Public Mass Cancelled Again
From Father De Celles’ column in parish bulletin Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 17, 2020)
On Friday, May 8, I emailed you about how elated I was to hear that effective May 15 Governor Northam would be implementing “Phase 1” of his plan to “re-open” Virginia, which would “allow” us to have public Mass again, and that the Bishop was readying safety and attendance guidelines. But of course this last Tuesday the Governor reversed himself for Northern Virginia, postponing our “re-opening” until at least May 29, and the Bishop followed suit on Wednesday. So it looks like it will be another 2 weeks before we have public Mass again.
As many of you, I am personally torn between safety, liberty, and spiritual
concerns. Daily I receive not only the media reports, but dozens of emails passionately advocating for all the different “sides” of the issues involved. I genuinely understand and respect my parishioner’s individual opinions on this. And I am also aware that fear drives a lot of this, again on both “sides”—fear of death and fear of tyranny, etc.,.
I guess the thing that sort of tips the scales for me is the fact that religious liberty and freedom of assembly have been almost ignored by our governments, and I believe this is a grave problem from both a constitutional perspective and a moral perspective. Think of this: Home Depot, and ABC Stores, and Pet stores are open for business with no
“maximum capacity” limits, but churches can’t have more than 10 persons gather; and the 10 person rule applies to meetings in rooms built for 30 people as well as rooms built for 850 people. In all this I don’t see either science or public safety being followed, but something else altogether. I tend to think it is simply a bureaucratic “one size fits all” attitude being applied, but that is not reasonable or just. As Fairfax County Chairman
McKay himself wrote in arguing against Phase 1, “a one-size-fits-all approach in the Commonwealth simply doesn’t work.” I agree, in the sense a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work when applying restrictions to 30 seat classrooms and 850 seat churches: if there’s a 10 person limit in a 30 seat classroom, then it would make sense to have something like a 283 person limit in a 850 seat church. You can disagree with me, and I understand. But emotions are running high on all sides. People say, “listen to the experts,” but different experts say different things. So, let’s all remember we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and be patient and respectful and kind even in our disagreements. Recognize that there is tinge of fear of the unknown affecting most of us. I’m afraid of people dying from the spread of the virus, but I’m also afraid of losing the liberties we have to freely practice our faith, to assemble and to speak out. I’m also afraid of growing numbers of people not having enough to eat, or a place to
live as the economy continues to fall into an abyss. So, “let not your heart be troubled.” Have faith in Jesus. And show the love of Jesus by being calm and respectful to those you disagree with.