EPIDEMIC OUTBREAK FORCES LOCAL CHURCH TO REINVENT ITSELF – When spiritual meets digital. Easter retreat in the Internet age

– Marco Carvalho

The traditional Easter retreat promoted by the Diocese of Macau has migrated to the digital world. Macau’s Portuguese-speaking faithful were given the opportunity to prepare for the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with the help of YouTube. Promoted by Father Daniel Ribeiro, the initiative was held until last Sunday.

A twenty-five minute, daily digital retreat with multimedia support that invited people to reflect on how they should anticipate and prepare for Easter. The Diocese of Macau promoted until last Sunday a spiritual retreat via the Internet with the aim of helping Macau’s Portuguese-speaking faithful to prepare for the most important moment of the Church’s liturgical calendar, Easter.

The new coronavirus pandemic has led the local Church to opt for a cautious approach to the Holy Week celebrations and to cancel all the events that could eventually lead to public gatherings. One of the initiatives that are usually promoted by the Diocese, Father Daniel Ribeiro recalls, is precisely a retreat that aims to spiritually prepare the local Catholics for the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: “The retreat always takes place on Good Friday, starting from early morning, and on Holy Saturday. This year, given the circumstances, this retreat was canceled, but we in the diocese promoted a seven-day online retreat,” the Brazilian priest told O Clarim. “This retreat started last week, on Monday, lasted until Sunday and it involved a 25 minutes daily reflection and also a song. People were able to follow this process from their own homes.”

These daily reflections can still be found on Father Daniel Ribeiro’s YouTube channel. The initiative, which attracted hundreds of devotees – from Macau, but also from other parts of the world – was initially aimed at helping local Catholics to prepare for the Holy Week and for the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “We are obviously concerned with people’s spirituality and with the contribution that we can make so that people can celebrate Easter as joyfully as possible,” Daniel Ribeiro admits. “Our aim was to help the local faithful to prepare for the Holy Week. During the Holy Week we have homilies and together with homilies a song is suggested, which helps people to reflect on the Gospel and on the Word of God. Then there are the celebrations of the Easter Triduum, which will be broadcasted live from the Church of Saint Lazarus,” Father Ribeiro adds.