How To Become Protestant in the Age of Covid-19

It’s quite simple, really. First, find out or be told a priest in your diocese is offering public Masses on the sly. Then, attend said Mass. So what if your bishop has suspended all public Masses in your diocese? Screw that. Why should you be any better than Luther, Calvin, or Wesley?

A friend texted me last week that a priest in my archdiocese will be offering Mass, in case I was interested. I asked, is it a public Mass, to which she responded she assumed it was. I replied, “It seems to me a priest offering a public Mass when the archbishop has suspended all public Masses is being disobedient to his bishop.”

If I’m coming off as holier-than-thou, well, that’s on you not me. The holier-than-thou folks are those feeling entitled to attend such Masses, or are feeling persecuted, as if we’re living under the 2nd century Roman Empire. I truly and deeply miss receiving the Eucharist and worshiping with the community during this time, like so many other Catholics. But disobedience to legitimate authority – and last time I checked, the Church remains apostolic, so a bishop’s authority is still legit – in the time of plague is still disobedience. Christ was obedient unto death – but I’m to be disobedient unto annoyance? Give me a break.

Here’s my advice, free of charge. Don’t disobey your bishop in this. Don’t become a Protestant. Offer up your suffering for the poor souls in Purgatory, and trust that this too shall pass. Your 1st amendment rights aren’t being suppressed. Are the movie theatres still closed? Are concert venues shut down? Are sporting events still canceled? If the answer to all the above is yes, then you still have freedom of religion. It’s not as if only secular events are permitted, while religious ones aren’t. Masses are livestreamed, Bible studies are held online, and priests offer private Masses every day (and they aren’t being rounded up and arrested, either). You can pray your rosary in public. You can wear Christian symbols without opposition. You can protest in front of an abortion clinic.*

And if a nearby diocese begins to offer Masses before yours does, stay home. Obey. Your. Bishop. Be like St Pio. The restrictions his bishop enacted were far more egregious, unfair, and quite unjust. Yet he submitted to legitimate authority, quietly and prayerfully, and was rewarded.

Another thing about these clandestine Masses. What irks me is the secrecy – the sense of belonging to an exclusive club, to which only privileged individuals are allowed membership. The Mass is for EVERY CATHOLIC, not merely for those with insider information. Such exclusivity doesn’t belong in the Church. It wounds the Body of Christ, creating disunity and division. And crap like that pisses me off.

One more bit of unsolicited advice: if you decide to attend a secret public Mass, please don’t tempt your friends into sinning with you. “Love your neighbor” and all that, y’know?  Should someone say: “Psst! I know where a Mass is being held. Wanna go?”, don’t be afraid to tell them “No thanks, I’m not a Protestant.”

*I fully believe, however, that those Christian communities who offered “drive-in” services and were fined by city/county officials, had their freedom of religion rights violated, and I am glad to see the DOJ is taking those cases seriously.

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A Thank You to the Coronoavirus Front-Liners

All of us at A Catholic Misfit give a huge shout out to the people doing their jobs during the pandemic: the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, researchers, folks in essential businesses like grocers, food delivery, and the like. I know I’m omitting some, but you know who you are. May God bless you, and keep you and your families safe. Your tireless work, dedication, and concern for your fellow man is appreciated more than you can ever possibly know.

The fact that Planned Parenthood facilities remain open in much of the country, considered by some governors and courts as “essential”, is hypocritical beyond description. It’s unconscionable.

Here’s a question: when a baby is aborted during the pandemic, does it get counted as a COVID-19 death? Duh. What am I thinking? PP doesn’t believe it’s a baby. Nevermind.

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Why Did St. Thomas Hang Around?

[Today’s Gospel reminded me of this post I had published back in 2015.]

It had never occurred to me before, not until Father John asked the rhetorical question during his Sunday Mass homily.

“Why did Thomas stick with the disciples for a whole week, after Easter Sunday? He must have thought, ‘These guys are crazy! Believing they’ve seen the Lord? That’s just nuts!’ And yet he was with them a week later, when Christ appeared again.”

I had never thought of that before. Why did Thomas hang around?

Scripture doesn’t tell us. It is interesting to meditate on, though.

Thomas, when confronted with the news from the other disciples, that they had seen Jesus, wasn’t merely incredulous. He didn’t say “I’ll see it when I believe it.” He was so incredulous and so mistrustful, he made a bold-ass proclamation. He bypassed double-dog and triple-dog dares, going straight to the ultra rare ‘I quadruple-dog dare you’ territory.

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (Jn 20:25)

He put it all on the line.

Here’s a guy whose closest friends, to a man, told him that Jesus had come to them. Men with whom he had spent the past three years. Yet despite their friendships, he doubted their testimonies. I get why he was incredulous. They had all been mourning Jesus’ death for three days, inconsolable and despairing. Then, during his absence, they had gone from grief to unexplainable joy. Claiming to see the Lord. To be honest, I’d be doubtful too.

You imagined it, he probably told them. No, no – He spoke to us. Breathed on us!

You are all insane with grief, he might have countered. Remember when He taught, blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be filled with joy? Well??

You are possessed by demons, Thomas may have accused. Demoniacs are not joyful!

You are drunk! Besotted with too much wine! We have no wine! We have seen the Lord!

Their testimony fell on deaf ears and a hard heart.

Or maybe a wary heart. A weary heart. Thomas may have been guarding himself against the hope of all hopes, that if he allowed himself to believe, only to be proven right, that the others were mistaken…fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Whatever Thomas may have said, and whatever the other disciples had told him – doesn’t seem to have mattered. As far as we know, he was as firm in his stubborn denial as they were in their extraordinary joy. Thomas could have said, ‘we just have to agree to disagree.’ But no – he made an oath, a detailed set of conditions that needed to be met, without which he would not believe.

Was there tension in the room from then on? Perhaps his pride had been wounded, that Jesus appeared to the others when he was absent. Did he separate himself from the others, perhaps spending more time out and about Jerusalem? I wonder if he felt he didn’t belong, the odd man out, not part of the club because he couldn’t share in the others’ joy.

Which leads to that question – why did he stay? He hung out with guys he thought were delusional, or crazy, for a full week. It couldn’t have been comfortable.

I have two theories – both might be wrong. I concede that. This isn’t Church teaching – just the result of some meditation, and perhaps a dash of inspiration. But here goes.

A part of me believes he wanted to prove the others wrong. I can picture Thomas thinking – No one comes back from the dead, the others are insane – and if I don’t prove to them that they’re wrong, they’ll live the rest of their lives professing this stupid claim Jesus is alive, and get themselves in all sorts of trouble. Once they see I’m right, they’ll realize their foolishness.

That makes some sense, right? Stubborn, doubting Thomas – fits the narrative. But then, when Christ reappears, and speaks to Thomas – Thomas realizes his doubts were completely unfounded, and his faith was weak. His stubbornness evaporated.

But I think that narrative lacks something. Something dynamic, something…tangible. A greater part of me believes there was more to this than Thomas’ doubt and his interactions with the disciples. There was still an ember of faith glowing within his soul, faint and frail. He did stick around, after all. But what kept that ember aflame?

I think Thomas went to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I picture him approaching her, falling to his knees, and asking “Is it true? Is Jesus alive? Dare I believe?” He knew she would neither deceive nor mislead him.

Mary then merely nodded, smiled in the way only a mother can, to comfort a confused and unsure child, placed her hand on his cheek, and said “Have faith, Thomas, and you will see.”

He stayed because he believed her, and her intercession strengthened his faith despite his doubts, ultimately leading him to say “My Lord and My God!”

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Jesus, Easter, and Social Distancing

Social distancing and self-isolation rules means no public Easter Masses this year. Very sad, and it will be a strange feeling watching a live stream Mass on the most important day in the Church’s liturgical calendar. It may feel like a perpetual Holy Saturday.

If you think about it, Jesus practiced social distancing immediately after the Resurrection – told Mary Magdalene “do not touch me yet!” The quarantine wasn’t lifted until he appeared to the apostles that evening. So there’s hope.

Right now we are all Mary Magdalene, forbidden from touching Him for the time being. In a couple weeks, we will proclaim “Alleluia, He is risen!” with our lips and with our hearts, in truth and in spirit, in the privacy of our homes, either alone or with family. The Good News of Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t cease to be Good News because of sucky present-day circumstances. It’s an eternal and everlasting Truth, not bound by time, space, nor self-isolation. And once the quarantine ends, we will be given the opportunity to boldly proclaim the Good News to friends, neighbors, and loved ones.

Let’s not waste it.

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