It was a joy for many to be together in church for Holy Week and Easter this year. Considering that the best we could do was watch on television last year, we no longer take gathering together for granted. That goes for so many things in life, such as gatherings with family and friends, vacation trips, professional sporting events, restaurant meals, even rides on the subway.
With the effects of Covid-19 receding, but still potent, and vaccinations on the rise, we can feel more comfortable being in each other’s presence. We, of course, should be maintaining the prescribed social distancing and wearing our masks. Still, the threat level is turned down, and that’s a good thing.
We worship in community. We looked forward to being with others, as we renewed the sacred rituals at Masses and other Holy Week services leading to Easter.
We know that the Body of Christ comprises many members. And, honestly, who isn’t renewed, or at least lifted temporarily, by the sight of a church filled for worship?
I know I’m getting ahead of myself now. We’re not ready for full churches just yet, but it’s nice to think ahead, even if it’s a bit of a daydream right now.
Look around your parish church. Chances are there aren’t as many people in the pews as there were slightly more than a year ago. Covid-19 jolted the ranks of parishioners, sickening many. Sadly, a good number have also passed away. Just look at the story in this issue about the recent Memorial Mass at St. John-Visitation Church in the Bronx remembering more than 50 parishioners who have died of Covid-19 over the past year.
It’s true that many senior citizens are among our numbers, and they have been among the hardest-hit by the virus. Even now, many of our elders have not felt safe returning. Thankfully, the vaccine is offering them hope for a fuller life that extends beyond their front door.
At my own parish on Good Friday, I found myself confined to the vestibule because the capacity inside the church met the mandated limit when I arrived 10 minutes before the start of the Passion service. I was happy to stand, and even more so when the ushers opened all the doors wide, so we could see inside clearly.
In his column in this issue, Cardinal Dolan writes, “It’s time to get back to Mass!” He repeats the sentence numerous times for emphasis. I like to think that writing to the readers of Catholic New York is like preaching to the choir, at least I hope that is the case. Still, it is a good reminder, and also a good feeling, I hope, to know that your archbishop misses you and wants you back in the pews.
If your family is anything like mine, it can be an ongoing challenge to make sure everyone is going to Mass, especially when the kids are all grown up. We want to take our cue from Jesus as we offer a welcoming invitation to attend the Sunday celebration. In a couple of sentences, you can tell your family member or friend how attending Mass prepares you to live out your Christian vocation in the world.
That nudge from you might be exactly what the person needs to get back on track spiritually. We’re quick to recommend a good book or a great restaurant. We should be at least as eager to share an encouraging word about our faith. All of us Catholics are called by our baptism to make disciples.
We have a perfect opportunity during the Easter season, which extends until Pentecost Sunday, to reach out to others. As our parish churches continue to recover, they all have room for at least a few more new faces, or some more returning ones.
You’ll make this an Eastertide to remember.