There are good days and then there are bad days in all our lives. For the most part I have endured this lockdown in my home as well as anyone due in large part to the fact I am not alone. I share the confinement with a loving patient husband. I receive much satisfaction from the daily texts I get from friends in Chicago and Texas and I look forward each morning to opening my email and reading the newest posts on my favorite Catholic websites. I am supported by my children who are busy with their own lives, but never forget to check in with their parents.
all of us miss, of course, is Church, which is completely absent from our lives
when probably the world needs it the most---a time of uncertainty, of loss, of
death, of fear and frustration, of isolation and doubt. We are told, “Watch mass online,” as if this
is a perfectly acceptable alternative to our actual presence and witness to
what we profess. “Well, it will do,” we
are told, “until this is over.” I
somehow doubt people will agree to set aside the practice of their faith as
though it were something like a hobby and pick it up again at some later date
without questioning the necessity of doing so.
Today we are
told that liquor stores are open because they are “essential.” Church is not essential. The loss of the one might create problems
among those addicted to alcohol so those stores have remained open EVERYWHERE
in this country, whereas not a single Catholic Church has offered what truly
matters to all of us, the worship of God, Holy Communion, and for many,
Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion.
The Church has been completely in line with civil authority and has done
nothing at the chancellery level to serve the sheep creatively, and safely, and
reverently. I don’t call watching mass
in your bathrobe drinking coffee reverent, however “convenient” that may be. If that were the case, then the vast majority
will never leave their living rooms again to trek to the parish and sit through
a twangy piano recital of feel good Protestant music, handshake obviously sick people
on their left and right, and listen to “all merciful sermons” from liberal
priests who will tell you we ALL probably go to heaven in the end. Luv
and forgiveness, luv and forgiveness, luv and forgiveness, ahmmmm…… ahmmm
We are told
by some elected Democrats that in the coming weeks the category of “essential
business and activities” will be expanded.
Think about that. The definition
of essential is that which is “absolutely necessary, extremely important.” If I pack my suitcase with “the essentials, I
will probably leave out things like my favorite evening dress, costume jewelry,
and a pair of shoes for each outfit. We
all know what IS and what is NOT essential to our lives. If we begin to include in the suitcase other
items we are not free to call them essential when we know they are NOT
necessary. Essential is essential
and cannot be expanded. You might argue
well, my yoga mat is essential to me even if it isn’t essential to someone
else. I would argue my Bible is
essential to me whereas, it is an item that might never cross most people’s
minds. So, it is true, subjectively
speaking, essential may vary from one person to the next, but how sad is it, I
ask you, when the USCCB remained silent, was compliant, and every bishop across
the country did nothing to argue for Catholics that whether anyone else thinks
so or not, the Eucharist IS essential to our lives. It isn’t just a habit. Nor is it a hobby we enjoy when it is
convenient. It is essential. We have been deprived of it and no one in the
hierarchy seems to care about the fact millions of souls will never set foot in
a Catholic Church again when this is over having come to the conclusion that
going to church is not essential.
likely to be any problem at all in a great many parishes of how to handle
social distancing. Few will show
up. They will be home in their slippers
drinking coffee as they were told was ok to do two weeks ago. How can church attendance be essential today
when it wasn’t essential last week, bishops?
How wonderful it might have been if every bishop had encouraged parking
lot masses throughout the USA. How
wonderful it might have been if they came themselves and went through those
parking lots blessing every car and the faithful in them. How wonderful, if they had led weekly
processions through the streets of their diocese. Where were they?
So when this is over, will people return? Will it be as easy to get them there and convince them it is essential, as it was to tell them “just don’t worry about it for the time being?” I suspect people won’t embrace it as an action as simple as pulling the Christmas tree out of the box after a year in storage. They will more likely tell themselves, “why bother?” I never liked those sermons anyway.
For those of us who will return, hungry for the Body of Christ, the next question is, how will we weather the storm of struggling to keep the doors open with severe budget shortages and shriveled collection plate contributions? Anyone who thinks “going back to church” will go on as usual is delusional. There will be hanging over the head of every pastor the worry his parish will be closed by his bishop. And no amount of wishing it weren’t so will save your parish once the powers that be have decided who gets the axe. Essential going forward will be determined by the bishop from his own subjective point of view, and I fear any parish that can’t meet the financial demands of the bishop will be seen as here today and gone tomorrow. Just not that essential. When men run church like they would a corporation, and they all do, it is the money that matters and little else. If it were not true, they would have fought to keep them open for the sake of their sheep.