COVID-19, Mass and Marriage: It’s Not All About Me

I’ll be discussing face masks and the COVID-19 pandemic, and why I’m not indignant that the Catholic Church hasn’t redefined the Mass or marriage.

That second item is my response to Mass and marriage headlines. The items aren’t “news” in the “unexpected,” “surprising” or “novel” sense.

But first, here’s how I see face masks, vaccines and dealing with limits.

Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I’m still following Minnesota’s mask and distance rules when I go out.

That hasn’t been a problem with me: partly because I don’t get out much. And partly because talking with folks who are also wearing masks doesn’t bother me. Much.

But talking with someone the other day helped me understand some of the sound and fury I’ve been seeing in my social media feeds.

I’m not exactly an introvert. But a little social interaction goes a long way for me.

The someone I talked with is close to another end of humanity’s sociability spectrum. And he had, apparently, long since reached his load limit for masks and melodrama.

I see his point. Points.

A Blocked Channel

Me, at my desk, where I almost never wear a face mask. (January 23, 2021)Masks and casual conversation do not mix well. Pandemic and political stress aside, face masks hide a great many facial expressions.

I haven’t seen a study on it, but I’m pretty sure that between two thirds and 95% of our non-verbal facial communication happens below the nose. That leaves our eyebrows to do conversation’s non-verbal heavy lifting.

Having a critical communication channel blocked doesn’t bother me all that much.

Masked or not, having a casual face-to-face chat with someone means I’m paying close attention to their posture, movements, vocal inflections, where their eyes are pointed — and what they’re doing with their lower face.

Take away that last item, and I’ve still got enough data to work with. I’ve learned that most folks aren’t like me. For which we should all be grateful, and that’s another topic.

But someone who would, normally, perceive and process facial expressions effortlessly? (As I gather most folks do.)

Living in a masked society could be more than awkward.

The Fear Factor

Visualization of the COVID-19 coronavirus, from the CDC. (2019)The COVID-19 coronavirus disease has been front-page news since December of 2019.

The World Health Organization, WHO, made it an official pandemic on March 11, 2020, not quite year and a week ago today.

Depending on who you listen to, WHO should have said it was a pandemic before that. Or not scared the masses by calling it a pandemic. Or not have existed in the first place.

I figure some folks are still saying that COVID-19 pandemic isn’t happening. Or that it’s part of a conspiracy.

What’s been in my social media feed suggests that ‘COVID-19 isn’t real’ has been supplanted by ‘they’re controlling our minds with face masks’ and ‘beware vaccinations.’

I’m not trying to make conspiracy theorists look good.

But I’ll grant that fear is a powerful motivator. And it’s likely that the frenzied hysteria I see online mirrors what’s happening in face-to-face conversations.

Talking with someone who’s apparently convinced that ‘they’ are part of a conspiracy, or that anyone who’s okay with vaccinations is a second columnist?

Yeah. That could be stressful.

Me? I’m still willing to wait my turn for COVID-19 vaccinations. And I’m concerned about ethical issues. (December 5, 2020)

I’m in at least two ‘at risk’ groups. But the way I live doesn’t give me many opportunities for getting sick, and I’m quite sure there are folks who need vaccinations more than I do. which is why I’m willing to wait.

I don’t know why so many folks seem so fearful of COVID-19.

Or are so zealous in their declarations — and fervent in their denunciation of folks who don’t agree with them.

The pandemic happening during an America election year didn’t, I think, help. Politics and reason seldom mix. and that’s yet another topic.

Second-Hand Stress's coronavirus structure illustration.Two more things about COVID-19 vaccines.

First, our parish priest made a “Coronavirus Vaccines | A Catholic Perspective” handout available on March 3. I’ll probably be talking about that sometime. But not today, apart from noting that he included a three-tier list.

Second, and this is the point I was headed for, I’m pretty sure that many of us are suffering from second-hand stress. Encountering folks who are dancing on the edge of panic is not, I’m quite sure, a serene experience.

Update March 17, 2021

I got these responses to social media promotion of this post:

“Face mask:
([name redacted])

“We must stop being weak and stand up for our rights!!!!!!”
([name redacted])

Five and six exclamation marks, respectively. The folks seem quite sincere. And fervent.

But I’ll continue wearing a face mask in public. As a low-impact public health measure, it strikes me as reasonable.

We Celebrate

(Our Lady of the Angels polka Mass, Dale Dahmen & The Polka Beats.)

Once a year, we have a polka Mass at Our Lady of the Angels, here in Sauk Centre.

I like it. I’d like it more if the oompahs had more oomph. But I like it. A lot.

Some folks apparently don’t. I can see their point. And might even agree, if our polka Mass happened during Easter’s Holy Week. Which it doesn’t.

But if the bishop said ‘no more polka Mass,’ I’d be okay with that.

Happy, no. Okay, yes.

Good grief, I live in a community that put our Divine Mercy devotion on hold until a pope who could read Polish came along. And that’s yet again another topic.

Then there’s reaction to new rules about ‘just me’ Masses at St. Peter’s in Rome.

News and Views

Why the Vatican is restricting private Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica
Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter (March 16, 2021)

“…A new instruction from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State has banned the practice of individual Masses inside St. Peter’s Basilica and places strict limits on the use of the Latin rite….

“…’The intent is to restore the notion of participation in liturgy and private Masses just don’t do it, said Msgr. Kevin Irwin, the longtime chairman of liturgical studies at the Catholic University of America and author of Pope Francis and the Liturgy: The Call to Holiness and Mission.

“The directives go on to note that Masses are still permitted in the chapels of the grotto of the basilica for pilgrim groups accompanied by a priest or bishop and that the use of the extraordinary (Latin) rite are limited to certain times in the Clementine Chapel in the Vatican grottos.

“Viatorian Fr. Mark Francis, who served on the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and is retired president of Catholic Theological Union, told NCR that the new decree makes clear that ‘individual priests are at the service of the church and not vice versa.’

“The Eucharist is a communal celebration,’ he said. ‘To have a private Mass is a sort of an oxymoron.’…”

National Catholic Reporter is far from the most rigidly old-school Catholic news outlet around. But the folks quoted make sense to me.

Besides, it’s not just the NatComRep.

More News and Views

St. Peter’s Basilica to end private Masses, restrict Masses in extraordinary form
Andrea Gagliarducci, Catholic News Agency (CNA) (March 12, 2021)

“…Until now, the 45 altars and 11 chapels in St. Peter’s Basilica have been used every morning by priests to celebrate their daily Mass. Many of them are Vatican officials who begin their day with the celebration.

“Not all of the Masses are crowded – in some cases, in fact, the priest celebrates Mass alone, with no faithful participating.

“The individual Masses were in addition to the general daily Mass schedule in St. Peter’s Basilica. According to that schedule, there is one Mass per hour from 9 a.m. to noon, in Italian, at the Altar of the Chair. There is another Mass in Italian at 8.30 a.m. at the altar of the Most Holy Sacrament, while every day at 5 p.m., there is a Mass in Latin….

“..These anomalies have prompted some speculation that the letter may have been forged. However, two Vatican officials who asked for anonymity confirmed to CNA that the document is real.”

I’m not affected by this letter. Not directly, at any rate.

And I don’t see a problem with a rule that says ‘just me’ Masses aren’t okay in St. Peter’s, Rome. That’s partly because I’m a Catholic, and have read the Catechism.

The Mass is, or should be, a community thing.

“…The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1329)

Sex and Feelings, Marriage and Me — Briefly

I’m not political. This blog isn’t political.

Not in the ‘everyone I don’t like is a commie/fascist’ sense.

But sometimes I talk about issues with a political angle.

After Vatican says same-sex unions cannot be blessed, White House reaffirms Biden’s support for them
Catholic News Agency (CNA) (March 15, 2021)

“While the White House on Monday would not respond to the Vatican’s statement on marriage, press secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden supports same-sex unions.

“On Monday, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a response to a question on the Church’s power to bless same-sex unions. The CDF said that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions or any relations ‘that involve sexual activity outside of marriage.’…”

Since I want to wrap this up while today is still “today,” I’ll be terse. Terse by my standards, that is.

First, what the CDF said isn’t — or shouldn’t be — a surprise. Marriage is, or should be, a sacrament uniting a man and a woman. (Catechism, 16011658)

Second, I don’t see this affirmation of what marriage is as an excuse to lambast folks who aren’t just like me. If I did, my priority would be weeding out that impulse. Make that should be my priority.

A little background.

I’m human.

Emotions are part of the package. By themselves, they’re not good or bad. What matters is what I decide to do about my feelings. (Catechism, 17621770)

Thinking is part of being human, too. But because I have free will, thinking is an option: not a requirement. I figure, based on experience, that I’m better off if I think before I act. (Catechism, 1730, 1778, 1804, 2339)

Let’s say I’m angry about what the American president’s spokesperson said. Which, at some levels, I am.

Okay, so I’m angry. Now what?

Emotion Happens, Thought is an Option

Basically, I’m trying to turn that anger into an awareness of a current issue. And not cherish the emotion.

Deliberately staying angry, letting that emotional impulse turn into hate or despair? That would be wrong. (Catechism, 1501, 2091)

Now, about same-sex attraction.

It happens. So do other glitches. Including ones that I struggle with.

And impulses happen. Feeling the impulse isn’t what’s sinful. It’s just feeling an impulse. Deciding to cooperate with the impulse, or deciding to go with the flow? That’s where trouble starts. (Catechism, 23572359)

I’m expected to recognize the action as a sin, and remember that folks deserve “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” (Catechism, 2358)

There’s a great deal more to say, but there’s also no time left.

So I’ll recap what I’ve said before, about what I believe and how I should act.

I should love God, and my neighbor. And see everyone as my neighbor. Everyone. No exceptions. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2537; Catechism, 1706, 1776, 1825, 18491851, 1955)

Sin is what happens when I don’t do that. It’s is an offense against reason, truth and God. (Catechism, 18491850)

It’s simple. And almost incredibly hard to do.

More of pretty much the same thing:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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5 Responses to COVID-19, Mass and Marriage: It’s Not All About Me

  1. Catherine Laurent says:

    Bill: Very interesting post.
    I will not get the vaccine due to there has not been enough study for after effects of the shots.
    I (and this is me) feel we need to build up our immune systems, if we get shots for everything what will happen when a vaccine is not available.
    You write beautiful posts that make so much sense.
    My husband and I volunteer at the Annandale, Minn. food shelf several days a week, so many people come in saying they are not getting the shots, well of course that is their choice, one of the other volunteers thinks that we need to have a national mandate for shots, I am not sure this is a good idea.
    I have listened to Dale Dahman band, they are wonderful, we used to have a festival at St. Ignatius here in Annandale, we could never get them to play they were always booked up.
    As for the marriage between a man and a woman, I agree, that is the way God planned it.
    I hope you have a beautiful Blessed weekend.


  2. irishbrigid says:

    No proofreading this time, just have a couple things to say.

    The main problem I have with wearing a mask is how much warmer my face gets than the rest of my body after a while. It tends to trigger my panic mode. The main problem I have with *other people* wearing a mask is that it muffles their voices and means I can’t watch their mouths to help fill in the audio gaps.

    As for vaccines, they make sense for diseases with slow mutation rates like polio, measles, and smallpox. Even tetanus, as the booster is only necessary ever ten years. They make significantly less sense for diseases that mutate so fast that the vaccine is almost out of date by the time it’s developed. Like the flu shot and the new COVID vaccine.

    • I see your point – and you’re not the only one who experiences breathing-related issues when wearing a face mask. I’m not one of them – which may explain why I didn’t discuss that angle. And I missed the ‘trying to understand what the other person is saying’ angle (it would have gone under the “A Blocked Channel” heading).

      Vaccines? As with anything else, from baking soda to stamp collecting, that particular medical technology can be over-done.

      On my part, I started getting an annual flue shot when I reached the high-risk age. It’s not a magic elixir with 100% results – but I figure it’s a good benefit/risk situation for me. Which, given today’s social climate, I’ll clarify – I do **not** say that everyone should get at least a dozen flu shots every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

      Speaking of which, something that I haven’t noticed – and haven’t missed.

      When wearing a mask became a political issue, I expected at least a few folks and activist groups to start warning the uninitiated – that COVID was a Muslim plot to do something pretty much awful.

      I don’t know why that didn’t become a rallying cry for a crackpot demographic. Maybe too much time had elapsed since the ‘muslins are taking over America and they wear masks/turban/burkas’ hysteria. (“muslins”??? that’s from a widely-circulated photo of someone’s effort to educate the American public with a yard sign)

      Oh, well. One less bit of sound and fury in public discourse. I don’t mind a bit. 😉

Thanks for taking time to comment!