I go to Mass every day. Yes, that’s a thing. And yes, you, too, can go to Mass every day!
You can go to Confession, too. I do weekly — though I could go every day, let me tell you. Confession is like a shower for the soul; it’s one of the best habits in my life. To be able to be humble and lowly. I’m a sinner in need of a Savior.
And the saving doesn’t come through politics. It doesn’t even come through medicine all the time. Think of all the people who have died this year, despite, in many cases, the best efforts of doctors and nurses.
Fact is, people need God. I sure do. I’m one of the many people who wound up on new medication during the last shutdown. The radical cutoff from the sacraments was too much for my body and mind to handle.
At the beginning of the shutdown, people were comparing our situation to 9/11. But I was in New York during the terrorist attack, and people were packing the churches, votive candles were everything, people needed to be in the presence of God and one another. They longed for spiritual guidance and nourishment.
I’m not looking for special privileges. Gov. Cuomo, you were raised Catholic; your father reminded us of that frequently. You might remember from your religious education that professing Catholics believe it is Jesus Himself who comes to us in the Mass, in the Eucharist.
It’s a Real Presence in all the tabernacles of the world. So being in a Catholic Church isn’t like looking at the crucifix in your living room or being in the corner of a house where there’s a statue of Mary, reminding you that you have a Mother in Heaven to intercede for you.
We go into a Catholic church to be in the Presence of our Eucharistic Lord. Not everyone believes that, obviously, but for those who do: Can you imagine the trauma of having that encounter taken away?
During the first round of shutdowns, the churches took it on their own initiative to lift Sunday obligations and have only private Masses. Even religious sisters had to go without Mass, so sensitive were churches and other houses of worship to the pandemic’s unknowns.
Mercifully, some churches were able to make some Eucharistic adoration possible and keep the doors open some of the time, with social distancing. In recent weeks, I’ve been heartened to see healthy-sized congregations finally at places like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where there’s plenty of room to not be in close proximity of anyone.
Communion distribution is done with masks and hand sanitizer. At one church in Greenwich Village, St. Joseph’s, where Dorothy Day used to pray, the Dominican friars actually come around to the people with our Eucharistic Lord — to keep congregants from having to move around. Another priest or Brother Paul there carries the hand sanitizer.
But it’s in God we trust, not Purell or government diktats. I was safer at Mass this morning at St. Vincent Ferrer on the Upper East Side (again, where there is plenty of room) than I was buying a breakfast sandwich in Midtown, where some young guys didn’t seem to get the memo about the pandemic surging again.
On Sunday, at a different Mass, I was much safer — nowhere near people, save the masked and Purelling priest — than at the supermarket, where shoppers seemed to have gotten a little too comfortable with the pandemic.
At church, we’re there for a reason — we love God and His creation. So of course, we’re going to be more sensitive to the vulnerabilities of others and ourselves, who live by the grace of God.
Don’t take our supernatural strength away from us. It’s not the American way. People fled other countries for this freedom. I lived through Lent and Easter without Mass — don’t take Advent and Christmas away now.
Let the churches and synagogues and mosques stay open, carefully. It happens to be our right — this is about religious liberty now. And we’re happy to share our protocols ecumenically, as we’ve been keeping people safe to worship.
Kathryn Jean Lopez, senior fellow at National Review Institute, is the author of “A Year with the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living.”
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