In emotional Mass via livestream, Archbishop Vigneron pledges to build grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes as a ‘perpetual reminder’ of her care

DETROIT — Before a Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament that was physically empty, but filled with the prayers, hopes and souls of thousands across Metro Detroit, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron entrusted the protection of the Archdiocese of Detroit during the coronavirus crisis to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On the third Sunday of Lent, Archbishop Vigneron spoke directly into the hearts and homes of Catholics throughout the archdiocese who — many for the first time in their lives — had been told to stay home from Sunday Mass.

With only two concelebrating priests, lectors, altar servers, choir members and camera operators present, the archbishop celebrated Mass livestreamed to the faithful, ensuring those watching of his prayers and the listening ear of God. 

“Before I offer my reflection, I want to assure everyone who is listening to me via electronic media, by livestream, that I’m one with all of you in prayer,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “It is, of course, a great sadness that in order to mitigate the advance of the coronavirus, we are not able to have the public celebration of the sacred liturgy today. But it is for us a blessing at least to be united in prayer through this medium. And so, I assure all of you that I bring all of your intentions with me to the altar.”

On Friday, the archbishop announced the suspension of all public Masses throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit as a response to the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus. 

As the pandemic unfolds, more than 30 people in Michigan have been diagnosed, with health experts warning that if nothing is done to contain it, the virus could easily overwhelm American hospitals and health care facilities, leading to dire consequences such as seen in Italy, where doctors have been forced to ration care and turn critical patients away. 

Seminarians serving as altar servers lead the opening procession during an unprecedented televised Mass with no congregation from the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on the third Sunday of Lent.

In his 10-minute homily, Archbishop Vigneron implored the faithful to stay close to Christ and his mother during the crisis, to make a daily spiritual communion, and to use the time away from Mass to “renew our gratitude for the Eucharist.”

Reflecting upon the day’s Gospel of the Samaritan woman at the well, Archbishop Vigneron said Jesus’ thirst and his subsequent promise to give himself as “living water” reflects the thirst for Communion the faithful now feel.

“We experience today in a powerful way, the thirst we cannot slake physically. We cannot gather to share in the Eucharist,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “In the year of grace 2020, we feel in an unprecedented way our thirst for Communion, our thirst for living water. We suffer.

“But we are disciples of Christ, and we recognize that history unfolds according to God’s providential Lordship,” the archbishop continued. “We need, then, to look for the grace that’s offered to us in this cross we experience, of being without the celebration of the Eucharist publicly in these days.” 

Archbishop Vigneron raises his eyes to heaven during the consecration. The archbishop became emotional as he addressed the archdiocese via livestream, leading the faithful in a prayer for spiritual communion.

By not being able to gather for Mass, Archbishop Vigneron said, “I believe all of us will come to a new and profound appreciation for what a blessing the holy Eucharist is, a blessing we too often take for granted. We ought to be resolved not to grow accustomed to this absence of the celebration of the Eucharist in public.”

Apart from the echoing cathedral, the liturgy proceeded as normal, with the notable absences of the Sign of Peace and the reception of Communion — which was reserved to just the archbishop and his two concelebrating priests, cathedral rector Fr. J.J. Mech and Fr. Mario Amore, pastor of St. Aloysius Parish in downtown Detroit.

During the time when the faithful would normally receive Communion, Archbishop Vigneron instead turned to the cameras and led the archdiocese in a prayer for spiritual communion.

The ancient, pious practice is a way for the faithful to “ask the Lord Jesus to give us the graces that would come to us were we able to receive his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity sacramentally,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

An empty, echoing Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament stands as a reminder of the stark reality of the coronavirus crisis outside, but also a reminder of the trust the Church places in the protection of God.

“We ask God to work in our hearts, the Holy Spirit to do within us what He would be doing were we able to receive the sacrament,” he said. “So, I invite everyone, please, be resolved every Sunday while we are suspended from our public assemblies to make a spiritual communion.”

Archbishop Vigneron invited families to make the prayer daily, along with Scripture reading and other pious practices. 

Finally, the archbishop implored the faithful to place their trust in the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the coronavirus pandemic.

With tears welling in his eyes and his voice cracking, Archbishop Vigneron pledged to build a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes on the cathedral grounds “as a lasting token of my gratitude, our gratitude, for the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he said.

Archbishop Vigneron addresses the faithful, pledging to build a grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes on the cathedral’s grounds as a token of his gratitude to the Blessed Virgin Mary for her protection during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is my resolve that I will work to build here, on the cathedral grounds, a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, so that will be a lasting, perpetual reminder to all of us that in this trial, Our Lady is with us,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “She’s been given to us by God as a pledge of His closeness, that she will protect us, and that we have nothing to fear.”

As a way to invoke the Blessed Mother’s protection, the archbishop invited the faithful to pray once per day the “Memorare” prayer.

“They tell me you could even use this prayer to accompany your hand washing, because it’s about 20 seconds, which is what the doctors recommend,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “But, in any way, this is an occasion for us to become once more in touch with our confidence in the holy Mother of God that she is our protector in this time of difficulty.”

Prayer for Spiritual Communion

My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire to receive you in 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. Amen.

Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.