After seeing us on the news today, a concerned reader wrote to us, asking that we not lump all Christians together in our protests. Her message was very heartfelt and deserving of an equally heartfelt reply. We thought we would share this exchange with you, in the hopes that others with the same concerns will be able to benefit.
From a concerned reader:
Hello, I mean no disrespect, but I just saw the story on the news and I don't think that this group and other churches protesting represent the wide body of the church. I am a Christian and it feels embarrassing to see so many churches protesting for mass gatherings in the face of an ongoing pandemic. There are OTHER ways to worship our Lord, including online with our families. Maybe I don't understand because I am not Catholic, but instead protestant.
I do understand that sacraments are so important but so is following the law. Jesus and the Apostle Paul both advocate for civil obedience to our government leaders. Opening without permissions (As some churches in the area are doing) is not honoring to the Lord. Please please please reconsider what you are trying to do!
This is an opportunity for the Church to EXPAND our reach and innovate. Americans should be glad that we don't face the same kind of persecution as other countries. We do not know the first thing about TRUE persecution. This is not a restriction of our religious liberties. It is a TEMPORARY SACRIFICE. Please stop feeding your members the idea that they NEED a PHYSICAL location and physical gathering to experience God and receive his blessing. Non-believers will absolutely lump us all together as ignorant and disobedient.
Christians can be fed spiritually at home. This is temporary. Why should we respond as the world does, with civil disobedience and protests? It may be your American right but it does not make it wise. All things may be permissible, but not all things are beneficial.
I say this with a heart of love and great concern for the universal Church of our Lord. Please keep thinking and praying through. May the Lord guide you all and may you have the heart and willing Spirit to obey.
Our response to our correspondent:
I want to thank you for taking the time to send us your message, which was very heartfelt and well-presented. I respect your viewpoint and as Catholics, we certainly agree that we can pray and receive God's grace no matter where we are in time or space.
However, in order to explain why our physical presence in our churches is so important to us, I will actually go back all the way to the way that our ancestors worshiped in the Old Testament. They had synagogues in every town where they would meet to pray and study the scriptures, and this was the main way in which they communicated with God and practiced their faith on a daily basis. However, it was required that at least once a year, they must travel to Jerusalem to present their Passover sacrifice in the temple, because while prayer could take place anywhere, the worship of sacrifice could take place only there in the Temple of Jerusalem.
We are not Jewish, and we believe that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was one sacrifice for all, taking the place of all the many sacrifices in the Jewish temple. So we are not limited to one temple in the world.
However, as Catholics, we truly believe two things: 1. That when our priests say Mass, and they re-enact what took place during the Last Supper as Christ commanded them, they are given the power to truly transubstantiate the bread and wine into Jesus' Body and Blood; and 2. Because we believe this, we believe that it is necessary for the faithful to be present for this re-creation of Christ's sacrifice for us and to receive His Body and Blood at least once a week, on Sundays, since He Himself said "Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you shall not have life in you." (John 6:54)
I know that this is not the common interpretation of many Protestant churches, so you may more or less vehemently disagree with these beliefs as I have stated them. Nevertheless, this is what we believe. And I hope that it helps to explain why it is so important to us to have physical access to the Sacraments and the specific graces that come from them.
We have been patient and respectful of our government's laws, but it has been over two months now, and the number of cases in Illinois is declining. We are not asking to be able to herd into our churches as though nothing has happened. We recognize the need to keep people safe! But we see no reason why there can be 400 people inside Costco, or 150 inside Home Depot, or why any number of businesses can operate using common sense precautions such as marks on the floor to maintain social distancing, etc...and yet for some reason, people think it is not safe for us to worship together using the same precautions? Why? Who else but Christians would want to preserve each other in health and safety?
I hope that this helps to explain our position. I thank you once again for your charitable letter, and I hope you will receive mine in the same spirit.
Your sister in Christ,
St. Charles Borromeo Society