I frequently think about the people in parts of the world who can’t get to Mass every Sunday and those for whom it is an act of courage to go to Sunday Mass. Think of the Christians in the Amazon, which has been a hot topic of late, in the first category. Or the Coptic Christians in Egypt, for the second. I’m far from the only person at National Review who goes to Mass every day. I sometimes meet young colleagues at our closest Catholic Church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, or as one is coming as another is going – they have many Masses there and all are welcome.
But things started changing recently. I got a talking to from a scared usher/security guard this week, when I innocently went to receive Communion on the tongue, instead of the hand. There was no warning at that Mass, and I momentarily forgot that we were all living in fear. (It was Monday, before the #CancelEverything mood hit.) I understand, but I’m far from alone in not having realized what this year might look like for us so accustomed to routines and choices and access to that which we love the most.
So here in New York they were trying to keep Masses open to all, but, as the press release put it, when Duchess County prohibited gatherings larger than 20 people, they relented. I am certain that that’s one of the last things Cardinal Dolan wanted to have to do, keep people from Mass. It’s counter to the priestly heart. But he also has a responsibility to keep people safe, and cooperate with civic authorities (in ways not counter to conscience). As priest friends of mine have written, the Church goes on, and so do the Masses. There will be a livestream of Mass at St. Patrick’s this morning, as happens every Sunday — there are Masses on EWTN and even local secular television networks every Sunday too, the so-called “shut-in” Mass. Well, wouldn’t you know it, we are all shut in now. (EWTN has Mass every day for those of us used to daily Mass.)
A few weeks ago, I wrote about being at the biggest Catholic parish in America, in Charlotte. There was a Eucharistic adoration night, as part of a parish mission. I found women weeping in the chapel after, so great their love of Jesus was – who we Catholics believe is present in the Eucharist. It’s agony for people who love Him so intimately to be far from him. In New York, there are churches staying open. I see that the Dominicans at St. Vincent Ferrer will have Eucharist adoration during the day. But other places, the churches will be locked. I’ve been known to pray outside locked churches – getting as close to the tabernacle as I can. But we can also remember all of the times we have encountered Jesus in the sacraments. God is near to us, wherever we are. He asks us to invite Him deeper into our hearts, to be a part of our lives in a more complete way.
It’s an odd time for so many of us who have had it easy. By easy, I mean that as a little girl, I had access to the Blessed Sacrament before and during school. Those of us who live in urban areas trip over Masses and Confession hours. As for Confession, so far, I’ve seen some creative ways to get people the sacrament. I’m hoping the churches that remains open will offer at the very least what Catholics refer to as general absolution – which may be the best that can be given in these circumstances. If you do have access to a priest and have sins that are weighing you down, don’t hesitate to ask, immediately, for his aid in sacramental grace.
For now, it’s Sunday and it’s a National Day of Prayer and it’s very important that we pray for healing and protection and peace and perseverance And I’m especially praying this is a time for healing for families. Pray for the health-care workers and chaplains on the front-lines of this. Be careful. Be loving. Don’t fear. Live this life that always has an end date to the fullest with integrity and love for others.