By: Kitty Eisenbeil, Director of Formation
Well over a year ago we began the long marathon of COVID-19 restrictions which included shutting the doors of our churches and experiencing the separation from Christ in the Eucharist. Slowly but surely, diocese by diocese, we are seeing doors open once again and restrictions lift. We are also seeing the reinstitution of the Sunday obligation, which means we, as Catholics, have an obligation to attend mass and celebrate the Eucharist together every Sunday and every Holy Day of Obligation.
This return, while joyful, has its own set of anxieties and burdens that are important to address. When we come back to mass do we want to just return to our same patterns, perhaps our same half-focused attendance, our same “Catholic aerobics” way of thinking? This is an opportunity to make a fresh start by diving deeper into our faith, but that means considering the ways the mass calls us to engage our mind, our body, and our spirit.
Mental health has taken a major hit during this pandemic. Anxiety about our health and the health of our friends and family can be overwhelming; it can almost paralyze us!
We feel the separation from the Eucharist on such an emotional level, but then the fear of contagion takes over, quickly followed by a level of guilt at not putting this Sacrament into practice. Now here we are, over a year later, and some of us have not felt physically or emotionally secure in returning to mass, meaning the guilt may feel significant.
Recognizing and naming the emotions you experience when considering your return to mass are important steps to take. Is it fear? Are you worried about how long it has been? What will people think if you mask and they don’t (or vice versa)? What will the Sign of Peace be like? Grab hold of what your emotions are during this time and recognize their source.
Physical health is, of course, a serious issue to consider. If you are unwell, if your family is unwell, or if you have been in contact with someone with symptoms of/is positive for COVID-19, please stay home.
If your mental health is a little shaky because of the physical side of this equation, it is important to weigh the risks. If you are healthy, what precautions are you able to take? Most parishes continue to have a social distancing section in the church, masks are still encouraged (or enforced in some places), hand sanitizer/hand washing is a must in any scenario, and removing yourself from the Sign of Peace and instead offering a “Wave of Peace” is perfectly acceptable. But what will the other people say?? Well….who cares? Do what YOU need to do to help you get back to this beautiful Sacrament!
The big kahuna, baby! This is where we live! If nothing else, let this be your guiding light back to the Eucharist. Our souls are fed by the Body of Christ in the Sacrament of the altar. We have been separated from our Beloved for so long and He is crying out to us to return to His heart. Those feelings of guilt at being gone for so long? His love and mercy is infinite.
Take some time to get back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation so your soul is ready to receive our Lord. Before you get to Mass, review the readings and the Gospel and maybe do a little meditation or contemplation on what is being said to you through the Word of God.
Maybe you previously had a lukewarm experience of the mass, or it has become a back burner part of your life. This is the time to reignite your life of faith. This is where we seek to reconnect, reunite, and reinspire.
What makes the return to mass a little easier is the return to community. We are joining the whole Church, the Bride of Christ, coming together as a family to receive His precious Body and Blood. Let’s share our joy, together, as one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. Welcome home, everyone!