You just don’t realize what kind of Catholic bubble you existed in until that bubble is burst.
I transitioned into a slightly modified version of the Catholic bubble from the larger one I occupied during my childhood, but the net effect seems to have been the same: It gave me a skewed vision of the outside world.
How do I know this? Because since March, and due to government authorities, doorways leading into any church building have been padlocked. I’m on the outside looking in, instead of the other way around.
Like many people of a similar disposition, I have had a lot of difficulty being deprived of the Mass and the sacraments, especially reconciliation. And not in a million years would I have ever imagined I would tell someone in May, “Yeah, I haven’t been to Mass since March.” But here we all are.
To me, it is a novelty I could do without. But as this little spot of bother persists, I have come to realize that to many people I know, friends, family, and neighbors, not going to church is just not factored into the coronavirus (COVID-19) misery index Excel sheet of their lives.
It does not make me feel or think that for a millisecond I am their better for longing to return to the Mass. As I have told my nonbelieving friends on multiple occasions, I do not go to Mass because I am holy. I go to Mass to become holy. I am still a work in progress, and now work has been halted.
I am not swinging from chandeliers and tumbling head first into debauchery because of my lack of Mass attendance. Neither are my friends, family, and neighbors who don’t miss going to Mass because they don’t go when the doors are flung wide open.
I have upped my internal prayer life and I’m sure the Blessed Mother is tired from hearing from me. But she’s used to it.
But I continue to pine for the physicality of being inside a church. The sights, sounds, even smells of the interior of a church trigger thoughts and spiritual feelings that help me reorder myself — assisting in contemplation of the week behind me and its successes and failures, and hopefully gaining the graces to fill the week ahead of me with more successes than failures. Mass on Sunday jumpstarts the rhythm of the week, and now there is no spiritual metronome to keep the beat.
When I check in with friends, family, and neighbors who do not “miss” Mass, I am once again reminded of that wonderful bubble I used to live inside. I like my friends, family, and neighbors. If I required that all of them be card-carrying Catholics who never missed Mass, could recite the catechism verbatim, and believe in the same political theories that I do, I would be a lot lonelier than I am.
The world has never worked that way. Most of the people Jesus encountered didn’t “buy” what he was selling then, so why should I expect anything different now?
I can still love people and pray for them, and in many cases admire them for their lives of integrity and honor — more than mine — despite that one “little” thing missing in their lives.
As it is with God’s tendency to get our attention, when I look at the bigger picture, it is clear how I have been blessed with this martyrdom-lite event. It has allowed me an insight into the world outside my bubble, and taught me to see the people who live in that outside biosphere in a more sympathetic way, and it has made me much more appreciative of what I do have. I will probably not take things for granted when those padlocks are finally removed.
I have little to complain about during this pandemic. No one I know has been hurt by the virus physically. Some I know have been damaged financially by it, of course, and it is equally obvious we are all not out of the microbiological forest just yet.
But with God’s grace and the help of those in heaven praying for us, we will all get to where we are supposed to be. I just hope and pray that where I am supposed to be is inside a church, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, asking for God’s forgiveness, and receiving the food that will never lead to hunger and the drink that will never lead to thirst.