Franciscan monastery hosts virtual mass in Brussels
Franciscan friar Jean-Luc found Sunday that God works in mysterious ways as he celebrated mass in an empty Brussels church to several hundred parishioners he could not see.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced houses of worship the world over to use alternative means of connecting with their members, in this case via Facebook from the Saint Antoine monastery.
“The fourth Sunday in Lent. Welcome to all. It is the Sunday of joy. I admit it is very strange for me to celebrate without you, without seeing you, without shaking your hand, without embracing you,” he said as the service began.
“It is undoubtedly also unsettling for you to celebrate the Sunday of joy in such circumstances,” Brother Jean-Luc said to those following at home.
The monk later told AFP he could “never have imagined this would happen. Never. It feels like we are at war. It is really unusual and slightly destabilising.”
He added however that “little by little, I felt a communion, I thought of the people who normally come here, and it warmed my heart.”
The monastery, which dates from 1875, typically hosts around 300 faithful — and around 250 of them followed the service live on Facebook and YouTube.
“Dear brothers, dear sisters, in this challenge of confinement, our nerves, our patience and perhaps our faith are put to the test,” Jean-Luc said.
He urged his followers to stay at home to stem the pandemic’s spread, and to pray for the sick as well as those who care for them.
The small religious community began the experiment a few days ago.
“We felt the need to be a link, to be in contact with our parishioners who are suffering, who find it hard to find the presence of God in all of this,” said Jack, a fellow friar.
“For the faithful, having their church closed… is hard to understand and accept.”