There is a petition floating around that is demanding church services be considered an “essential” so the churches can reopen. In Texas, the governor put a stay-at-home order in place, but he also decreed Church as an essential. However, many of the Bishops are still concerned and have said they want to continue to stream Mass through the month of April.
The petition reasons that a church could potentially hold 7 Masses on Sundays if allowing for all the current precautions and social distancing. I am finding myself personally torn by this! Priests will be worn out after such long days, even just once a week, and will become more susceptible to sickness. Even a sniffle is discouraged from leaving the house these days. Plus, most parishes only have 2 priests at most, and maybe 1 retired priest to help out. We are already facing a shortage of priests in America, what sort of damage would this do in our current status of the Church?
They say we still had Mass during the Spanish Flu, but look how long that flu lasted and how many thousands of people died in that time. I long for the physical participation in Divine Liturgy, but not at the expense of sickness, or even death. So many of the elderly would still not attend in fear of catching something, and the moms with 10 littles under 10 at home wouldn’t either in fear of even one of them, or herself, possibly catching COVID-19. Which brings me to a more reasonable petition that I think would allow for a lot more freedom from parish to parish to tend the needs of their flocks.
Ultimately, I respect the decisions being made by the Bishops, even though it stings a bit. We have still had pretty steady access to receiving The Eucharist and Reconciliation in addition to streaming Divine Liturgy. So perhaps the sting isn’t as painful for me as it is for others?
However you want to look at it, though, we are called to obedience. Always Obedience. We are permitted to disagree, but we are never permitted disobedience* nor are we ever permitted to speak unkindly of our local AND universal leader of The Church. To do so is to cause scandal and promote further slander to their name that travels far and wide, never being able to be “unsaid”
So, I beg you to listen to your priest, who is listening to his Bishop, who is your local head of Church. Remain faithful and obedient. We have countless opportunity to make a Spiritual Communion (something we could be doing all the time, COVID-19 or not). We can be building and enriching our domestic church that is our spouses and kids. We, the people, are the Church; the foundation of faith and salt of the earth. It doesn’t feel the same because we are actively participating in a different kind of normal which happens to very similarly resemble life of Christianity in the early days and in the Dark Ages. What a tremendous gift for us today that we can see Divine Liturgy and Mass live, from a distance, rather than nothing at all for days, weeks, or months at a time.
Remember God is in no way limited to a church building. He is not limited to what we know and understand based on where we are in our Faith Journey. We have the catechism to keep us in check. We have found The True Faith, we are bound to all we know and understand about it, and we are bound to continued growth in our knowledge and understanding. But! We are individually bound to that and must not condemn others for not being on the same plane as us, however we must encourage and help others grow by our example of love in the same way a teacher with an expensive college degree helps a kindergartener learn something as simple as what a letter is and the various sounds it can make.
We are still the church and we are still making a journey into Holy Week in preparation for Easter! Christ’s Resurrection is still upon us in this COVID crisis. Don’t get distracted by technicalities, but immerse yourself in further growth. Let’s treat this time as a renewal of our First Communion prep. Let the longing in our hearts burn deep! Let our desire of Him be so powerful we make our every minute a prayer of purification so when we enter the brick and mortar church again, and receive Him into our bodies, it will be as rich an experience as it was the first time, and every time after that. Let us never take for granted, ever again, the gift and honor we have in receiving our Holy, Mighty, and Immortal God in the gift of The Holy Eucharist!
*This is a really great article helping explain the fine line between conscience and obedience.