Survivor Guilt

One of my staff colleagues reported such early in Washington’s shelter-at-home order. We chatted a bit about our privilege of serving at Mass. Our opportunity to receive Communion. The pastor emeritus offers after each livestream Mass. (We’re directed not to distribute during the recorded Masses.) I’ve declined. For some reasons I’ll get into in a few paragraphs.

I didn’t feel survivor guilt at first. But I do now, but not in connection with my parishioners. Facebook friends in liturgy and music have been among the first to get furloughed or lose jobs. A facebook connection through a friend suggested this morning I approve of her governor (Michigan) and criticize the gun-toting protesters with the occasional swastika because I’m “glib” about still having a full income and an office and duties and some meaning in my life. That might be true. But I could also be out of work and not be in favor of crashing a healthcare system that’s been stripped into a money-making bone for stockholders and the 1%.

I think my diocese needs a lot of help in liturgy and music. I base that on my pre-pandemic experiences. We have an architectural wonder in our cathedral. There’s a parish here and there with notably good liturgy. But compared to places in the Midwest, it’s still the 1980s here. That’s not a bad place to be, in a way. The Church has other strengths here. And a mighty task of evangelization looming ahead. However, there is no director in the chancery liturgy office; just a coordinator who does well enough with the resources given. I would love to poach friends from around the continent to come and serve in parishes here.

On the other hand, I see warning clouds for the future of my vocation and field of service. If we remain on limited gatherings for months, and if we have to shut down if coronavirus resurfaces, then a lot of positive liturgy developments from the past sixty to eighty years will be rolled back. Communion under both forms. Congregational singing. Even choirs and well-developed music ministries. People older than seventy or even sixty dropping out of liturgical ministry–and we have been very, very poor in many places cultivating a new generation.

I told my wife this morning I’ve pinned my feeling of disconnect when I go to livestream Mass. I feel guilt. She counsels to be thankful instead. Well, I do feel that. But I’m going to stay with the guilt too.

I continue to decline to receive Communion at Mass. I pray the prayers. Sometimes it is rote. I’ve been taking my own advice for daily Christianity. Most everybody I know, including my pink-slipped colleagues, are not receiving the Eucharist these days. I think I’m hanging with my friends, and I hope Jesus hangs with us too.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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