This past Christmas Eve, I sat with my wife, sister and brother in-law, and my four small children in a small elementary school gymnasium. We sat on old foldout chairs made of plastic in groupings of seats that were set at least six feet from the next grouping. When we knelt, we knelt on the hard, tile floor. This was our setting for Midnight Mass, due to the government-imposed lockdown restrictions. I am blessed to have found a traditional order of priests who interpret the unlawful commands of the Province of Ontario in a way that is more palatable for our parish, and our situation was much more reverent than the majority of Masses in the rest of the province. Canadian law is unforgiving under the supposed “emergency orders,” and if our priests were to simply thumb their nose completely at the government, it is possible they would be thrown in jail and the church property would be seized. It is yet to be seen if legal challenges to this encroachment of Canadian Communism will have any effect, but as we wade through this insane lockdown-limbo, the situation is troubling.
At any rate, our choir sang in perhaps the most angelic manner I have ever heard them sing, and it was the first time we had heard singing in church for a month or two. In fact, the gym acoustics were ideal for the polyphonic hymns they sang. I am not sure if it was even “legal” for them to sing, because of course they couldn’t sing with masks on. With the lights off, and the gym lit only by candles, it was a beautiful liturgy, and at times we forgot we were in this setting. After receiving Holy Communion, my mind wandered to a sort of daydream state as I knelt on the cold gym floor. I was struck by the dichotomy of what I was living through: I was in a room with dozens of faithful Catholics who could see through the virus-hysteria, yet we were still beholden to a set of unjust laws that absolutely none of us believe in, for reasons that none of us assent to.
As a man who has grown up playing and coaching intense collision sports, I am prone to envision in my mind’s eye a set of circumstances that get me “psyched up” for a conflict to come, wherein courage will be needed in the face of certain physical pain. Perhaps this is not what a pious post-Communion meditation should consist of, but I could not shake the place my mind was going. I recalled all the stories I have read about the persecution of Christians under brutal communist regimes; soldiers and officers storming into churches and beating priests and laymen; children being taken from their homes because their parents refused to apostatize; and even Christians standing in front of firing squads as they breathed their last. My situation is nowhere near as dire as those, but then again, those situations did not pop up out of nowhere.