OSV publisher Scott Richert writes that “this afternoon, as I was slogging my way virtually…
From the Chapel — May 24: In the good old summertime
“From the Chapel” is a series of short, daily reflections on life and faith in a time of uncertainty. As people across the world cope with the effects of the coronavirus — including the social isolation necessary to combat its spread — these reflections remind us of the hope that lies at the heart of the Gospel.
I think the last time — and perhaps the only time — I went to Mass on a Sunday evening was in graduate school at The Catholic University of America, after a party on Saturday night that, 30 years later, I still wish I could forget. So ushering tonight at the 5 P.M. Mass that Father Tony Steinacker has added in order to help accommodate our entire congregation given Sts. Peter and Paul’s pandemic-required reduced capacity will be an odd experience, for more than one reason.
While most of the family went to the 8 a.m. Mass, attended by about 50 people, I was out running hill repeats (a quarter-mile up the hill on Division Street here in Huntington, and a quarter-mile back down) and feeling my age. I returned home to find Amy and the kids making breakfast, and the day has slowly unfolded from there. We set up a bocce ball court and played a few games; I’ve been rereading Walker Percy’s “The Thanatos Syndrome” in a chair in the backyard (until it got too hot) and on our swing on the front porch. And time, it seems, has slowed to a crawl: I can’t remember the last Sunday that lasted so long, and it’s only 2 p.m.
Perhaps it’s the weather — we’re at 82 already, headed to a high of 88 — but I suspect it’s the anticipation of that 5 p.m. Mass. Just as Advent and Lent seem to take longer the more we’re looking forward to Christmas and Easter, moving Mass to the end of the day (we’ve always been early Mass-goers) has changed my whole perspective.
I’ve written a lot over the years about anticipation, the pull of the future, ordering our lives to the end for which God has made us. Teleology is a word not often heard today, but it’s a concept deeply embedded in Christian theology. Like Aristotle’s acorn that is meant to become an oak tree, we were made for a purpose, and recognizing that is the first step toward becoming fully human.
Understanding our divinely appointed end is also, I’ve long suspected, a necessary precondition for true leisure. Knowing where you’re headed, and thinking about the best way to get there, helps clear the mind of all of those things that are irrelevant to our journey.
The modern world is obsessed with movement, and part of the push for states to ease pandemic-related restrictions has less to do with the consequences of shutting down large segments of our economy than it does with not knowing what to do with ourselves when we have no place to go. My Facebook friends who are the most vocal about the need to reopen are all able to work from home, and some of them, in fact, had been doing so for many years before COVID-19 struck. I know that they are worried (as am I) about those who have been laid off or furloughed because of state-mandated closures, but many of them also just want to be on the move once again, and have let that wish become the father of the thought that the crisis has been overblown.
As for myself, I look forward to going back to Mass this evening. But for now, it’s 2:30, and “The Thanatos Syndrome” isn’t going to read itself.
Scott P. Richert is publisher for OSV.