As we return to lockdown, I am asked once again a familiar question:
What is it like to celebrate Mass in an empty Church?

Firstly, I endeavour to celebrate Mass as reverently and prayerfully as is possible.
Of course, I do that all the time,
but I make sure my actions and pronunciation are clear for the camera and sound.
I talk a little slower than usual.

Secondly, I focus carefully on my parishioners whom I am missing.
Thankfully, several email with requests for prayers and for those dear to them.
I keep them uppermost in my mind. I visualise where people usually sit,
or speak to one or two individuals. Speaking personally, as if to one other person.

Thirdly, I try to ensure that the liturgy is celebrated as carefully as possible.
I make sure I practice the readings.
I have musicians who record the Psalm and Alleluia every week.
Others who compose music - a Pie Jesu for Remembrance Sunday, a Marian Anthem for Eastertide, May and October and other music in Church.
I lead the congregation with four hymns, while still continuing to incense the Altar.
Sometimes balancing all these things at once is a challenge.

Finally, and most importantly, you never know who is watching:
I make sure my homily is at least twice as good as before lockdown - or I work twice as long on it.

Which in turn leads to the second familiar question:
Why does Mass take much longer when you are on your own?
As compared to when I had a congregation?

Come and See!

Fr Paul Fitzpatrick
Parish Priest, Sacred Heart, Henley-on-Thames