a live stream is a great way to participate in the Mass if someone can't attend. Actual graces are still present and can stir the heart to a deeper relationship with Jesus,” Hildebrand told CNA.
“However, it is clearly different from participating in Mass by one's physical presence. Among other things, Mass is the reunion of Christ the Head with his Mystical Body, the Church. We are all sons and daughters of the Father, coming together as that one body in Jesus for Mass. Additionally, we are made members of one another at Mass - we carry one another's burdens, offer support and prayer, and encourage one another in worshiping the Father,” he added.
Besides prayer and watching Mass, Hildebrand encouraged families to observe Sundays as a day of joy and rest by spending time together.
“For families with kids, they could follow the old rule of ‘spirituality, service, silliness’ - that is, pray together, do something constructive together, and have fun together,” he said.
Service might look different under social distancing, he added, but it could be cleaning out closets together or collecting toys and clothes for future donations.
As for silliness -“Have fun together! Watch a movie, play a board game, joust with pool noodles - what is important is that they do something as a family,” he said.
Calvin Mueller is the coordinator of rural parish evangelization at the Archdiocese of Omaha, which had Mass last weekend, but announced on Monday the “indefinite” suspension of public Masses and other sacraments with 10 or more people present.
That day, Mueller posted to his Facebook page a personalized “Mueller Family Pandemic Plan,” which included plans for worship and prayer, and asked his friends for feedback.
With three children under the age of 5, Mueller said planning a lot of structured prayer time is difficult. Their family plans to say a daily rosary, for example, but they will say only as many decades as they can “until our kids lose it,” he said.
As for Sundays, Mueller said the family plans on watching their local parish’s livestream Mass and making a spiritual communion. Mueller said he also wants to plan his family’s Sundays around three different areas: reverence of holy things, reverence of others, and experiencing the joy of Christ.
Even if a family does not stream Mass, Mueller said they could spend some time in silence and prayer with “engagement in scripture, making a spiritual communion, and the rosary.”
As for reverencing others, Mueller said he would encourage families to think about who they could reach out to either through phone calls or video chats on Sundays.
“That might be grandparents, or other loved ones, in order that you can experience community together,” Mueller said.
Mueller added that even though most restaurants and venues are closed, Sundays should not stop being days to experience the joy of the Lord. “That might mean baking a particular food, or serving a particular drink, or playing a game that you know is going to bring life to your family,” he said.
Ultimately, while this is an “unprecedented time” in the life of the modern Church, Mueller said he is viewing it as a gift that calls for an “unprecedented response” from Christians.
“I see this as a tremendous gift, to actually be able to slow down and reevaluate the sainthood that Christ is calling all of us to. And I'm grateful that people are recognizing the ephemeral pleasures that they're used to...are not adequate for what the Lord has really made us for. So to have this time, to actually have that come to the light, I see it as a tremendous gift and my hope is that the Church, and ourselves as the Church, will seize this opportunity to fill the void.”