“The Safest Place on Earth”
Naples, Florida. Last weekend, Evelyn and I attended a live Sunday Mass at St. William in Naples, complete with the sacrament of Holy Communion. My conclusion: Mass is the safest place on earth.
Earlier in the weekend, I’d dropped into the local bike shop to get a flat tire fixed. Pretty scary for someone who is trying not to bring this virus home to someone who’s vulnerable, and who hasn’t been out in a public place other than for a drive-by pick up in almost three months. I was lured in by the closed front door, with the owner letting customers in one at a time. But once inside, it was frankly pretty incredible. Customers milling about this way and that, store service personnel doing the same, and no one with a mask on. …. Ok, the owner had a mask on, but had it hung around his chin.
I asked him, perhaps still boiling a bit at the behavior of some of his customers out on the road, passing me in a pack, if bikers are genetically immune to Covid-19 or something. His response was telling, “Outdoors, you’re safe without a mask. Don’t worry.” I looked at him quizzically. “But we’re indoors, sir.” No response.
Next door, I went really crazy and found an isolated outdoor table at the local burger joint, where I ordered my first burger in weeks while I waited for the tire to be repaired. The waitress waiting on me was wearing a mask and gloves, but the other one wasn’t and more incredibly, customers were milling in and out of the restaurant in groups of three or four with—no masks. “What’s going on here?” I asked myself.
The next day we attended the first Sunday Mass at St. William since early March. Just before it got underway, Fr. George explained all the safety protocols he’d put in place for the congregation. Every other pew taped off. Hand sanitizer everywhere, with a very careful, detailed procedure set up for distributing Holy Communion that was cleverly designed to avoid any transmission of the potentially deadly Corona from parishioner to parishioner or from parishioner to minister to parishioner. Then Father explained the mask. “Listen everyone, I know you’re not comfortable about the masks. But thank you all for wearing one while you are here. I’m wearing one too, and the reason I am is not to protect myself from you. It’s to protect you from me. Because with this Corona, some of us, including me, could be unwitting carriers. And if I am an unwitting carrier, I care enough about you that I don’t want to take the chance of infecting you. I love you.”
That’s why a Catholic Mass is the safest place on earth these days. I hope you all get to one soon. We love each other, and in the end of the day, the safest way to restart the world is to start there. With love.