Sunday, April 19, 2020

Chafing Under Confinement

As we continue the quarantine, we’re seeing a growing frustration with the confinement. Some protests are emerging against perceived heavy-handedness of the enforcement, combined with the need to get back to the proper balance of life. Even in the Church, we’re seeing some critics claim that the Church is “rolling over” for the state and should be allowing public mass. I’ve even seen a few—I pray they are merely trolls—say that they’re considering leaving the Church because some other denominations defy the state. Effectively, they say they’re considering leaving the Church for not providing sacraments and going to a Church that has no sacraments.

This attitude shows the chafing among the faithful. We want to be able to return to normal. I find the second reading for today’s Mass (Divine Mercy Sunday, Year A if you happen across this later) to be useful to our times:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope

through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,

kept in heaven for you

who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith,

to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while

you may have to suffer through various trials,

so that the genuineness of your faith,

more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire,

may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor

at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Although you have not seen him you love him;

even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,

you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,

as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)


This is a trial, of course. Admittedly, not a trial like those who suffer persecution endure. But those who take their Faith seriously want to be able to return to the Mass and the Sacraments. The temptation is to look for someone to blame, either at a secular level (President, Congress, Governors) or the Church level (Pope, Bishops) for denying them something they need.

But we’ve been here before. During the 1918 Influenza pandemic, one of the priests, Father James E. Coyle† wrote in regards to the quarantine of the time:

You are for the first time in your lives deprived of the opportunity of hearing Mass on Sunday, and you will, I trust from this very circumstance, appreciate more thoroughly what Holy Mass is for the Catholics….

…Ah, brethren, let us today reflect on the meaning and the history of that great sacrifice at which we may not assist, a sacrifice that links us with the saints and sages of every age from Christ’s time till now, and let us beg God in his mercy to remove from us that sickness that keeps us deprived of the great sacrifice, so that soon we may again with glad, worshipful hearts, meet in our churches and assist in offering to the All High that clean oblation, seen by the prophet Malachy in vision, that sacrifice that is offered in every place from the rising to the set of sun.

I think that we can make use of the words of St. Peter and the words of Fr. Coyle to our advantage. This is a trial, and we have been deprived of the opportunity to go to Mass. Let us consider how we respond to it and appreciate what we have ordinarily but can take for granted so easily. Let us pray for deliverance from this pandemic so we might have the Mass restored to us.

In doing so, let us practice patience with the hardships we suffer and neither respond with blame nor acquiesce to injustice. If we believe that an injustice is being committed at the secular level, then let us respond in a manner fitting for Catholics, recognizing the legitimate authority where it is properly applied. If we have concerns with the spiritual needs and appeal to the Church under canon 212 §2 + 3, then let us remember that the canon requires that we present our petitions “with reverence toward their pastors.”

Pope Francis recognizes the need for the Sacraments, saying:

The Church, the Sacraments, the People of God are concrete. It’s true that at this moment we must have this familiarity with the Lord in this way, but we must come out of the tunnel, not stay there.

We need to be prudent, yes. But we also need the Sacraments. So, let us consider how we might increase access to the Sacraments prudently, letting our pastors know our suggestions, while complying with the quarantine and being respectful of our pastors. And let us pray for deliverance from the pandemic.

But while we are forced apart, let us consider the value of what we are separated from and resolve to never treat the Mass and the Sacraments lightly again. 



(†) He was murdered in 1921 by an Anglican minister for marrying a Puerto Rican man to his daughter. The murder seems to have been motivated by a combination of racism and anti-Catholicism.

(‡) I recommend reading his entire address which is presented in the link.

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