It’s Sunday morning. As you get out of your car to walk into the church, you look down at your watch. You’re running late, and if you don’t hurry, you won’t get a seat inside. You look to your left and see a family of five walking besides you. You look to your left and see an elderly couple walking as well. You begin to walk faster, knowing that if you don’t beat them to the front, you will be asked to sit in the hall.
As you speed-walk to the front, you breathe a sigh of relief as the usher motions you forward. You made it. You get to sit in the church.
This scenario sounds ridiculous, even laughable. Yet, for Catholics around the country, this is a weekly experience. Due to the new Covid restrictions, many churches are allowing limited seating inside the actual church, and the rest of the poor parishioners are forced to sit in the parish hall, gather outside, or else simply go home.
“Go away. We have no room for you here.”
I’m from Southern California, where the restrictions were tightened last weekend, and my parish was once again forced to move outside for Mass. Although California is not known for its cold winters, the 7:30am Mass just became akin to sitting outside, watching your son’s football game. Parishioners walk up in full winter gear (or as close as Californians can get) and sit bundled in blankets and coats, trying their best to focus on the liturgy.
While Mass celebrated outside in the middle of November is less than ideal, there is something even more concerning happening in our churches: we are turning people away.
I am a convert to the Faith. I was baptized Lutheran and raised in that faith until I was ten, when I was lucky enough to attend a Mass with a school friend. I came home from it and said, “Mom, I want to be Catholic.”
I knew nothing about Catholicism at the time, but something happened during that Mass that changed my life. I truly believe the Holy Spirit guided me to Christ. I didn’t understand what the Eucharist meant; I didn’t know most of the prayers. But I knew, in my soul, that there was truth in that Mass and that I wanted to be a part of the Catholic Faith.
Even more beautiful, the Holy Spirit guided my mother’s conversion as well. Several years have passed, and my mom now prays a daily Rosary and attends daily Mass. Yet none of this would have happened without the friends who took us to Mass and helped us along the way.
We were saved simply because we were allowed to take a step inside the church.
Now, however, with Covid restrictions becoming even more intense in my home state, parishioners are not even allowed to step inside their own churches. As of now, there are only ten people allowed in the church at a time. For Catholics who go to daily Mass, this means ten people get to worship in the church, ten people can worship in the hallway outside, ten people can worship in the hall (or the multipurpose room), and the rest must sit outside.
Getting to Mass has become a competition, it has turned neighbor against neighbor and has made it clear that outsiders are not welcome.
There is something demoralizing about having to race your friend to the pew.
Why should the elderly be forced to sit outside on a cold December morning because they cannot move as quickly as the younger parishioners? When did it become acceptable to look down on the big family because they take up more space in the pews than the rest?
Here’s the secret: it is all a distraction.
Satan is so good at making us focus on things that do not matter, and Covid has brought this out in our churches. Covid was a distraction, and the restrictions are the repercussions.
Is the virus serious and real? Absolutely.
Are eternal life and eternal damnation real? Absolutely.
Satan is distracting us from this last truth. Covid has made us selfish. We are all so focused on ourselves and our own well-being that we have forgotten about our neighbor. Covid has brought out the terrifying truth that Catholics have become comfortable.
Satan has us so focused on getting a seat in our churches that he has us pushing our neighbors out of the way as we walk in. Satan has us outside, so we can’t (or simply won’t) kneel during the Consecration. Satan has us locking our doors so people who are hurting and desperate for the peace that only Jesus Christ can give them are turned away.
“Go away. We have no room for you here.”
Satan is tearing apart our Church from the inside, while the faithful are left outside. If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, I’m not sure what will.
This year has been a year of loss as well as a year of awakening. As it comes to a close, it’s time for Catholics to stand up and demand better. We may have suffered many losses this year, but we can’t afford to lose our churches. They are being attacked, and if we are not ready to stand up and open our doors, we will never survive. Here’s to the salvation of souls!