Religion is essential

2 mins read
A woman in Washington prays at St. Matthew's Cathedral Dec. 24, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Mihoko Owada, Catholic Standard)

Kathryn Jean LopezWe are now a little more than a year since church doors shut for the Mass, confessions went on hiatus in many places and Eucharistic fasting was put in place for basically anyone other than priests, who ached at what they were required to do. Some did some beautiful things to minister to people in need.

Religion is essential. Religion is essential. Religion is essential. It can’t be said enough. Because we bought into a lie when liquor stores were open and churches weren’t. My heart was consoled when during a recent interview about his pandemic book, “I am with You: Lessons of Hope and Courage in Times of Crisis” (Loyola Press, $12.99), Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan confessed that he is of the belief that we perhaps closed too quickly and stayed closed too long. He assured us that we know what not to do now.

But sometimes, I wonder if we’ve learned those lessons of hope and courage we suffered for. I suspect it has to do with original sin that we fall back into habits that don’t reflect the truth of who we want to be — and say we are as Christians. That seemed to be confirmed for me on a recent weekday. I went to one of two Masses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and was pleasantly surprised by Eucharistic adoration after. But most of the pews emptied. People walked in and out and throughout, taking selfies and phone calls, seeming unaware that our Eucharistic Lord was present. I even thought about getting myself to the office.

That was before I looked at Jesus in amazement. The Gospel of the day was about Stephen having the face of an angel. What must that look like? Could it be more spectacular than what is made possible in the holy Mass? I remembered one afternoon last year kneeling in the grass outside a convent chapel, where our Eucharistic Lord was exposed. I was able to see a little through the window. It would have been unthinkable to me to leave then. And a little over a year later, I would pass up a chance to adore him and I would consider anything more important. But there I was — thinking about the things of this world again, before Jesus. Isn’t that what gets us into all kinds of trouble?

Why does reality this spring of 2021 look so different than the recurring nightmare I had last year around this time? In my dreams, the churches were so overwhelmed upon reopening that I could not get to confession or receive the Eucharist. I couldn’t even get into churches to be present for the Mass. As much as that would be a suffering, what graces for the world if that actually happened!

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix has a beautiful new apostolic exhortation, “Veneremur Cernui — Down in Adoration Falling.” I almost called the Knights of Columbus from St. Patrick’s Cathedral that day, wanting them to print me a million copies of it ASAP to pass out to everyone I could find on Fifth Avenue.

Why are we not adoring the Lord in socially distanced droves? What is keeping us from him? It’s not the state — you can thank the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom for helping with that. And the church doors were open then, but where are the people? Why is there not a need for more confession times and Masses? How many parishes needed overflow plans for Easter? Do we believe in the Real Presence? Because that’s an awesome reality we were separated from. Shouldn’t we be on our knees rejoicing and welcoming people back and in?

“[I]n every Mass,” Bishop Olmsted writes, “we — the Mystical Body of Christ — are taken up into the one sacrifice at Calvary … linking our imperfect and sinful lives to the perfect and pure sacrifice of God and receiving all the divine benefits that flow from His eternal sacrifice.” That’s awesome! If you believe it, share it. If people saw a proper exuberant reaction from us, they might just believe, too.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.

Kathryn Jean Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.