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Editorial: It’s time for the Church to lead by example
A new kind of front line is emerging on the scene of the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States: that of workers and security guards in retail establishments that have reopened to the public. And it’s seriously disturbing.
Following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many businesses are requiring that customers don masks to help stop the spread of germs by anyone who may have the disease and not know it. But — usually for a reason that, bizarrely, splits along political lines — not everyone wants to follow the rules, and some of those who don’t are demonstrating their resistance in shockingly violent ways.
We’ve all seen the headlines that already have resulted from the “mask enforcement,” if we have been paying attention. A Target employee in California had his arm broken; a cashier in Pennsylvania was punched three times in the face; a bus passenger in Texas was shot and hospitalized; a security guard in Michigan — a father of nine — was shot and killed. These are just the major incidents. There have been plenty of minor disturbances, too, and as we get deeper into the summer, there will be many more of both.
In times like these — reading these stories, reflecting on these incidents — things can feel pretty bleak, if we let them. What kind of society have we become where some feel justified in harming those who simply are trying to keep others safe? At the risk of being preachy, we’ll answer our own somewhat rhetorical question: one in which we are less concerned for others than we are for ourselves.
This, of course, is where we come in. As Catholic Christians, we know that it is love that bears, believes, hopes and endures — not self-centeredness. And we know that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. This means that the only way forward for Catholics at this time is a way paved with great love, which encompasses patience, understanding, mercy and humility.
As parishes and dioceses resume public liturgies now and in coming weeks, we will be faced with a lot of rules. To some, they may seem extravagant; to others, they may seem lacking. The wearing of masks, the keeping of a safe social distance and the manner of receiving Communion will all be points of contention. If you happen to disagree with any rules — or lack thereof — put in place by Church leaders, it is OK. It is OK, too, to express any concerns to your pastor or to your bishop. Calm communication and dialogue is healthy and should be welcomed.
But a line is crossed when a private disagreement becomes a public dispute. If you’d prefer not to wear a mask to Mass, for example, you could watch or listen to the liturgy from your car and ask your pastor if he will accommodate a private reception of Communion afterward. Alternatively, if you believe it is too early for parishes to resume public worship and are uncomfortable attending, you could simply stay home and continue the spiritual practices you have developed in recent weeks. This is not a time for either “side” to stage a protest. This is the time to grow in virtue. If we find ourselves getting frustrated with our brothers and sisters in Christ — including our pastors and/or bishops — remember that we are working through this together. Have patience and mercy. Be understanding. Embrace humility. Lead with charity. Christians can be great witnesses to the Gospel during this time, if we don’t let our sinful natures get in the way.
The COVID-19 fight has actual front lines. Medical professionals and emergency workers are leading the charge, working day and night to care for the sick. Other heroic men and women — including our priests — are putting themselves at risk to minister and tend to the needs of the vulnerable or the homebound. We can honor their great and important work by keeping our own selfish inclinations in check.
As our nation continues to map out a strategy for moving forward during this next phase of the pandemic, let us, as a Church, lead by example. In our churches, let us set aside our selfish desires in order to navigate challenges, disagreements and uncertainty with grace and, above all, with love.
Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young