A few weeks ago, a friend came to a Mass I was celebrating for his wife’s cousin who had recently died. It was great to see him as we’d not met for a long number of months. Just before leaving church after a lengthy conversation, he commented that despite continuing to work throughout Lockdown and beyond, he had ceased attending Mass on a weekly basis at the beginning of the pandemic, and had now grown used to a Sunday lie-in. His honesty was admirable. His further comment was hope-filled; that he intended to rectify this by a New Year resolution. I hope that he fulfils this, as both he and his church-family will be the poorer for his absence.
It is noticeable that a good number of previously familiar faces have not reappeared in our two churches since we closed our doors in March 2020. I suspect that rather like my friend they have by now resumed some form of social engagement, whether that is at the hair-dressers, meeting for a coffee with friends, or indeed resuming sports or working routines. Yet they remain absent from church. Prior to Christmas encouragement was given to hesitant parishioners to attend any Mass during the final week of Advent and/or subsequently the Octave of Christmas to make that ‘their’ Mass in celebration of Christ’s birth. The response was tiny, so much so that on the Thursday before Christmas one Mass had a congregation of just one parishioner, and even on the Feast of the Epiphany we had just 18 at one of our Masses. Ever the optimist, I could see that the one person at Mass was a 100% increase on the long weeks when I was celebrating Holy Mass alone. However I personally may delight in the presence of anyone at Mass, in reality the Christmas take-up has been poor, and as a result our collective life as worshiping communities, and for those not (yet) amongst us, there is a poverty and deprivation. So, I encourage all to reach out to those they know, meet, or see who have not yet re-joined us and encourage them in some way to come along to Mass. The richness that we are privy to in the gift of the Eucharist is beyond our imaginings … yet so often we take it for granted, expecting it to be always available to and for us. The absence of ‘real’ Eucharistic participation in the Lockdown periods ought really to have made the heart grown more needy for this gift rather than culture a distance from it.
If, like my friend, you’ve grown accustomed to a lie-in on a Sunday morning, remember that there are also two Vigil Masses you could attend and still benefit from the extra hour of beauty sleep !
Be assured of remembrance at the altar, in thought and affection.
As ever, Fr. Nicholas