The coronavirus pandemic has meant that people all over the United States have been unable to gather for worship for months. America asked its readers if they have found themselves surprised by what they missed about Mass or their faith community.
I miss coming into church right before Mass: the cool scented air, the quiet, the colors streaming in from the windows and the smiles of friends. This may be an odd thing to miss but it is a few minutes of changing from world time to God time, of feeling my muscles relax, my breath slow down and my mind open to Jesus.
Everything I took for granted. Daily Mass after I drop my daughter off at school. Lighting candles for the sick (and sometimes paying for them!). Hearing a favorite hymn, and trying to sing it. Hearing Fathers Vince, Junior or Adam nailing a homily. Seeing the same 99-year-old man, with cane, genuflecting until his right knee hits the floor—and seeing him painfully getting up. Going out of my way to shake a hand at the sign of peace. Seeing others at Mass, whether 20 or 300, and knowing that despite our doubts...we are part of a 2,000-year tradition. The taste of a Communion wafer. Criticizing, in my head, the dude who leaves after Communion...and then feeling like a jerk because I don’t know his story.
I really miss just being able to walk into church when I am feeling anxious or scared and sitting in silence during adoration or before Mass starts. I always feel Christ’s reassuring presence in sacred space and I have been missing that.
Community. Even though I attend an early-morning weekday Mass and we are a quiet bunch, I miss being in that community.
The being together...not only with my dear friends, but also with those I know only by sight, or recognize by where they sit or what they do.
We are music ministers, providing music for two or three Masses each weekend. We were unprepared for how much we miss gathering with our small community and sharing prayer in song. It has left us feeling a huge void.
Christine and Peter Nathanson
Orient Point, N.Y.
It surprises me how much I miss all of it. Even trying to find a seat, crying babies, unexciting homilies…. Of course I miss the Mass and the Eucharist, but the others surprise me.
The Eucharist. I know it sounds obvious, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. I can hardly watch a streamed Mass without crying when the priest, and only the priest, is able to partake in the Eucharist. I don’t care how many times I say that “spiritual communion” prayer. It’s not the same.
Having Sunday be a different experience than any other day. It has disrupted our lives in a way that feels something is terribly amiss. We had to do something about it. Even though we livestream Mass and keep Sunday holy, we had to change a routine in our family. We now bake homemade bread Saturday evening. We wake up to homemade bread, a different breakfast than every other day.
The community: my favorite little altar servers trying to light the altar candles that they can’t quite reach or carrying the processional cross that seems too big. The charismatic widow in the front who loves to give big hugs. My choir mates; my husband leading the psalm. The twins and the one with kids who fist-bump. The veiled ladies after Mass leading the rosary. Father Fran, his Birkenstocks and homilies that, if we’re lucky, will end with a song. The kids with the collection basket. Watching the congregation on the chance that this might be a Communion hymn we can all sing together. That quiet calm after the Communion line when we can take a moment and say “Thank you, Lord.” That’s my Saturday, 5 p.m.