This week, Catholic mommy blogger Kendra from Catholic All Year wrote an article lamenting that martyrs of old willingly died to protect the Eucharist, while modern Catholics are too scared to attend Mass in the face of a deadly pandemic.
Friends of mine and I were disturbed by this article, and a few of us wanted to share our own thoughts on the matter.
I’m desperate for the sacraments, so I empathize with the author.
I don’t understand her though. She thinks that people will die no matter what, like there’s nothing we can do. But we can do things to slow the spread. We have science and faith to help us in this time, but the two must work together, as always.
I joined in a zoom call with a priest recently, and someone asked him what the bishops were doing to get the sacraments to people. He responded, “They are cancelling Mass so we can return to it sooner,” and he is so right. When we gather next, we don’t want to be missing people. It’s not inevitable. Social distancing works. It’s flattening the curve and it’s saving lives.
—A Catholic nurse
Here’s the deal, Kendra. You need to offer it up right now.
Offer up your frustrations, your anger, your heartache and longing over not being able to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist.
You can offer all of those feelings and pain for our Christian brothers and sisters who don’t have regular access to the sacraments:
- those in the Amazon and other isolated parts of the world
- those living in areas of the world where they’ll be jailed or killed for celebrating the sacraments (Syria, China, Bulgaria, Sri Lanka to name a few)
- those who’ve experienced abuse (whether that be physical, emotional, spiritual, or sexual) from a church that claimed to be a safe place. So many of us (I include myself in this group) have difficulty even entering a church due to PTSD and flashbacks sustained from abuse.
- those in the LGBTQ community who are often told that they’re not good enough to receive the sacraments
- those who are homeless, homebound, or imprisoned
- those who struggle with mental illness and/or addiction
- those who don’t feel welcomed at Mass because they have doubts and misgivings about Church teaching, don’t “look” right according to members of the community, or don’t fit in for some other reason
You can also offer it up for our Protestant, Orthodox, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim brothers and sisters who are also isolated from their faith communities and religious practices.
You can offer it up for our brothers and sisters who don’t have a faith but still struggle to find meaning in this difficult and lonely time.
Yes, our spiritual well-being is just as important as our physical, emotional, and mental health during this pandemic, but Jesus is not SOLELY contained in the Eucharist. Our Church is not solely contained in your private chapel (do you even realize how PRIVILEGED you are to have a private chapel?!) or even the Catholic Church. Christ’s Body can be found in every person on this earth. Look for Him there. Look outside of yourself, your own family and community, and love him in those who are suffering right now and have been suffering for a long time. Have some compassion and offer it up.
Imagine your mother passed away a few months ago, and today you are standing in front of a probate judge.
This judge is deciding how to parcel out her personal possessions among you and your three siblings. The four of you live in the four corners of the country, nowhere near each other.
Your mother had few items of value to any of you, but one extremely precious family heirloom that all four of you greatly cherish and would give almost anything to possess. It is an American flag that your great-great-grandfather rescued from being left behind on a battlefield in World War I, and he lost a leg in the process. It has been carefully treated and honored ever since, and this object and its history is central to your family’s identity.
You recount this story to the judge, so he understands just how important this flag is to you. Your siblings nod in agreement. You also tell him how one of your great uncles braved fire consuming his house to grab the flag, toss it out the window to your grandmother, and then succumbed to smoke inhalation before he could get out himself. Your siblings get teary-eyed hearing this story again.
“Those are powerful stories that tell me how important this flag is to your family,” the judge says, “but why should I give it to YOU? Why are you more entitled to it than your siblings?”
This is the kind of story that Kendra is telling about the Eucharist. It is extremely precious to her, partially because other people have taken great risks and even died to honor and preserve it. She likes to think she would do the same. And that entitles her to have it at a time when that would exclude her brothers and sisters in Christ from having the same access how?
Demanding the Eucharist for yourself in the time of COVID does indeed exclude it from others. Some of your siblings in Christ will become sick and even die because they come into contact with people who were spreading the virus around attending Mass. Some of your siblings in Christ will lose their beloved priests to this virus, and there aren’t enough new ordinations to the priesthood to keep all the parishes staffed as more priests die. Some of your siblings in Christ will be too disturbed by how the Catholic Church is taking unnecessary risks with vulnerable people’s lives to be able to participate in good conscience in Catholic Masses again when this crisis is past. You claim the prize of the Eucharist for yourself and tell your siblings they should be willing to travel across the country or into eternity in order to have the same access you have.
A wise judge would look at you and your anxious siblings and make a suggestion: how about donating the flag to a museum in the center of the country, where your great-great-grandfather grew up? Then you could share this inspiring story with thousands of other people. You can all visit when it is feasible for you, and bring your children and grandchildren to see, on equal terms with all your siblings. But since all four of you have equal rights to possession of the flag, all four of you need to agree to this sacrifice to bring about a greater good. Will you?
—H. Lillian Vogl
“Where two or three are gathered, I am there in their midst.”
It takes a special kind of obtuseness to be in such a sliver of privilege to have an in-home chapel—and act as though worshipping Jesus isn’t an option without receiving the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a precious, priceless gift, but we are not entitled to it. It’s not a right.
The Body of Christ is also present in the bodies of people we endanger by being lax about safety. Rather than waxing sentimental with dream of wanting to die for the Eucharist, a better way of both being and honoring the Body of Christ is forgoing the Eucharist until it’s safe to do so. You say you would die for the Eucharist—but would you kill for it? Would you endanger the Body of Christ present in the vulnerable—those image bearers of God—to have something precious for yourself?
I understand the yearning for the Eucharist. I do. I understand the way isolation weighs heavily on hearts longing to be in communion with others and with God. But perhaps now is a time to lean into waiting. Wait. And as you wait, pray in the beautifully adorned home chapel you are blessed and privileged to have. Embrace communion with the children you were blessed to carry and birth and raise. Bake your own unleavened bread and make its creation into a liturgy unto itself before taking it in a spiritual communion.
You are being called to wait. True love waits, after all.
First up, I want to say how much this quarantine blows.
It’s been awful. I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a child, and I’ve known since a severe bout of depression that lasted my entire 11th grade that working from home would never be an option for me (I was homeschooled and could tell how bad the isolation was for my mental health). So, I am not staying home because I like it. I do not find it to be fun or peaceful. I’m in a constant haze of anxiety, this fog of deep loneliness and missing friends that I cannot shake.
I do not want to be home.
It seems to me that the narrative that our bishops are hearing is that we, the faithful, are scared. They are hearing that we want safety. I want to come out and say that I want Jesus in the Eucharist, and I am willing to risk death for it.
—Kendra, Catholic All Year
But I am staying home, and yes, it is because I am scared—but not for myself. I am scared for my coworker’s sweet 80-year-old grandfather, who has spent this time gardening to keep his spirits up. I am scared for a beloved priest, a spiritual father to many, who had a kidney transplant less than a year ago. I am scared for my friend’s mother, who is so immuno-compromised from her many chronic diseases that they have to sanitize their groceries with Clorox before bringing them inside.
And most of all, I am scared for my close friends in the healthcare field. 5 of my friends are nurses. Everyday I message them to check in and I try to share the burden of their pain. Despite terrible work conditions, insufficient safety gear, long hours, and grave danger to their own lives, they are still working, still caring for the sick. I am scared of the harm this pandemic is wreaking on each one of them psychologically, emotionally, and physically, and I am enraged by the callous (and sometimes deceptively pious) disregard for her needs and the needs of our society during this crisis.
Jesus said go out, feed the poor, and tend to the sick and needy. If you feel you need Christ right now, and you are able to go out and seek him, then do so. Get a job at a grocery store or pharmacy—they are desperate for staff. Volunteer at a food bank. Sign up to shop for Instacart. Check in with your neighbors and community and see what they need.
Labor for those who are too vulnerable to leave their homes. Die to yourself to love and serve Christ in them.
—Marie Kopp, The Shoeless Banshee
Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jacquot-Defrance-Jesus.jpg?fbclid=IwAR1oFYO5DlvJpy0lxRnQA4CzH03mOVcEzqZYn_VlW_tit4R2rD-QWTHiGJM