Facemasks have become a symbol of the pandemic, and — unfortunately in some cases — a symbol of angst, anger, and division. If you passionately fall on one side the mask debate, fear not — the Ascension Family Life Ministry will not attempt to sway your personal mask-wearing philosophy. Nevertheless, public mask-wearing does influence the way we experience everyday life and even Mass. If you are a parent, you may have difficulty explaining this new social phenomena to your children. Even though mask-wearing is not technically a change to our liturgy, it is perhaps one of the most felt changes to our experience of Mass. Here are a few ways to come to terms with the change and — if you are a parent — explain the change to your children.
Logically, we might be able to relegate facemasks to the “no big deal” category of pandemic related societal changes. In the context of death, illness, job loss, and school closure, wearing a small piece of fabric across our mouths hardly seems notable. But, from an emotional perspective, wearing facemasks at church or in stores represents an acutely felt loss. We were made for community, and created in the image of a Trinitarian God — a God who IS perfect community. Facemasks separate us — in part — from the community we were created for. Even the simplest gesture of kindness and connection — a smile — is obstructed by our masks. This acknowledgement is not intended to discourage the practice of wearing masks. It is simply necessary to acknowledge loss before moving on to authentic gratitude and grace.
The felt limitation of “masked” interactions remind us of the gift and importance of community. Our Church is not a building; our parish is not a series of geographic boundaries. Rather, we are a family united by our common call to follow and individual charisms to serve Jesus Christ. You may wish to express your gratitude for our faith community by endeavoring to “smile” at others, even when your mask is on. If you are a parent of young children, you may want to make this into a fun challenge. Brainstorm and practice ways to “smile” at others from behind your masks.
Facemask requirements are a frequently debated pillar of pandemic life. Regardless of your own personal philosophy on the topic, you are called to encounter others — even those who hold mask-wearing philosophies that differ from your own — with charity and understanding. With your family, practice grace toward mask-wearing (and non-mask-wearing) during Mass this week. Here is how:
Mind, Mask, & Heart
Before the Gospel is read, our Priest or Deacon will announce the reading and we will respond by acclaiming, “Glory to You, oh Lord.” We will then trace small crosses on our forehead, lips (mask), and chest. By this gesture, we invite our living Lord to dwell in our minds, be on our lips, and reign in our hearts. The crosses symbolize both blessing and redemption — we invite Christ within and we ask him to change our patterns of selfishness and sin.
As you trace the small cross over your mouth, notice that you are actually tracing it over your facemask. Ask the Lord to be present with you as you experience the many unwanted eventualities of pandemic life. Lift your sorrows — even your anger and complaints — up to Him. Invite Him to enter in. Ask Him to redeem your “mask” — the outward symbol of the many ways the pandemic has altered your life.