“Re-opening” Church brings with it many feelings – joy, relief, anxiety, concern, peace, fear. I’ve had brother priests as well as parishioners reach out about this. We (and I include myself) are all over the map on our emotional, spiritual, and psychological response and state of mind. But reopening is not just a practical matter – should I go or not? But for both ministers and members alike it raises real concerns and mixed emotions. So many truly and deeply miss Mass, miss community, miss Christ in the Eucharist. There is a deep longing to return. “Livestream is just not the same things”, I hear over and over. Of course not, and it’s not the same from my view either. At the same time, we are still concerned – one and all – about what returning really means. I read one account of a woman in a different state that reopened a week or so ago. She spoke of her initial excitement at returning only to experience anxiety once she was in the church with other people so near (even socially spaced and masked). There is a fear that some parishioners will not observe the needed protocols and thereby place others at risk. There are those who fear the protocols are overly burdensome, and somehow unnecessary. Maybe both are right.
Yet, I think we should step back and look at this as a Catholic Christian Community. No one is required to return to Mass, and in fact certain people have been strongly encouraged not to return. And so, no one needs to feel guilty about a decision to stay home. It is ok to be concerned for one’s health – as Life is the first gift God gives us of which we must be good stewards. For many, that will be the good and holy decision.
Second, I know there are those who want nothing more than to come to Mass but can’t or ought not to. These persons have made the difficult choice to stay home because it is right in their case. Yet, this also means their Eucharistic Fast will continue for now. For those who are able to come to Mass, perhaps, we intentionally offer the graces of our reception of Holy Communion for one of them. That God gives Grace in the reception is true. That you can offer that free gift in love for another is our faith. Maybe that grace given will provide the needed solace to those who are still as yet not able to gather around the altar in person.
Next, if we dare to call ourselves Christians called by Christ to love one another – then we should care not just about our health, but also the health of the others around us. We should care about their whole health – body, mind, and soul. Are my actions or inactions, unduly raising the anxiety or fear of others? We should all want to show love by intentionally working to extend the peace of Christ. One way this will be evident is by abiding by the safety protocols. Even if you think them unnecessary, embrace them as an act of love and offering for those around you. So all may gather more peaceably for the Lord’s Supper.
Finally, just as Liturgy means ‘work of the people’, gathering or not gathering for Mass will be a collective work. We have begun to schedule the many needed persons to assist us so we may have Mass together safely – ushers, cleaning crews, lectors. Particularly, we have a need for those who will help with cleaning the church after every Mass. It will require a commitment of time and scheduling, but that is part of the gift of love. Another priest pointed out how often it is the senior parishioners who have the time and commitment to make so much of parish life happen (and often behind the scenes). Well, now is the time for a new and younger generation to take up that right responsibility.
Per the guidelines for reopening issued by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis on 08 May 2020, for a parish to offer Masses with the faithful present certain criteria must be met. Among them are: 1) Parishes/communities that are not ready to do so safely should delay their start date. And 2) Have you developed a process for cleaning between Masses and persons to carry it out? Holy Family has a process, but needs volunteer people to carry it out. If insufficient volunteers are available, Holy Family will have to scale back our public Mass offerings. If you are healthy, able, and willing, please commit to clean so that the congregation can come to pray. Please contact Paul Stiller ([email protected]) with your availability.
Please review the Mass Protocols before attending next Sunday. Because it is not possible to accommodate all our parishioners for Sunday Masses each weekend, we are asking parishioners to attend only every other week by Last Name.
- A-J to attend on First & Third (& Fifth) Sundays – First Possible weekend is May 30-31
- K-Z to attend on Second & Fourth Sundays – First Possible weekend is May 23-24
We will still have mixed emotions about re-opening. But together, taken slowly, with the gift of the Spirit, we will strive to do so safely for the personal sanctity of all.
With the exception of the church for daily private prayer and the scheduled Masses starting May 19, Holy Family church and campus continue to be closed to other social, spiritual, or service endeavors until official permission is received to reopen.
The Lord is Risen!
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries