At the beginning of this month, I was on a short bike ride, during which I came upon a T intersection that I was to travel straight through. At the intersection, a Jeep pulled out in front of me to make a left turn. The vehicle hit me, causing me to break two bones in my right arm and one in my left wrist. My body was covered with bruises, and I was left with a concussion. In an instant, the next few months of my life would be reshaped.
As I lay in the street, unable to rise, a kind woman who came to my aid asked me whom she should call. My phone, which had been securely held in a phone holster on the bike, was absent. In the modern age, few of us have need to remember phone numbers. Not knowing any, I asked the lady to contact my local parish, for they would know who to contact thereafter. I’m grateful to belong to a parish that still has such a connected community.
A week later, surgery was scheduled for my right arm. I went to daily Mass that morning. After Mass was over and the priest had left, a parishioner announced that my surgery was in a couple of hours and asked the remaining congregation to pray for me. They joined together to say a Hail Mary for me. I was moved. I thereafter entered the sacristy where the pastor administered the Anointing of the Sick. About 10 parishioners gathered to watch, join in prayer, and provide fellowship during a particularly trying time in which both my arms were mostly unusable.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Had this accident happened two years ago, none of this would have been possible. Unelected bureaucrats decided that church was a “nonessential service,” that fellowship was unnecessary, and that the sacraments could be skipped. They canceled the very things that we need most when times are challenging. Alcohol and abortions would still be available throughout the public health crisis, of course.
When we are faced with our mortality, one of the greatest blessings is the opportunity for a deeper union with Our Lord. It is from immersion within the darkness that it is most clear how desperately we need a Savior. For many people, the Covid scare represented that darkness. They were reminded of their own mortality, and they were kept in a state of fear by a media matrix that gorged itself on the ratings that those emotions brought forth.
Then, those same people, relentlessly confronted with human vulnerability and mortality, were denied a Savior. They were denied a church. They were denied the fellowship that we need as social beings. They were left in the darkness. They were denied these things by unaccountable bureaucrats in government, with the indispensable cooperation of the Church hierarchy.
Both groups sacrificed what was most important on the altar of our society’s new religion: scientism—the idolatrous worship of “following the science” according to the cult of the experts. The decision to close the churches and deny the sacraments sent the message that the power of government and the fears of hierarchs are more important than God, the Church, and our salvation.
It’s impossible to count the loss—to measure the unnecessary pain that people suffered in their isolation and in the denial of the sacraments. Eventually, we might have the numbers to see how many suicides took place when the open liquor stores failed to replace the closed churches, but that’s hardly a full accounting of the damage. You can’t quantify suffering, despair, or loss of faith.
Losing the use of both of my arms had the potential to immerse me in the aforementioned darkness. Yet, the suffering that I experienced since my accident was neutralized, one might say redeemed, by the blessings of the people—a parish fully living its mission—that joined with me in a way that would not have been possible during the Covid years.
There was once a time when the parish was the heart of the community, even in the literal sense. The church was in the center of the town, and homes and other buildings were built around it. While it may seem that those times have ended, that’s not entirely true.
The secular world has no community. Let us not pretend that online communication via the hunting for likes and follows amounts to community any more than the guarded conversations that take place around the office watercooler do. Communication in isolation is not community. It is still the case that the parish must be the center for community, even as we recognize that some parishes are failing in this fundamental duty.
It is this community that helps the individual to see beyond himself when focusing inwardly becomes his natural inclination, such as during times of hardship. It is then that we rely on others to help us to see the light, point us in a divine direction, and assure us that we are not alone. Christians who see themselves as alone have failed to see the truth of how they are adopted sons and daughters of God—heirs to a Divine Kingdom. Yet, this is the isolation and lie that people were thrust into when the church doors were closed to them.
Let us never again allow government to tell us what is essential. An abortuary is not essential. The Church, a parish community, and the sacraments are. Any bureaucrat who maintains otherwise has lost his ability to discern the fundamental necessities of man—as well as good from evil.
When the entire secular world loses its collective mind, as it is fated to do without Christ as its foundation, it is the Church and her people that should be the stalwarts of reason and decency. The Covid saga will not be the last time that Church officials will be forced to choose whether to kneel before government or stand for God and His people. May their choices be righteous next time.
[Photo Credit: Unsplash]