The Church in America right now looks very different depending on where you live. In some areas parishes resumed public Masses months ago, and Catholics are able to receive the Eucharist and the sacraments on a regular basis. In other areas, public Masses are still closed (or re-closing after a brief opening) and the faithful have not been able to receive the Eucharist in months.
But even though it may take a long time for things to get back to normal nationwide, eventually public Masses will be available everywhere and the threat of the coronavirus will not be a deterrent for attending Mass. But what will our parishes look like then?
Fr. Richard Simon, host of Father Simon Says™, stopped by The Drew Mariani Show™ recently to discuss what our parishes will look like in a post-pandemic world, and the key to keeping people coming back to Mass after such a long absence.
Fr. Simon acknowledged that there are many people who would love to attend Mass, but have legitimate fears and circumstances where attending Mass would be too much of a risk.
“I think there are people who genuinely do feel that,” he said. “One of my [parishioners who helps count the Sunday offering] is so devout, she’s in her 90s, but she’s had some heart issues so she is staying home. … So I think it’s valid and it’s real.”
“But I think there are some people who are just getting used to not going to Mass,” he told Drew. “Or think that if you can watch it on TV it’s just as good. But it isn’t. When something is made really easy, it often has much less value.”
Fr. Simon suggested that if many people don’t return to Mass after the pandemic, there is hope that the committed will be more committed to living a vibrant faith and sharing it with others. But if we are committed to our faith we cannot treat our brothers and sisters in Christ who are lukewarm like excess baggage.
On a post-COVID Church that may be significantly smaller, Fr. Simon said, “Part of me says this is a good thing, that the really committed people can really create a more evangelistic Church. But in God’s eyes there is no deadwood. These are people who need to be invited back into the Church, the two-thirds who aren’t coming.”
So what will bring people back to Mass, whether they have been away for months, years, or decades? Fr. Simon suggested that what will help parishes flourish in a post-COVID world is what has helped the Church flourish in all of its 2,000 year history. Holy men and women who are living as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Speaking as a parish priest himself, Fr. Simon told Drew, “I think the big issue of the Church today is the holiness of the parish priest. The spirituality of the parish priest, nothing draws people more strongly or more permanently than holiness. And if you find a really good, holy, kind, not just externally pious … but a priest who has been through the ringer and who loves the Lord.”
“That’s what they said about the early Christians. These people have been with the Lord. That’ll do it.”
Listen to the full conversation with Drew Mariani and Fr. Richard Simon below: