We’ve waited months to return to Mass, so why am I not busting at the seams excited? I see all the more fearless folks on Instagram posting stories about how grateful they are to go back to Mass; get dressed up again, be back in community life and receive Jesus.
So, why don’t I have the same excitement, or even an inclination to post something enthusiastic about returning to Mass? Well, it’s because I actually have a lot of anxiety around going back to Mass. Have you had a similar feeling?
I’ve talked to others who have anxiety about going back too and they’re not kicking and screaming to get back into the pews either.
It’s not that I don’t think the government shouldn’t allow for public worship (especially because there’s a hidden agenda in some of this) but for reasons you may also share. So, I invite you to not be too hard on yourself; take in, and bring to Jesus, your concerns and the realities of the situation. And no, it’s not because you don’t love God anymore. There are pretty natural reasons for hesitation and/or lack of excitement.
CONCERN 1. YOU MAY HAVE EXISTING ANXIETY THAT CAUSES SOME NERVES ALREADY
If you’re anything like me, social events already cause a little anxiety. It’s a bit of a battle every time I need to be present to people I am not around often. A lot has to do with getting dressed up, putting on makeup, making it to the event on time, remembering everything I need to take with me, the prep that needs to happen to get to the event, etc.
While Mass isn’t a cookout or dinner party and it doesn’t involve cooking a casserole or splurging on a new outfit, it does involve preparation: going to confession beforehand (did I make it this week? With COVID that’s extra challenging), having my envelope ready to tithe, doing my hair (seriously, that’s an hour of prep time), remembering my prayer book and again, making it on time. Plus the mental preparation of whether or not I’ll be going solo.
I have to admit that once we received the dispensation to participate in the Mass online, I was relieved. Yes, because of the germs. But also, I could breathe and not have to worry about all the to-dos I was feeling needed to be accomplished before I could present myself to Jesus at Mass, when all I wanted to do was receive him. Something about spiritual communion and watching Mass online has helped wipe away some of the extras that were distracting me from him. Does that make sense? I have found Masses at home to be refreshing and an opportunity to refocus.
Overall though, if you struggle with anxiety, returning to Mass, and heading into more change is hard. You aren’t alone. Or maybe it’s not you who is struggling, but a family member. I invite you to encourage them to be gentle with themselves and to go slow on transitioning into another new normal.
CONCERN 2. COVID-19 IS STILL ACTIVE AND THERE’S NOT A VACCINE YET
My parents and I went to Mass the second weekend it was an option to return in person. I was excited once we got there, but as I looked around, I got more nervous. Some people had on masks; I forgot mine and no one kept the social distancing rule as we went up to receive Jesus. And at the end of Mass everyone left at the same time. I tapped my parents right after the final blessing and said, “let’s get outta here!” That’s probably the first time since I was in elementary school, I didn’t stay through the closing song.
COVID is as real as the summer heat and it’s something we don’t have controlled yet. There’s still a risk, especially for our more aged and health-vulnerable friends and family. We need the graces of the Sacraments and we need to respect the health of our loved ones: Where’s the balance? I don’t have an answer. But I do know, I am worried and others are too. This causes great discomfort and makes the idea of public worship in a church still pretty scary for me. I have a colleague who said they are going to Mass at an outdoor pavilion. Now, that’s something I can get behind. Social distancing and outdoors. That decreases the likelihood of contracting by what? A lot!?
What is your parish church doing to social distance and make the faithful community healthy, safe, and comfortable? Comment here.
CONCERN 3. WE HAVE PERMISSION TO PARTICIPATE IN THE MASS ONLINE
To live out our pro-life beliefs and to keep the faithful safe, the bishops have dispensed (a relaxation of a merely ecclesiastical law in a particular case) the in-person obligation at the Sunday liturgy. For those who are uncomfortable attending in person, they have encouraged participating virtually. Bishop Robert Barron’s online Masses have been my go-to during these months of quarantine. AND spiritual communions are no joke! Read this quote by Saint John Vianney:
“If we are deprived of sacramental communion, let us replace it, as far as we can, by spiritual communion, which we can make every moment; for we ought to have always a burning desire to receive the good God. Communion is to the soul like blowing a fire that is beginning to go out, but that has still plenty of hot embers; we blow, and the fire burns again. After the reception of the sacraments, when we feel ourselves slacken in the love of God, let us have recourse at once to spiritual communion. When we cannot go to the church, let us turn towards the tabernacle; no wall can shut us out from the good God.”
Pray the spiritual communion prayer throughout your day and the next time you participate in Holy Mass online.
CONCERN 4. WE DON’T WANT THINGS TO GO BACK TO HOW THEY WERE
If I am honest with myself, I don’t want life to go back to how it was. I want to be as close to my family as I am right now, I don’t want to go back to being a consumer and in the stores more than I need to be, I don’t want to be traveling all of the time, I want to live life simply and focused on the things that count: God, family, and friends, and with 100% authenticity.
The slower pace of life has been a gift. Did you find working from home a step back in time where rest, prayer, family, food prep, and hobbies became more of a focus? I’d love it if we could figure out how to have this without a life-threatening virus. Can I get an “Amen”?
CONCERN 5. CREATING A ROUTINE AND BEING DISCIPLINED ONCE AGAIN
After four months of not setting the alarm on Sunday morning or gardening well past 5 o’clock on Saturday evenings, it’s going to take some time getting back into the groove of actually going to Mass in person. Not just popping open the laptop but putting it back in the schedule and scheduling everything else around the Mass and not vice versa.
I need to look at Mass once again as the highlight and climax of the week. What do I need to do to make this happen? My focus right now: asking the Lord to increase my love for the Eucharist. To give me a love for the Blessed Sacrament that is so strong that I can’t conceive being away from him for another moment.