Recently, while speaking to a close friend, we discussed a thought I had regarding the coronavirus lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, churches, companies reopening, schools reopening, etc. This post addresses some of those thoughts.
We all want things to go back to pre-lockdown normal—when we hear of a so-called new normal, we tend to reject that since what we want is for everything to snap back to how it was the first two months of 2020, the pre-pandemic days. However, looking at this solely from a faith point of view, isn’t it possible that God does not want us to return to that form of normal?
If we consider the state of the Catholic Church, can we say our pre-pandemic normal was good? Even before the crisis, we had:
- 3,000+ unborn babies aborted every day.
- Record numbers of couples living together outside of marriage.
- Increasing numbers of people proclaiming themselves as none’s (no religious affiliation).
- Continuing high divorce rates.
- Legal same-sex marriage.
- Church attendance (across all denominations dropping).
- Fewer people believe the faith should animate their decisions and lives.
- Out of control obsession with sports, media, gaming, etc.
I believe well-formed Catholics can conclude God was not likely happy with the state of the church and the faithful (again, all denominations) in the days leading up to the lockdowns. Why would we conclude God would be happy today? What has changed?
Presently, Catholic Churches have been reopening for weeks—at most, Catholic churches have 40-50% attendance rates. There are various reasons for this:
- Many Catholics reject contact tracing.
- They do not want to register to go to Mass.
- They do not want to (or cannot) wear masks to attend Mass.
- They accept distancing—yet they prefer Mass without that restriction.
- They have received a dispensation for not attending Mass until the pandemic passes. Many have become comfortable with viewing Mass live-streamed, getting them to return will be a challenge.
- Some remain concerned and fearful to return.
There is little accomplished by arguing with people about these points; rather, we must find a way to mitigate the concerns and fears. Is God allowing this to happen to help steer us to a better place?
Recall Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the most famous sermon Christ gave. The lessons and truths the Lord gave during that sermon are eternal and cross the millenniums to the world today. Think of the scene as our Lord spoke on a mountainside with the throngs gathered. It was as simple a setting as one can imagine, unfettered with pomp and circumstance, and yet Jesus’ Words were powerful and echo across the generations.
I don’t know about you, yet I truly love the church where I regularly attend Mass. The structure dates to the late 1800s; it is beautiful and holy. It is a throw-back to an era when churches were built to glorify the Lord. Yet, as we Catholics know, it is not the gorgeous stained glass, or the beautiful altar, or the well-worn wooden history-filled pews that make the church beautiful. It is the presence of our Lord in the Tabernacle (and during Consecration) that makes the church holy and beautiful beyond our greatest imaginings. Think again of the Sermon on the Mount, and imagine being there listening to our Lord, seeing Him as He addressed the crowds—the Eucharist is the same person, the same Lord that gave us the Sermon on the Mount, who gave us the Church, who gave us His Blessed Mother Mary, who gave us the angels and the saints and the sacraments.
Perhaps we have lost our way—that is not difficult to believe considering the church has existed for more than 2,000 years. Maybe God is trying to remind us of what is important. We love our faith and all the trappings of our faith, yet one day all churches will be gone when humanity steps into eternity after the Final Judgment. Everything we see—except Christ and the faith—is passing. How often do we think about that? How often do we focus more on the material world and its trappings, rather than on spending eternity with our Lord in Heaven? How many people have an eternal view, rather than a temporal worldly view?
How can we solve this situation? Perhaps we can tap into the practices of our ancestors in faith. They found a way to practice the faith during times of severe persecution—they were able to freely practice the faith in the catacombs, despite the near-constant marginalization and persecution from the Roman Empire. Maybe outdoor Masses with distancing can allow for other restrictions and requirements to be suspended. Jesus had crowds gathered to hear Him give His Sermon on the Mount—can we find a creative way to hold Mass that is approved and yet welcomes many more people to Holy Mass.
It seems today we need saints to rise. People who will help guide the faithful back to Jesus. Prayer is an absolute must–pleading to Jesus, to His Mother Mary, to the Saints. We need to beseech the Heavenly realm for help to attract people back to the fulness of the Lord’s Church, in whatever way fits the will of the Lord. We must listen to what Jesus is telling us if we desire renewal.
I suspect things will eventually get back to a normal most of us will feel comfortable with, pandemics and epidemics have beginnings and ends, they pass as does everything in this world. However, what a shame it will be if we do not at least seriously explore the question: Does God want us to build a new faith normal, a new way of expressing and practicing our faith that cares a little less of the trappings of the world and more about Jesus?
Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think by sending comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can leave a comment in the box below.