Parishes are opening up all over the country -- but with COVID-19 cases rising, you should still be prudent.
One of the hardest parts of the pandemic has undoubtedly been the loss of the sacraments. From Mass to confession to First Communion, many families have been longing not only for the consolation of weekly (and even daily) sacraments, but also for pivotal events in faith formation.
Slowly but surely things are beginning to open up across the nation … unfortunately accompanied by inevitably rising cases of COVID-19. Which means that even when parishes begin to offer the sacraments again, we need to be prudent about balancing the desire to go back to Mass with the duty to protect not only the health of our own families, but that of our fellow parishioners and wider communities.
With that in mind, here are 3 things to think about before you and your family decide to go back to Mass.
1Consider others first
In this time of pandemic, honesty and good will are more important than ever. Take an honest assessment of your family’s health—do any of you have a stuffy nose, sore throat, or cough? Is anyone feeling unusually tired or rundown? Have any of you been in contact with someone who’s tested positive?
Even if you think it’s just allergies, it’s imperative to be overly cautious. Most cases of COVID-19 are either asymptotic or cause such mild symptoms that the person infected never realizes they have it—but they can still spread it to others. Given that so many in our parishes and wider communities are at higher risk of serious or deadly complications from COVID, it’s essential that we remember Christ’s commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. No matter how unlikely you think it is that you or your family might have COVID, don’t go to Mass unless you’re confident that you’re all healthy.
2Be aware of local case numbers
Avoiding 24-7 panic reporting about COVID is definitely the best thing for everyone’s mental health. At the same time, it’s important to be aware of local cases — especially if you’re considering going to a public gathering like Mass. So check in once a day with your favorite local media outlet before making your decision. If cases are surging in your area, it would be prudent to wait until the case load is dropping–or at least no longer rising.
This is especially important if you have immunocompromised family members in your household, but consider whether you’re planning on seeing extended family (elderly grandparents, aunts or uncles) in the next few months. The long incubation period means that one case of COVID in a family of six could mean a quarantine of 2-3 months, if not longer — and that’s if all the cases are mild and no one has complications. Weigh the risks carefully and consider all factors, including you or your spouse’s ability to work from home should your family need to quarantine.
3Take the recommended precautions
If you decide to take your family to Mass, be vigilant about taking every possible precaution. Get masks for yourself and your children and train them to use the masks properly. Explain that masks help protect ourselves and other people from continued spread of the disease. Remind them not to touch or adjust the mask once it’s secured, and let them practice wearing it so they get used to breathing through the fabric.
Be vigilant about good hand hygiene — remind kids not to touch things, wash their hands (and your own) frequently, and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer with you. And no matter how happy you and your children are to see friends and fellow parishioners in real life, resist the temptation to let social distancing slip. Hold your children and yourself accountable for maintaining at least 6 feet of space at all times. Make this non-negotiable, reminding your children (and your friends!) that social distance is the best way to show our care and concern for each other during this time.
As much as we all want to get back to normal life and Sunday Mass, the reality of living in this pandemic is that life is not normal. As hard as it might be to have to wait even longer before going back to Mass, both prudence and charity are crucial in helping us get through this pandemic and back to normal as soon as possible.