Rorate Caeli

Apocalyptic: Masses Suspended in All Italy Until April 3rd - "Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo"

From the First Lesson for Matins of Holy Thursday:

"Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo..." How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people, how is she become as a widow she that was was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary. She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits. The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. (Lamentations of Jeremiah, 1:1-5)

Following yesterday evening's urgent decree of the Italian central government imposing a lockdown in the entire region of Lombardy and of provinces in the regions of Veneto, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, and Marche, in order to control the spread of the currently spreading strain of coronavirus, already overwhelming the intensive care units of Northern Italy, the government extended the prohibition of "civil and religious ceremonies, funerals included," to the entire country today. And this Sunday the Italian Bishops' Conference made a shock announcement: Masses with the faithful suspended throughout the country until April 3rd (that's right before Holy Week). 

Masses are still supposed to be celebrated, one hopes in common sense, but in private (sine populo), and the lay faithful can make spiritual communion (see how here).

Not in the many wars of the past, not in persecutions, not ever since the Gospel first reached its shores, have the entire Italian peninsula and adjoining islands remained without Mass for the people. Even in the catacombs, the Liturgy (the work of the people) still went on, under severe persecution of the pagan Emperors.

Is it an overreaction? On the one hand, it is laudable that the Church wants to do her utmost to prevent a complete collapse of a public health system. On the other, we are talking about Italy here, and on this very Sunday, on Ligurian beaches, multitudes gathered to enjoy the sunny day:

It seems incongruous that the Church forbids access to the Sacraments during Lent while beaches, parks, and supermarkets remain places where crowds might still gather. We hope this extraordinary effort pays off: we can only believe God Himself, exhausted with the unfaithfulness of a coddled people, is forcing the nation on whose center He decided to place the throne of His Vicar on earth to observe an enforced penance for Lent.

Italy lives in the hearts of all Catholics: Rome is our home. We cry for this great spiritual tragedy.

We invite all Catholics, under the guidance of their confessors, to do extra penance for the restoration of spiritual life in our beloved Italy. May God have mercy:

Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo: ne in aeternum irascaris nobis!