Returning to Mass after a long separation can be an emotional experience. Or not.

It’s been a long, dry spell. Many Catholics have never gone this long without receiving the Eucharist since before their first communion.

Now that more and more parishes are finding ways to safely offer public Mass or some form of communion service, many Catholics are taking to social media to describe what an overwhelming emotional experience it has been for them. Some are even sharing photos of themselves with tear-stained cheeks, overcome with emotion after receiving communion again.

Much of this emotional response is surely sincere, a spontaneous outpouring of joy and gratitude after a time of trial and deprivation. It’s understandable to want to share our delight in the Lord with people who will understand.

So let’s set aside the question of how spiritually healthy it is to take and share selfies of pious displays, and look instead to Catholics who aren’t coming to pieces over the opening of churches.

There are a lot of them. There are a lot of Catholics who most certainly want to return to the sacraments, but they aren’t feeling wracking pangs of longing as their separation continues.

They aren’t spending their days in misery and distress, ceaselessly imploring the Holy Spirit to open the church doors again. And when they do receive the Eucharist again after a long time away, they aren’t going boneless with spiritual bliss. They believe in the saving power of God with all their hearts, but they’re not getting very emotional about it.

I’m here to tell you that if that’s how it is for you, it’s okay. It doesn’t prove there’s something inferior about your faith. It doesn’t mean you’re lukewarm or spiritually mediocre. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about the sacraments, and it doesn’t mean you don’t understand how precious they are. It might mean any number of things, but it’s certainly not automatically a sign that you’re the wrong kind of Catholic.

Emotions are just emotions. They are not nothing, but they are not the same as faith. Sometimes emotions come to us unbidden from the Holy Spirit. Sometimes they are given to us as a gift. But sometimes…Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

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19 thoughts on “Returning to Mass after a long separation can be an emotional experience. Or not.”

  1. I have to say that I find it hard to believe that anyone could have been receiving communion all their lives since they first began to do so, without a single break. Were they never guilty of a single sin serious enough to make them feel unworthy of its reception, or even just arriving at church in a bad temper and deciding they were unfit? Were they never persistent enough in a sin – failure to forgive someone who injured them, for example? As I said, it’s hard for me to believe that, but I’m Franco-Canadian so it might be my inner Jansenist. Their original issue with Rome was its emphasis on weekly communion, which they thought the post-conciliar (Trent, not Vatican II) Church had erred in introducing.

    1. I didn’t say “without a single break,” I said “this long.” Many churches have been closed for over two months. I don’t think it would be that hard to find a Catholic who’s never skipped communion for two months since their first communion.

  2. As a Catholic I’m so proud of our President Trump. May God continue to bless him and keep him safe. The forces of evil are stacking up against him strongly now. They have tried and will do anything to defeat him.

  3. Thank you so much ! So very well said. I missed the Mass so much during the shut down. We watched online and prayed for the day we could receive the sacrament in person again. Then this weekend we were allowed and it was wonderful. It felt natural and normal. I was a little surprised by my lack of emotion over it, but honestly it was just like a sweet exhale of comfort. And I think That is a blessing I will treasure. Thank you again!!

  4. Exactly. The lack of emotion was my and my husband’s experience a few weeks ago when we went to our first car Mass. We just kind of both felt let down as we drove away. We looked at each other and knew we both felt the same way.

  5. Mass in our living room with Bishop Barron is a guilty pleasure. My poodle literally jumps onto her hind legs to hold our hands during the Our Father. We finally took pictures. So hilarious. She also “group hugs” everyone at the kiss of peace.

    I dunno, I’m feeling more close to Jesus because I’m so relaxed. I don’t miss the high heels and fancy clothes either.

    Spiritual communion is a good habit that I hope becomes more ingrained.

    Thanks 🙂

    Anyway–How are your kids doing? All ten are at home, right? Any wars yet? My fourth kid has managed to annoy me considerably, even though it’s only been 10 days and I’m glad he’s here. He annoys my dog too. I think he’s jealous of her.

    1. Amen! Anna Lisa! Amen! Are all your kids home? Even though she’s still zoom working, my oldest went back last week to her roommates down in DC (sniff, sniff). Apparently, their main group of guy friends rent a house which has a decent sized yard with a firepit. And the sidewalk seating bars have reopened for business in their neighborhood. No point staying with the fam anymore when she can go back and live her young life. And no more worries about her brothers making noise or her goofy mother bounding down the steps in the morning belting out the Nivea theme song while she’s on a conference call with a bunch of bigwigs. (“From your fingers to your toes, you’ve got just one set of permanent clothes! And with a little daily care..”) Hah!

      My second oldest had to come home because his internship got canceled due to the ‘rona. He is not happy about it and is taking it out on his younger siblings. He starts working at the grocery store today so I’m hoping he’s busy enough that he’ll stop trying to fix his brothers. 😉

      But it’s summertime and the livin’ is easy!

      1. OMG Philly, I almost feel like I have to answer this when I’m, 100% sober in the morning.

        Or not.

        Meaning my oldest girl does the occasional drive by visit, dinner and Facetime when best friend is surfing. She is now only 15 mins away without traffic, and I’ve seen her like five times since she came to shelter from NYC. She literally told me she’s going to go back to her place because she’s worried about her houseplants. Truth is, her bff in SF needs to subsidize rent and she can’t take the thought of sheltering with *us*. I even promised to give her her little sister’s room WITH bathroom. Which. means. –little sister would be in MY MATRIMONIAL room. She’s not even interested. She will fly over there to ground zero Covid-soup, sniff the air and then decide what to do next. My guess is she will come back until it’s really FUN again.

        1. And I didn’t even start with the FOUR boys living here. If I’m going to describe it, *that* requires 100% sobriety. Holy mother of God, I’m keeping you company.

    2. I just had a case of “careful what you wish for”. Our governor gave the green light for parking lot Masses and outdoor Masses a couple of weeks ago, and I wondered why our diocese hadn’t acted on it. Well, yesterday I found out that my parish is going to livestream Mass on Sunday morning (for people to watch at home), followed by people driving to the church parking lot to receive Communion. This doesn’t work for me because my husband had a part-time job that he works on Sundays, so we always do the Saturday vigil Mass. We’ve really been enjoying watching our parish’s recorded Mass as a family on Saturday evenings, but now they won’t be doing the recording since they’ll be doing the livestream Sunday mornings. Oh well.

  6. A good read, as usual. Since our parish offers drive-in Mass, our emotional experience of going back mostly involved frustration with trying to cut back on the kids’ gymnastics in the van…

  7. Simcha, you are the best! I am trying my best not to question of how spiritually healthy it is to take and share selfies of pious displays.

    Please send me info on how to support your blog. I think my support expired when I had to get a new credit card.

      1. Done (at least I think it worked!). and I would have loved to have read those paragraphs. But I admire your prudence and restraint in deciding not to include them.

    1. Thank you! I didn’t realize that this was happening (selfies of pious displays) and I am happy to leave it that way…

      In Italy, we went back to Mass a couple of weeks ago and I honestly did not feel any strong emotions.
      Mostly, I felt stressed out because there is a strict protocol we need to follow (wearing a mask at all times, only sitting in certain spots, hand sanitizing etc.) and I was worried about doing everything correctly.

      Plus, young kids can’t really be brought to Mass while all of these regulations are in place, so my husband and I had to figure out a schedule and take turns going to Mass. No fun and no fuzzy feelings, just went out of obedience since now we (sort of) can.

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