Before I was married, I spent a year on an island, teaching in a one-room school house. The population of the island was about 100 and there was no church of any denomination. The school teacher (me) and my aid lived in the ‘parsonage,’ which was where the minister would come and stay in the summer months.
The island is approximately 35 kilometres from the mainland (Maine) and, in those days, it was a two hour boat ride or a costly plane trip back to the real world. Every Sunday I would hike off to a jagged cliff that stood facing the east; facing Great Britain. The sea was always churned up and I loved God’s beauty and majesty on full display there. That was my church, my prayer time; my time for reflection and meditation. My faith became self-contained on that island. When I returned to ‘the real world,’ I felt I had everything I needed inside of me. It took a long while, but eventually the desire for the Eucharist drew me back to Church; to the Mass. And, when I came back I soon realized in addition to the Eucharist, the community played an essential role in growing my faith.
We’ve been deprived of the Eucharist these many months, we’ve been able to view the Mass but not participate in it. Now the Church has opened its doors once again and this is Good News, indeed. Many, of course, have legitimate health concerns and the nightly news does nothing to alleviate their worries. They are afraid to go out in public, the coronavirus is still a force in the world; it’s real, and it’s very dangerous for those people. We must respect each individual’s approach to their new normal. But, perhaps some of the rest of us have adjusted to life without Church, without the Eucharist – our faith has become self-contained. I can say from experience, that kind of faith is seriously lacking, and will fail you.
During our time of self-quarantining, we were also denied the ability to visit family. Some of us did the zoom thing (some of us with great difficulty), but, just as with the Masses on YouTube, it was not very satisfying. Have you gathered with your loved ones since the restrictions have relaxed? We got together with our one son and his family as soon as we could. Our youngest son is not ready to widen his circle. He has health concerns that make him anxious about resuming outside activities. We need to respect that. Everyone needs to take the time they need and everyone else needs to understand that…just as in the return to Mass.
For those who are fearful and nervous about coming back to church, I would like to allay your fears. The Diocese has put so many safety measures in place, you’re very safe here. Everyone in the church is a distance away - in front of, behind and to the side of you. Sadly, there’s no singing, but that’s to keep us from the spray of other’s exuberant voices. There is music – beautiful, meditative music at various times during the Mass. The entire experience of gathering together - to pray, to listen to God’s Word, to sit in the same space as the priest giving us his homily, to receive the Eucharist, and to be in God’s presence and meditate – it’s like coming home. So, come on back, we need you here in our midst; you’re part of our circle, our community of faith. Margery Frisch