I miss going to church, a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. My Sundays had a wonderful rhythm: Mass, counting the collection with my friends and parishioners, a few hours work at the office, time with my family, a tad more work, then watching a movie before bed. It took me years to reach a perfect Sunday balance. The other six days are mostly nitrogen compounds hitting the oscillating wind-distribution device, so Sundays had an outsized importance for me.
Vanished into Pennsylvania’s Red-Yellow-Green COVID-19 zones.
Sunday Masses are hopefully just over the horizon, but we’re not there yet, gang. Consequently, my Sundays have become just another day. (I can’t do the “streaming Mass” thing. It’s my failing, but I do not want God digitized and fed to me by a cold little screen. I want to be there. I need that sense of connection and community a live Mass brings. It’s one of my failings. Others enjoy Masses on the internet or television, and I am happy for them. I am just not wired like most people.)
Not having my Sunday routine affected me in ways I didn’t realize at first. Others noticed I was tense, easily agitated, quick to interrupt (I think the short description is ‘rude’). I had, you see, developed acute William Howard Taft Syndrome: My trouble is that I like to talk too much.
One Sunday morning recently I found myself thinking about something that happened in a church in Falls, Pennsylvania more than 40 years ago. A woman sat in a pew with her young child. As the priest started the Homily, the child began to cry (to the annoyance of the rest of the parish). Unkind, withering glances were flashed to the young mother. Shaking heads and frowns surrounded her. She tried to hush the child, and the child cried all the louder. Finally, in desperation, she stood to leave.
The priest immediately stopped his Homily and called out: “Where are you going? Sit back down. There is nothing sweeter in the world than the sound of a child.” The priest looked out sternly over his shamed flock and continued his Homily.
To this day, when I hear a child cry in church, I smile.
This memory, on the one hand, reinforces my belief that I have to be in church to appreciate the human elements that exist there; the connections that form and the memories that can last a lifetime. Yet, on the other hand, the memory shows me exactly what I have wrong: It came to me on a Sunday during a pandemic, a gift at a time when I needed one badly. I was not in a church when it happened. It turns out God and the church were dwelling within me, around me, everywhere at once.
I will return to church on Sundays when the pandemic is in the rearview, but it turns out my faith, God, and the Church have been with me all along.
…be good to each other. We are all we have.