There’s obviously a lot going on there; trying to figure out all of the layers is beyond my paygrade. There’s the hope that this crisis does bring people back to Church. There’s this expectation that we will want what we have lost. And there’s a preparation to have no assumptions. Around Ash Wednesday, I remember seeing that Rome was canceling public Masses and thinking with disappointment — and maybe even a little bit of outrage — that Rome was giving up Mass for Lent. And then, of course, we know what became of our Lent. And we understand why, even as we long.
Some of you reading have had the blessing of returning to Mass, of receiving Jesus, of being present for the consecration. How I have been longing every day of this absence! But one thing that I realized early on — maybe it was a consolation I was gifted — was that never once did I deserve to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. And I did every day most days for so many years! Some days more than once! This past Christmas, I went to the Midnight Mass, the Mass at dawn and the Mass during the day. I began the year with Mass on New Year’s Eve, going into 2020 — with Eucharistic adoration before it. In fact, I did some pretty absurd things to make it to that Mass, and I had no idea then how grateful I would be in retrospect — even as grateful I was that night to be there with the Sisters of Life, right by One Police Plaza in Manhattan, where they have their first-responder Visitation Mission at St. Andrew’s Church, helping pregnant women who need someone to walk with them. There have been some days lately when I have wondered if God had graced me with an extra Mass here and there, an extra Holy Hour, precisely for these days when I would go without.
Part of the reason, too, for those dreams about a longer exile than I would ever ask for from the Eucharist is a realization that the God who created me will never be absent. Some days during this quarantine, I may not emotionally buy that. But I know it. I know it, or I couldn’t face the day. Any second of doubting that is when we are tempted to despair. A good way to use these days is to be God’s presence to others. Even as we acknowledge how much we miss his Eucharistic presence.
For a very long time in the months before coronavirus, I had been praying a lot about the idea that we need to be monstrances in the world, showing Jesus. Isn’t that what going out and telling the Good News needs to be when our travels are restricted? Isn’t that what whomever we encounter or reach out to needs from our actions and our words?
I hope you get to confession and Mass — and receive the Eucharist in the state of grace — soon if you have been away because of the coronavirus restrictions or for other reasons. And I hope whatever life may bring, we may always know God is nearer to us than we will ever fully realize. Trust that. Trust him. Isn’t that the invitation of these days? It’s no dream, it’s the truth.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.