As our Diocese continues its second phase planning to reopen our church buildings for the public celebration of Mass, it may be helpful to recall the prime reason why the Diocese mandated that such public celebrations be temporarily suspended. Given all the misinformation that exists in the media, we must never forget that the decision was rooted in a commitment to remain faithful to a central tenet of our Catholic faith.
The grave reason that motivated the suspension of public Mass was our commitment to the central Catholic belief in the sanctity of every human life and our common moral obligation to protect human life. When it became clear that the passing of the COVID-19 virus often occurs by asymptomatic persons sharing regular human contact, time was needed to understand how such infections occur, the best ways to avoid passing the contagion, all the while maintaining as much of the public practice of the faith as was prudent and still protecting human life- especially the elderly and sick in our midst. In the last eight weeks, we have made much progress in this regard, allowing us to begin the resumption of public worship in a prudent and gradual manner.
More specifically, the decision was never based on any debate about whether our Catholic faith and its practice is “essential”. For anyone who believes, this issue is not debatable. The practice of our faith is at the heart of who we are. The Eucharist sustains our daily life and temporarily to suspend its public celebration could only be justified by a grave, moral cause. Recognizing the great pain that was caused by the suspension, our churches have remained open for private prayer, Eucharistic adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance. To be clear, the practice of our Catholic faith is essential and necessary for our personal salvation as revealed by our Savior and Redeemer.
The good news is that the celebration of public Mass has begun in our Diocese outdoors, in a manner that every health official considers the safest venue in which to congregate, following social distancing rules. While this is a first step forward, we are all anxious to be able to resume the public celebration of Masses in our churches as well. To this end, we will soon make a public announcement about how and when we can reopen our church buildings
I am grateful for your patience, prayers, and understanding during these difficult months. I very much understand and appreciate the great sorrow and loss felt by many. However, my friends, let us remember that our common sacrifice had one prime motive: to follow the mandate of the Lord of Life to protect, defend, and keep safe every human life.
For if we failed to protect human life during this pandemic, how can we ever hope to convert our society to end the culture of death and to recognize and protect every human life?
The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.