The other morning I dropped by at the church in the small town not far from my village to check the hours of daily mass. To my surprise, I discovered that there is now only one mass a week in town, on Saturday evening. The priest from another small town has to take care of both places.
I have been accustomed to having a pastor who attends to seven villages. This is the way Church is in France these days. After all 600 souls, out of which maybe ten show up at mass, explains the decision to share a priest. But 5 to 7,000 people having only a mass a week feels alarming to me.
One has to be moved by a strong urge to receive the Eucharist to get up early and drive a ways off for a morning mass in a chapel on the side of the main road, or spend 45 mn in traffic to reach a main town.
Vocations in France have been dropping for years. We need to invite African and Asian priests, very much needed in their own country, to take care of us. What surprises me is that no religious sister is asked to step in. No layperson, woman or man, is being trained to replace the priest and share consecrated hosts with the community. Such a formation does not seem to exist yet. Here at least. (I have seen it in Seattle, years ago)
On Facebook, I have come across a Spiritual Communion Prayer, which I use every day:
O Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
This dearth of priests will stop, of course, the day the Catholic hierarchy no longer fears the call of women to deaconry and priesthood. Until then, we will continue crossing a Eucharistic desert with Jesus on our side. A beautiful thought, really.
Photo: Monastery of MontsVoirons, France