When I go to work during this pandemic, I make doubly sure that I am properly dressed and have adequate PPE – ‘personal protective equipment’, the most coveted commodity on the whole planet – to keep my patients and myself safe. Like everyone else who works in healthcare, I do not take preparation lightly. I respect the necessary time, care, clothing and attitude needed so that I am physically and mentally prepared to do the best job that I can.
When I participate at weekday online Holy Mass in the early morning, I usually roll out of bed just minutes before Mass, quickly head downstairs to the darkened living room illuminated only by our blessed candle and turn on my phone. As I recently told a friend, at daily Mass my hair is uncombed, my teeth are unbrushed, my face is unwashed and my clothing consists of flannel pyjamas that I’ve slept in all night. Clearly, I have not prepared at all to take part in this most Holy Sacrifice.
Sunday Mass is not much better although I have had a chance to put on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, my off-duty uniform in these strange, uber-casual times. Gathered in the basement to watch our parish’s live-streamed Mass on the big screen TV, my family has adapted well to stay-at-home life. Dressed in sweats, short and t-shirts that they would never be allowed to wear at church, my three young adult children who still live at home settle into over-sized couches just before Mass begins. It’s difficult to have anything but an informal, laid-back attitude when the Holy Sacrifice takes place amongst lazy-boy recliners, gaming consoles and the hum of the dryer heard from the other room. My mantilla, which I have worn faithfully for the past eight years, is so weirdly out of place in this current arrangement that I have tucked it safely away until better days.
One day, hopefully soon, our churches will re-open and Holy Mass will be public once again. When that day comes, will many of us Catholics continue to attend the virtual Mass from the ease of our couches and comfy clothes? After all, virtual Mass is legitimate and one can always make a spiritual communion. Will those of us who return to our parishes bring with us an even more casual attitude than what was there before our churches were shuttered? Will our priests and dioceses be so desperate to get us and our money back that they put on a disturbingly jovial, overly familiar, community centred approach that further destroys the primary purpose of Holy Mass as the representation of Our Lord’s sacrifice?
Right about now, the argument may be made by some about the noticeable difference in reverence at the Extraordinary Form Mass versus the Novus Ordo Mass. But that would be a moot point since the majority of Catholics attend the Novus Ordo Mass and the majority of priests sadly have no desire to offer the Latin Mass. Reverence and devotion are rightly due to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament regardless of the form of the Mass.
As we shelter in place, we owe it to Our Blessed Lord as well as to ourselves to not slide into a lazy, exceptionally casual frame of mind when we participate at Holy Mass. This is another manifestation of lukewarmness. Please God, our churches will open again soon; in the meantime, we must fight the temptation to conduct ourselves in an overly informal, careless manner during virtual Mass.
Personally, I have resolved to take a few extra minutes before early morning weekday Mass to change out of my pyjamas, brush my hair and splash some water on my face. On Sundays, my husband and I have begun to set an example for our children by taking greater care in our attire, posture and focus at Mass. We require that our children dress as if we were sitting in the pew at our parish.
These days, there are many references to doing battle with Covid-19. As a properly dressed healthcare worker dons their PPE and prepares themselves mentally as well as physically, it certainly feels that way.
But the greater battle is the fight against lukewarmness, laziness and that lackadaisical outlook that can creep into the way we are now forced to attend Holy Mass. The Catholic faithful need to adopt a similar focused, determined attitude as those who work in healthcare because all of us are in the fight for our souls. Getting dressed, looking appropriate, being prepared physically and mentally are only one necessary part. We need all the help we can get; therefore, we call on St. Michael, our guardian angels and Our Lady to help us. Virgo Potens, ora pro nobis.