A Chorus of "No's"
I haven’t been back to Mass yet.
Like most people, my family and I stopped attending Mass in person two years ago when the pandemic first hit and churches closed down. We watched on Facebook Live our YouTube or whatever streaming platform our church was using that week. We made a family altar in our suddenly-created homeschool
classroom. We did what we needed to do when we couldn’t be part of the physical Body of Christ that is the Church at Mass.
Once the churches reopened, though, I went through different phases, almost like grieving. I wanted to go back to Mass, but the conditions felt unsafe. Just about the time I was ready, the Bishop rolled back more precautions and I felt unsafe again. Now that my whole family is vaccinated, I have been coming to terms with the fact that my hesitation to go back to Mass is less about pandemic safety than it is about woundedness.
I had Covid in May of 2020, and when I emailed and then called our local priest to ask for anointing of the sick—wheezing and coughing between words over the phone—he told me no. And that was it. Not, “No, I’m so sorry it’s not safe but I will be praying for you” or “No, it’s just not possible. Do you need anything? Are the kids okay?” Just no, I don’t have PPE, and that was that. No pastoral concern. No follow up. Just no. I wasn’t entirely surprised by this answer, because I’d gotten the same answer when I’d begged him for pastoral care the year my husband was deployed to Afghanistan over the holidays. The answer had been the same: no.
When we came back to church a few months later for our daughter’s rescheduled First Holy Communion, there was no welcome back, no “We missed you all!” to the assembled families with young children and nervous expressions behind their masks. No reflection on the difficulties that past several months had offered us and ways to hold close to Christ through it all. Just no.
For me and many Catholics like me, the past two years—and many years before that—have been a chorus of “no”s from the leaders of the church. No, the priest doesn’t care that you’re hurt. No, he didn’t notice that you’ve been gone. No, he didn’t know your name even though you’ve been attending this small church faithfully for seven years. No, we don’t care if you feel safe to be in this space. No, we don’t want to listen. Just no.
Amid all these “no”s, I know the voice of God is a resounding “Yes”.
Yes, God cares for our health and our feelings.
Yes, God sees me when I drive on a cold winter’s morning to the locked church and park in the space closest to where the Tabernacle sits on the other side of the brick so that I can be there, just a little bit closer to Christ in the Bread for a few minutes.
Yes, God knows that you’ve been gone.
Yes, God has seen your tears of pain and frustration and anguish.
Yes, God sees spiritual abuse for what it is and no, God does not blame me for my understandable hesitation to place myself in its path yet again.
Today is Holy Saturday—the one day when Mass is not celebrated because Jesus is in the Tomb. A lot of us have become very familiar with that tomb in the past couple years, and a lot of us have been there for years before.
This Holy Saturday, my prayer—for myself and for you, if these “no”s sound all too familiar—is that the grace and joy and inexplicable wonder of the Resurrection comes to find us no matter where we are when the rock is moved away. The Risen Christ offered no easy answers the day after Holy Saturday, so I offer none now. What I do know is that the Christ who was risen on Easter is the same one who was hurt and ignored and betrayed only days before, and that He made even those things holy in enduring them.
This year, may we experience again the Resurrection which turns all hearts to God, heals all wounds, and makes all things new.