May our ‘new normal’ teach us something about their ‘old’

As the Church Prays
Michael Podrebarac is the archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.

by Michael Podrebarac

We have so far weathered this present pandemic and its closure of churches, schools, restaurants, theaters, stadiums and “non-essential” businesses.

We have tackled shortages of paper products, disinfectants and certain foods. We have learned to make do with what we have here at home, to be content with phone calls and Zoom meetings, and to keep ourselves as best occupied as we can.

And, through God’s good grace and even our natural sense of optimism, we’ve remained hopeful for that time when things return to “normal” — at least that “new” normal of improved preparation, and more careful personal and social practices.

We’ve believed, and of course with good reason, that this scourge shall eventually pass, and we are advised by both priest and politician to be patient, and remain at peace. And we’ve good reason to heed their prudent counsel.

But there are those who will remain “in lockdown” even after the shopping centers and entertainment venues reopen. There are those who will continue to have recourse to “spiritual” Communions and “broadcast” liturgies.

There are those who will continue to pray that the phone rings, or that a card or letter arrives. They have already — some now for years — survived in this mode which seems so uncomfortable to us who are used to better.

They are the shut-ins. Their “stay at home” order is not temporary. Rare, if ever, are the times when they can “just get out” for even a drive-thru meal.

Rarely, if ever, can they congregate for Mass, which means no less to them than it does to us. They’ve already embraced “social distancing” as the only “normal” they’ll ever again know.

Of course, some of these folks fare better than others. But none of them, and we’re talking about our neighbors here, will see things go back to even the new normal that so many of us are a little anxious about.

These insights came to me when fretting about how this Holy Week “just wouldn’t be the same” and wishing I could “just go out and enjoy a nice meal” for a change. God’s grace can surely smack one’s vision back straight!

Like most crises, the present pandemic has given witness to the best of humanity and the worst of humanity, and not only in terms of deeds, but also of circumstances.

May we, then, deeply appreciate the circumstances of those whose lives will not really change that much once the “all clear” is sounded and the vast majority of us venture back out into the world.

But, then again, their lives could change — at least a little, and for the better — if we pause to think about it. “I was confined, and you visited me.”

Leave a Reply