Kneeling in front of the PC: first 'online' for Malaysian Catholics
by Joseph Masilamany

Due to the coronavirus, Malaysia’s bishops suspended public Masses until 29 March. A “day of prayer and fasting” will be held next Thursday “to invoke the intercession of God and Saint Joseph”. For one churchgoer, without this special service, “we would be like sheep without our Sunday pasture”.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – For the first time in the history of the Malaysian Church, Catholics took part in a Sunday Mass celebrated and broadcast live from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur (see video below).

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Peninsular Malaysia, Archbishop Julian Leow of Kuala Lumpur, Bishop Sebastian Francis of Penang, and Bishop Bernard Paul of Malacca-Johor jointly issued a pastoral letter last Thursday announcing the suspension of all public masses as of Friday, 13 March, until 29 March because of the coronavirus emergency.

The letter also notes that next Thursday, 19 March, the solemnity of Saint Joseph, will be “a day of prayer and fasting" to invoke the intercession of the saint and the intervention of God to end the crisis.

Other Christian denominations, including the Anglican communities of eastern and western Malaysia, have taken similar measures to counter the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The online Mass, which began precisely at 10.30 am, was held at the Church of the Divine Mercy Shah Alam, the capital of the State of Selangor. Fr Andrew Kooi, from the Holy Family parish in Kajang, was the celebrating priest, assisted by Fr Michael Chuah, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, who translated the service into sign language.

The Nathans were one of the families that followed the Mass online. Mariasoosai Nathan, a retired IT technician, his wife Rose and daughter Juanita live in Alam Megah. To watch the service, they cleared the dining table and placed a computer on it, making sure that its battery was fully charged.

At the end of the mass, which lasted almost an hour, Rose felt like she had been physically present. “There was so much solemnity and reverence in the home even before the Mass since we prepared ourselves spiritually for this new online form of Sunday worship,” she said.

“I am grateful to the Church for providing this special service; otherwise we would be like sheep without our Sunday pasture, left bereft of our pastor’s teaching for the week.”

Like her mother, Juanita, who is a special needs teacher, also felt included in the celebration. “I too felt blessed at the holy moment of consecrating the bread and wine. Our home felt like a sacred place where the silence and symbols of the liturgy came alive so enchantingly.” Still, she “missed the physical fellowship among friends and other churchgoers.

“Online Mass is not the same thing,” she explained. Still, “but thanks to digital technology, we have some alternative way to keep holy our Sabbath.”

In the end, “This online service was well celebrated and I thank the Church for taking this measure, heeding the call of health authorities to counter the spread of the virus.”