January 11th, 2021
Karin and I don’t often go to Mass on Saturday evening. In general we try to attend church services on Sunday morning. However, Karin has had a hard time gathering her strength early in the day. She is by nature a night owl. In the best of times, Karin tends to drag in the morning. Seeing as she is still recuperating from COVID, it is even more difficult for her to rouse herself. Her energy is very low when she wakes up.
I wanted to take Karin to Mass, but she was unsure about being fit enough to go. She has experienced brief bouts of dizziness and vertigo. She told me that she would decide about attending Mass on Saturday afternoon. Karin felt well about an hour or two before it was time to leave home. She took a shower, dressed, and then I drove her to church.
As we entered the church parking lot, I asked Karin,
“Do you want me to drop you off at the entrance?”
She replied, “No. I’ll walk with you from the car, just in case I need to lean on you.”
This liturgy this last weekend celebrated the Baptism of the Lord. That marked the official end of the Christmas season for the Catholic Church. The creche (Nativity Scene) was still set up when we came into the church. St. Rita has a large wooden Nativity set. It has all the usual figures: Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds, angels, the Magi. In most ways, the creche is nothing out of the ordinary.
Karin loves one aspect of scene. Most Nativity scenes show Mary gazing at her child with awe and wonder. A person looking at her image gets the idea that she is already worshiping her boy as God Incarnate. The statue of Mary in our church’s manger scene is different. Mary holds her baby to her breast and hugs him.
Karin said, “I really like that. That’s what a real mother would do.”
Karin and I sat together at Mass. Father Michael greeted Karin. He was very happy to see her. She hadn’t been in the church since November. Other people also came up to her to welcome her back. Their words were warm and authentic.
The fact is that the pandemic has shattered the church community. There are many people missing from the pews. Some of them will return. Some of them will never come back. There are various reasons for their absence: illness, fear of infection, crisis of faith. A few of the parishioners are dead. It is a big deal to see somebody is in their usual place once again. It is a bit like witnessing a resurrection.
There is a certain amount of physical movement involved in Mass participation: standing, sitting, kneeling. Think of it as Catholic aerobics. Karin did fine during most of the liturgy. We both knelt during the Eucharistic Prayer. I stood up at the end of the prayer. Karin did not.
Karin sat in the pew. She looked worn out. I stood while the congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer. Karin gave me her hand, I held it while we prayed together.
Karin felt well enough to get up to receive Communion. I was glad for that. I know how important it is to her.
At the end of Mass, several people came up to speak to Karin. I think that was a great comfort to her.
On the way out, Karin spoke to a friend about the creche:
“See how Mary holds her baby? That’s how a real mom would do it!”