Sunday, December 10, 2023

Lockdown Turned to Boycott in Our House: Once Interrupted, the Habits of Religious Worship Can Be Hard to Re-Establish; The Invitation and Obligation of the Lord’s Day, and other C-Virus related stories

Photo: Craig Lassig/Shutterstock
Lockdown Turned to Boycott in Our House"
Once interrupted, the habits of religious worship can be hard to re-establish.
One casualty of the pandemic has been my daughter’s church attendance. We had a good routine in place before the lockdown. Now she won’t go under any circumstances.
Magdalena, 17, has Down syndrome. The “little angel” stereotype doesn’t apply to her. She is smart and stubborn. She doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to do without a fight. I suppose we could dress her up and drag her to Sunday Mass, but bitter experience tells me she would make us pay a dear price. It isn’t worth it.
Magdalena’s behavior has never been perfect, but it wasn’t always like this. She is similar to many teenagers, with and without Down syndrome, in that she tends toward what psychologists call an “oppositional” disposition. She is good at intuiting what her parents want and then doing whatever she can to thwart it. But with the right inducements she could often be convinced to sit still and quiet for an hour. The promise of a doughnut was usually enough to purchase the peace.
The pandemic ruined everything. In many states, mine included, the civil authorities deemed public worship nonessential. Our family watched Mass live from New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral on our living room TV for months. Magdalena’s parents and siblings found the experience less than reverent, but Mags preferred couch to pew. After a few weeks she realized there was nothing stopping her from getting up and wandering back to her room. Eventually she stopped coming down at all.
I couldn’t blame her. Christ was spiritually present in our hearts but substantially present in the Eucharist miles away. Receiving him in the sacrament matters to Catholics.
Houses of worship in our area partially reopened in the summer of the plague year. Capacity restrictions and distancing requirements remained strict for months. There was no way Magdalena would consent to wearing a mask. She also couldn’t be relied on not to cough loudly for attention, which, under prevailing expectations of health and wellness, could have set off a wild stampede for the exits.
So we started attending Mass in shifts: my wife and son at 7:30 a.m., the rest of our children and me at 10:30 a.m. All but one child, that is, because Magdalena wouldn’t come. Even the doughnuts didn’t work anymore.
By December 2020, countless Catholics nationwide had grown weary of church leaders’ acquiescence to state power. In these pages I urged bishops to stand up to politicians like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, erstwhile caesar of Albany, who seemed to delight in his arbitrary power to declare this shall open and that shall close. --->READ MORE HERE
The Invitation and Obligation of the Lord’s Day?
The “Great Dechurching” over the past twenty-five years has been widely discussed. Some forty million people have stopped going to church in the past generation. As Protestant authors Jim Davis and Michael Graham point out, the majority of adults in America today do not attend church—an historic first in the eighty years since Gallup began tracking church attendance. In the post-Covid era, attendance numbers have not rebounded, but continued to decline. In short, not only most Americans, but even Christians increasingly question the practical necessity of Sunday church attendance for a fulfilling life.
Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic occasioned a new discussion of the Sunday obligation among Catholics specifically. While many Catholics discerned that it was safe to return to in person worship in Summer of 2020, most US bishops did not reinstate the Sunday obligation until Spring and Summer of 2021. At the time, some more Covid-alarmist Catholic commentators questioned whether the Church had taken the pandemic seriously enough. Some even took the pandemic as an occasion to question whether Mass attendance should be framed as an obligation, insisting that it should instead be an invitation. But such a response to the Great Unchurching is as misguided as it is confused.
Of course, all are invited to the Sacrifice of the Mass on the Lord’s Day. But invitation and obligation are not mutually exclusive. The invitation and obligation to attend Sunday Mass is, in the order of grace, a specification of a natural obligation, i.e., a practical necessity for living reasonably. The practice of the good of religion is a requirement of one aspect of our basic duty to pursue happiness. The Psalmist sings that the skies proclaim the glory of God and the heavens the work of his hands—and that it is the fool who says in his heart there is no God. Not only is knowledge of God’s existence desirable and available to unaided reason, but so is the knowledge that thanksgiving is owed to Him for one’s existence and the gifts of providence.
Hence, Thomas Aquinas teaches that the third commandment, to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, is fittingly expressed as the precept that establishes man in true religion. The first two commandments are negative precepts (prohibition of worship of false idols, and taking the Lord’s name in vain), which remove obstacles to true religion by setting the will upon its true end, God himself.
Honoring the Sabbath is therefore the first positive injunction of the Decalogue, directing the natural religious desire and duty as to how to honor the Creator. By resting on the seventh day, the Jews recalled to mind that the Creator made the universe “in six days” and “rested” on the seventh (Exodus 20:11). By this, it was not meant that after creating all things, God was tired and needed a nap. Rather, as St. Augustine explains, God is said to “rest” by metonymy in that he acts to bring us to his rest. Under the New Law, Christians are simultaneously strengthened in our journey toward our ultimate rest, and get a glimpse and taste of that rest, in the Sunday Mass, fulfilling the commandment on the day of Christ’s resurrection.
Again, the obligation is congruent with sound philosophical anthropology, with truths about human nature knowable apart from faith. We are neither ghosts nor machines. We are spiritual animals. This means that we render honor to God as befits beings composed of body and soul. We must worship God both interiorly (in our minds and hearts) and exteriorly (with sensible signs like sounds and smells, and bodily actions like standing, kneeling, praying, singing, etc.).
Spiritual animals are social animals. Our duty to God is therefore both individual and communal, which means that performance of religious duties will include rituals in synchronicity with others in our communities, with whom we live and interact throughout the week. This is entirely fitting, for as social animals we need each other to spur us to grow in faith, hope, and love through the essentially communal practices of worship, learning, admonition, and friendship. At Mass, Catholics carry out the apostle’s admonition to “to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together” and to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Heb. 10:24; Col. 3:16). --->READ MORE HERE
Follow links below to relevant/related stories and resources:

New Normal Settles for Churches Post-Pandemic

COVID and flu cases are rising—how to spot the difference and stay safe

USA TODAY: Coronavirus Updates

WSJ: Coronavirus Live Updates

YAHOO NEWS: Coronavirus Live Updates

NEW YORK POST: Coronavirus The Latest

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