The #1 prayer request we receive at Relevant Radio® is for family, friends, and loved ones to return to the Catholic Church. Millions of Americans were baptized Catholic but are no longer practicing the faith, and our hosts are often asked how to encourage their loved ones to return to Mass and the sacraments. But the loosening of quarantine is presenting a whole new aspect of this issue.
While most dioceses across the country are allowing public Mass, there is still a dispensation in place for those who don’t yet feel comfortable being in a church with a large group of people. There are many circumstances in which someone would want to avoid gatherings, even in a church, and the bishops have been accommodating of this.
However, some see friends and loved ones who are not returning to church for reasons other than the fear of COVID-19. They fear that after the pandemic is over and the dispensation is lifted their loved ones will prefer to simply watch Mass online or on TV, even though they are capable of attending Mass in person.
This was the case for a listener who recently called in to Father Simon Says™ for advice. The listener said, “I have a friend, and when we were in the lock down and couldn’t go to church, she would come over and we would watch Mass on the TV. And she would cry and say, ‘Bishop, please open the churches.’ But now that the churches are open she doesn’t want to go. I wonder if you have a suggestion to make her want to come back to church? Because now she just doesn’t want to step in it.”
Fr. Richard Simon asked if this friend didn’t want to go to Mass for health reasons, as that is still a valid reason. The listener responded, “She’s not afraid of the disease. I think she thinks that our bishop kept the churches locked down too long, and now she doesn’t want to go because hardly anybody is there and we can only have about 150 people in our church.”
The listener feared that her friend’s feelings may persist even after the pandemic, and she will stay away from Mass because of her anger and because the experience of Mass is not the same as she remembers it.
Fr. Simon suggested her friend read the Scripture passage of 1 Samuel chapter 15, particularly this passage:
But Samuel said: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to the LORD’s command? Obedience is better than sacrifice, to listen, better than the fat of rams.
“Read that story,” Fr. Simon advised. “Obedience is more pleasing to God than sacrifice. It’s not the show, it is obedience that is pleasing to God. Our sacrifices without obedience mean nothing.”
In answering a similar question Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your Father™, pointed out, “The most central thing is receiving the Lord in the Eucharist. Which you cannot do by watching on TV. You’re not fully participating.”
“If she feels like she just doesn’t want to go, I think then all the more we need her and she needs us. We need to be together to pray as a community. We need each other.”