We are definitely in a strange new phase of life in the United States, and it doesn’t even remotely resemble the Kansas to which we have become accustomed. With every day, life is now new and unexpected.
For instance, yesterday I celebrated my first birthday ever under ‘Shelter-in-Place’ orders. My son made a make-shift card…which actually was refreshing to receive…very creative and heartfelt. We did a homemade birthday cake…well, I did. In fact, I have done almost as much baking during these few weeks as I did at Christmas time. That, unfortunately, may soon end. All local stores are out of yeast. And flour. And sugar. And eggs. The baking spirit is willing, but the shelves are weak.
Then today, in apocalyptic style, my husband and I ventured out to the grocery store with both homemade masks and disposable gloves…quite a sight, I assume, from the double-takes from shoppers and workers alike. Truly a Kodak Moment. Upon return, we immediately washed all clothing, sanitized shoe bottoms and took a shower. In retrospect, it just might be easier to get disposable Hazmat Suits.
Business is definitely not ‘As Usual.’ And most of it is nothing to joke about.
Aside from the numerous ill and dying, there are other tangible woes. Many people are denied work because their occupations do not lend themselves to working remotely. Consequently, their savings are being depleted. Personal investments for the future are slowly disappearing as the pandemic takes its toll on the Stock Market. Extended families are separated from each other due to quarantine, creating a vacuum and feelings of loss. For the elderly who live alone, this is even more pronounced as they face uncertainty on their own. And though children are resilient, they are going a bit stir-crazy, as parents grasp at new ways to entertain them and address a new childhood behavior: Containment Melt-Down.
Even the simple act of being able to freely move about has created anxiety and spawned the most interesting conspiracy theories. There are feelings of betrayal by the powers that be, and even worse: that it was contrived to create a police-state. Because of this fear, guns and ammo were flying off the shelves…until cities shut down non-essential businesses. Some argue that gun shops may be essential in order to protect against thieves lurking to steal the provisions we have squirreled away by hoarders. The upshot: if the coronavirus doesn’t scare you, certainly looters will. As much fun as conspiracy theories can be, I just can’t go there.
Then there are the Faithful who, in their frustration, have turned on their priests and bishops. Wild accusations fly, with no thought to charity or prudence. The Shepherds have been accused of being driven by fear, resulting in adherence new to state and federal directives. Their motivations for suspending public Mass have been questioned. This is most interesting, since we Catholics generally believe that only God can judge the heart. Some folks are loudly demanding that Mass return, while Shepherds continue to try and balance the spiritual needs of the flock against the safety mandates and protocols given by state and local governments. I even read one attack that included accusations of bishops being part of some new Communist manifesto. O.K., didn’t see that one coming.
Still, there are some good things that have happened and might yet come from this.
There are more people online now, taking opportunities to ‘be’ with each other through social media. Families have more game nights (our family just ordered two more board games.) There is more prayer in homes, and more quality family time and meals together. In fact, one Facebook post stated that this is the first time in quite a while she can remember having meals with her entire family. While this sounds terribly sad, it is beginning a new tradition for them. People are spending less money on frivolous material things. There is less gas being used and fewer accidents on the now ghost-like freeways. These are all very good.
Another area where I have really been impressed is in the way many priests and bishops have stepped up, thinking way outside of the box. Bishops and priests have taken the Holy Eucharist in procession to city streets to bless communities with the Presence of Christ. Recently a priest in Texas offered to drive to oarishioners homes upon reqest to bless them & their home from the street, while they stand in the diirway to receive the blessing. Priests have offered Confession in an innovative drive-through method. Some celebrate Mass in live podcasts, which has caused Spiritual Communion to be re-kindled in the hearts of the faithful. There are Liturgy of the Hours podcasts. Pope Francis has rallied the Faithful to simultaneous Rosaries and prayers. The crisis has given our shepherds opportunity to creatively reach out to us so that our faith remains strong.
One possible positive outcome of being denied Holy Eucharist is that there might be fewer people who disbelieve the Real Presence. This phenomenon has been a real tragedy of our modern society, where the poorly catechized reach false conclusions about the source and summit of our faith. So perhaps in being denied the Eucharist, people will reflect on the meaning of this Blessed Sacrament.
On a lighter note, online Mass has been interesting, and participation has had its moments of…dare I say…humor. For instance, last Sunday was the first Mass our dog and cat attended. Soren and Bella were extremely well behaved. And I expect God got a chuckle out of my new Sunday attire…PJ’s, robe and slippers, with Holy Veil properly placed on my head. Another Kodak Moment begging for a photo.
AND THEN THERE IS THIS: in our city, Planned Parenthood has closed their doors…indefinitely! Though all abortion facilities have not complied, some have. And if you know the statistics, the closure of abortion clinics would save far more people than any number we might lose through COVID-19.
In closing, I saw one reminder on social media that is especially poignant during Lent: even the Blessed Mother was denied Christ for a time during His Passion. And just like Israel’s captivity in Babylon, God’s people may need to be denied Him for a time in order to desire Him more. God is reaching out to His people, even without public Mass and Holy Communion. He is teaching us through this new form of exile. Will we listen?
So, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore. But once we find our magic slippers and click our heels, we can hopefully return with a whole new appreciation.