Guilt Tripping? Must Do Better

I’ve noticed that Sunday obligations are popping back up around the US. Personally irrelevant because I’ve been one of those people providing livestreams, then limited worship, then gradual opening up over these past months. In my current parish, attendance has been on a slow rise, and no guilt trip has been rolled onto them.

A social media friend posted this image, right. It seems to be authentic. I’ve heard sentiments along these lines since last March.

The problem is that grocery stores aren’t churches. Most don’t give custodial staff off on weekends. Most have aisles for moving around and aren’t often at full capacity. (Except when managers don’t hire enough clerks.) Most have automatic doors. During the height of the pandemic, their staffs were trained to keep things as clean and sanitized as humanly possible.

When I went pandemic grocery shopping, I was in with a list and out right quick. Maybe I couldn’t shop at any time of the day or night, but 6AM to midnight seven days a week was a lot more accessibility than nearly any church when the times are normal. When I go to a grocery store, maybe there are a dozen or two workers busy at it. Sunday Mass? Clergy and music director–two or three people.

Here’s a serious wonder … what if bishops didn’t reinstate the Sunday Mass obligation? What if people found themselves motivated, like on Ash Wednesday or Thanksgiving, and attended because they found it fruitful? I wonder what would happen. I’m not saying the bishops should announce all out, “You don’t have to come to Mass under obligation.” Just leave things the way they are. Say nothing. Encourage better music and preaching. On that first score, I know I’m feeling the need to up my game and encourage my musicians to strive for their very best. Grateful to be back singing and playing, I think they get it.

If only more of us had used the last fourteen months to take a little more time studying Scripture, practicing our singing and speaking voices, researching good music, and practicing our instruments.

Oops. Was that a guilt trip?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Guilt Tripping? Must Do Better

  1. Liam says:

    I agree with your distinction between grocery shopping and Mass.

    That said, as decades roll on, and I witness human activity that arises from a sense of duty/obligation/obedience rather than emotion, and hear people criticize and even condemn themselves for doing things out of duty/obligation/obedience but feeling a lack of emotional love in doing it, I would like to put a plug in for love being understood as an act of will rather than an emotion, that duty/obligation/obedience can be a very fine reason for such an act of will. Consequently, I am less persuaded by the idea of preceptual obedience being an unworthy or less-than thing.

    • Todd says:

      I get all that, and I don’t have any strong disagreement. I certainly embrace the notion of love being an act of will. However, we aren’t in ordinary times. And old approaches to obligation, duty, and even love, have been deeply stressed. I think lifting obligations to worship is worth a serious discussion. If for nothing else, it would inspire pro-obligation clerics and others to move beyond emotion and engage their own will–not to mention a Spirit-guided discernment with a wide range of lay people.

      • Liam says:

        So far, sad to say, I’ve yet to witness reason to believe that doing so would provide that inspiration to such clerics and others.

  2. Tom McClusky says:

    We opened a while back and roped off every other pew. The return of the congregation was less than robust, so this worked well for distancing sake. We even dismissed people from the back first, working to the front to help the exiting process.
    Since the CDC relaxed the mask mandate, it was decided to remove the ropes from one half of the church. This created an interesting scene and decisions needed to be made. “Do I sit where I always sit (Catholic assigned seating) and follow the rule for that section, or do I sit where I’m comfortable beit mask or no mask?”
    Sunday was the second weekend with this setup. The very few masked individuals were greatly outnumbered by the non-maskers who nearly filled the sections without ropes or distancing.
    Maybe the decision goes deeper than assumed assigned seating. Some might not want to “look like the other side” politically. It was odd to see. Those that want to wear masks, or have to, may not come back after this.

  3. Devin Rice says:

    With these near miraculous vaccines, all the experts reporting in more progressive outlets like Vox say that the personal risk is minimal with vaccines. Also it has been pretty much established now that surface transmission is not a main vector of infection, so parish sanitizing teams in hindsight were probably a waste.

    And these vaccines appear to stimulate even a partial response in immune compromised people well. And double masking approaches a N95 mask, so those who are more cautious can wear masks to protect themselves.

    It is time to return to Church.

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