A Note on Our Return
| A number of happenings over the last few days made a written greeting advisable for today. I avoid weighing in on shouting matters because usually people who are yelling cannot at the same time hear. Nevertheless, I cannot elude the neuralgic issue of masks, and the wearing of them in church, since a number of people have raised concerns, and this from several perspectives. |
Epidemiology lies far beyond my ken and that spares me from opining about the medical effectiveness of wearing masks. What matters to me is that those in charge of my health ask me to wear one to avoid community spread of the virus, and so I am asked the wear the mask outside my home when I cannot socially distance. Like most people I do not like wearing a face covering, but I accept this rule as the best effort of those charged with our safety. Their reasonable effort to fulfill their office provides enough warrant for me.
This said, I hope I exercise common sense. If I turn onto a block and find it empty I lower the mask, and I do not feel sneaky about it. When I see someone coming I raise the covering without resentment and with charity.
I apply the same reasoning to the ruling by the Archdiocese, working with the state, that we are to wear the mask in church. It is not possible to celebrate the sacraments and socially distance, and this circumstance indicates the wearing of coverings. Even sitting apart, we need to come together for essential moments, and so the choice to wear a mask fulfills a legitimate public mandate and give our neighbors helpful reassurance.
At the same time common sense, and the rule of care for others, applies. Consider a symmetry. When I say Mass I do not wear a mask because I have to be heard. But when I distribute communion I raise my mask so that communicants can lower theirs. Likewise, those who sing and read do not wear masks so that they may suitably fulfill their role in the liturgy, but they also stand at great remove from the congregation.
I try to apply this rule close to home. For months our churches were almost empty, and so I did not usually wear a mask, considering it an extension of my home. Now the public is back and I need to learn a new consideration.
Regrettably, in so many matters we have lost the middle and yell from the extremes. Since the pandemic is far from over it behooves us to find the middle between denial and panic, and to find a modus vivendi with this situation.
The Church, I believe, acts here from the middle. The obligation to attend Mass is suspended. Therefore, those who are particularly vulnerable do not need to come. Among these I would count people who experience acute anxiety about contracting the virus or about the social means taken to prevent it. The point of going to Mass is to go to Mass. So if being present only makes you more angry, or more anxious then the end is not really achieved.
I note in conclusion that we have retained the live-streamed Mass and Rosary for those who feel unable to come in person. But those who are able come together and work together at developing a real etiquette for these novel circumstances can help us give a witness of charity in a divided world.