Two weeks before Easter, Executive Order 20-18 was released closing down all non essential business and organizations in Indiana. By the Grace of God a stipulation was made in Paragraph 14 section “e” that listed religious organizations as essential as long as they abided by CDC guidelines. When our parish priest got this news he reached out to myself and the Parish coordinator and said that we needed to make sure our parish could still get the sacraments.
“I don’t care what it takes, we are doing this.”
“Roger that, Father.”
A short reading of the executive order led to a call to the local authorities. This led to a call to the county health department, which in turn led to a call to the state Health department. The answer came back, “As long as you abide by CDC guidelines you are okay to have a service”.
An altar was built in 2 days. Protocol was written, reviewed, and then spread to all the parishioners. Within 3 days we had laid down the groundwork, rushing around, stressing, debating and working as hard as we could.
Then it came. We placed the altar on a 4x8 foot pallet on a slight curb on the side of our church. It was a warm morning for Indiana in the early Spring. Warm and windy. And the wind turned into 40 mile an hour gusts. The partially cloudy sky was replaced with a rainy one. The warmth left us and it became cold. The wind blew harder as the four ushers scrambled to get a simple camping tent in place over the altar to shield the mass from the elements.
More rain and more wind followed as mass began. A former DJ in our parish supplied speakers so that everyone could hear the sermon. As the Offertory passed I stood in the wind and I prayed and hoped for some respite from the weather. And then a miraculous pause as the priest held up the Body and Blood of our Savior. I prayed that Nature cease its fury for a minute so that we could all bask in a little miracle, a miracle that we could all talk about after this time had passed.
But then it got worse. And in a way this was fitting. We had to fight to be there. We had to want to be there. Communion was distributed, the priests hands sanitized between each dispensing. By twos and threes the faithful were brought up to lines, spray painted on the concrete, standing six feet apart but united intimately to their Savior in the Eucharist. And then it was over. The first Sunday was over. We patted each other on the back. We won, we did it. The next week we built 2 steps to elevate our platform. Lines were painted in the field for parking. Again we had mass.
On Tuesday of Holy Week we went out, racing a thunderstorm and elevated the Altar again two more steps. We organized the parking between trucks and cars so people could have a better view. We found what seemed the last FM transmitter in the world and used it so that all could at least hear, if not see the Mass. Old friends showed up and we had a small choir now to sing.
Holy Thursday came and the wind did howl. But it didn’t rain. It snowed. But better snow then rain. We had mass with no tent. We stood against nature and with our King who created it. We removed the Body of the Savior of all mankind to a small camping tent set off to the side. A humble place. Not a manager in a cave but still a humble place. After the mass was ended, in the dark and cold, we brought every family in one at a time to that tent. Our Ushers braved the cold, kissing goodbye to their wives and families for a few hours to hold Vigil with our Lord. I’m proud of them. For their sacrifice, for their effort. Proud to know that everyone of them is a member of my parish. Each day more cars were parked in the field. People coming from farther and farther away.
Good Friday gave us fair weather, on the darkest day of the year the sun shone the brightest yet for our drive in Mass. Each parishioner was brought out one at time to kneel before the Cross and venerate it for a moment.
Easter came and our field was almost full. We went through our protocols routinely by now. Each of us moving and operating like a well oiled machine. I felt a sense of pride with my brother ushers. We were getting good at this. Very good. Our 5th Mass and we were moving like we had done this our whole lives.
Afterwards we all went home to our families knowing one thing: we had done our duty as Catholics. We had been confronted with an obstacle, a pandemic. It put rules and roadblocks in our way. But we adapted, we got creative, we made it happen. People need us to step up and we did. If not us, then who would have? I don’t say this to brag, I say this because more of us need to step up. This pandemic doesn’t seem like it’s going to end anytime soon. And right now my parish isn’t worried. We are actually growing. New faces are thanking us every Sunday. Catholics, who are happy to be able to get to Mass and go to Confession. Maybe you are telling yourself right now that it sounds nice but I couldn’t do that here. Well stop. Stop procrastinating. It’s time to step up. Your fellow Catholics need you to step up. They need you to be the ones to organize them. Reach out to your local priests and bishops, spend an hour online. Don’t take no for an answer. This is your Faith on the line, this is your soul on the line. Your very salvation is dependent on the Sacraments. Start acting like you actually believe you need the Body of Christ to sustain you and stop staring at mass on a computer screen. It’s time for action. It’s time to get up from your couch, and get on the warpath. Our Warpath. Pray for me, brothers and sisters, and I will pray for you. Pray we can keep having our Mass. Get aggressive and have one in your parish this Sunday. Not in a month, this Sunday. Our parish is growing, it’s getting stronger. This pandemic might be keeping us at an appropriate social distance of 6 feet, but it’s bringing us together.
Stop waiting for it to be over. It may have taken the Holy Ghost coming down and lighting a fire on the heads of the apostles to get them moving, but it doesn’t take that much to organize a drive in mass. Stop being afraid. Get up. Fight. Now. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?