RE-OPEN MY CHURCH, WE PRAY
Dear Auxiliary Bishops McGovern, Bartosic, Casey, Manz, Wypych, and Perry:
Please accept this urgent petition on behalf of the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Chicago. We wish to implore your assistance in corresponding with our Archdiocese with respect to the prolonged loss of the Sacraments in Illinois. As many in the world today grapple with concern over death, Catholics are unable to receive that which our Lord Himself stated is necessary for eternal life (John 6:53). The decision to extinguish the Sacraments, while nearly every material good remains available, renders the Sacraments inessential by default. This goes against everything the Catholic Church has taught us regarding the Sacraments.
If any in the Catholic Church are still thinking that ceasing all public Catholic Masses and virtually eliminating all Sacraments has been more an act of charity than a stubborn unwillingness to adjust our behavior in order to eliminate undue harm to the most vulnerable, then perhaps it is time to reexamine what holy men and women have done before. Faced with the prospect of contracting leprosy, St. Damien of Molokai volunteered to remain in the Kalaupapa Peninsula of Hawaii, a colony of rampant disease and immorality, in order to evangelize the native people and administer the Sacraments. Even after contracting leprosy himself, Fr. Damien continued his work. Fr. Damien didn’t need to clarify the essential nature of the Sacraments with his words. His very life demonstrated that the Sacraments were worth dying for.
St. Damien of Molokai offers us an unambiguous example of the way in which we are to cope with the provision of the Sacraments with respect to personal risk. Of course, there are countless other examples, such as St. Charles Borromeo, St. Paul, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, and even our first pope, St. Peter himself. As of May 16th, only 8,312 people under the age of 65 died of the COVID-19 virus in the U.S. (CDC.gov). The influenza death toll (non-COVID) was 1,154. Both totals represent a miniscule portion of the total population. Yet, the Mass remains unavailable for all Catholics.
While the Catholic Church has maintained that this unfathomable loss has been necessitated by a need to ensure the health and safety of both the clergy and laypeople, liquor stores remain open, grocery and hardware store parking lots are often full, and even abortion facilities have maintained their heinous practices. All of these examples require tens, hundreds, and in some cases, even thousands to gather in close proximity.
When Executive Order #8 was initially released, it allowed for at least 10 people to gather. Yet, the Mass remained halted. As you know, Justice Kavanaugh successfully forced Governor Pritzker to release this oppressive order on May 28th. While many non-Catholic churches and mosques continue to hold prayer services with tens, if not hundreds present, the Mass continues to be halted.
While Catholic belief has always maintained that every single human life is unfathomably precious, even while our society has not, it has also offered a refuge from pervasive fear and reoccurring reminders that earthly life is temporal. Essentially, a shorter earthly life with an undying devotion to the Lord through the Sacraments is more essential than a longer life, which is void of a metaphysical reality.
We are now at a time when we are forced to ask ourselves as Catholics some very simple questions. Are the Sacraments essential, or not? Are we willing to be misunderstood, shamed, and even persecuted by society for our devotion to Jesus Christ? Will we accept the fact that our elected state leaders have clearly made material goods essential and constitutionally protected religious practice inessential, and even, potentially punishable? Will we use this time as an opportunity for bold evangelization through personal witness, or choose to quietly capitulate? We cannot change the fact that our society has become seemingly paralyzed by fear. However, we can choose to trust in Jesus Christ, regardless of what it might cost us as individuals.
We, as Catholics, pray that these concerns are considered, and that the Sacraments and the Catholic Mass be quickly restored to a level commensurate with other essential services, such as, grocery stores and pharmacies. We, as Catholics, offer these 7 reflections (one dedicated to each Sacrament), intended to highlight the vital nature of the Sacraments. These reflections merely offer evidence of what all holy Catholic men and women have always believed, and proof that the timeless teachings of the Catholic Church, which many of its leaders have asserted time and time again, are still very much alive.
1. If men and women whom we consider to be saints have knowingly risked their lives to provide the Sacraments, such as St. Damien of Molokai and St. Charles Borromeo, then how can the Sacraments be halted or limited, due to very limited physical risk?
2. If mortal sin truly bears the prospect of eternal damnation, then how can the church justify limiting the Sacrament of Reconciliation due only to very limited physical risk?
3. If Baptism truly represents the means by which we become sons and daughters of God, then how can this Sacrament be limited, thereby leaving many to end their earthly life without easily receiving this Sacrament?
4. If the Sacrament of Matrimony is the way by which God wishes for men and women to bring new life into the world, then how can the Catholic Church risk halting this Sacrament, knowing that the godly reception of human life will be halted as a result?
5. How can priestly men be expected to lay down their life for their flocks when the Catholic Church will not even expect to fully exercise the right to freely practice the faith without unnecessary restrictions?
6. How can the newly confirmed see the Catholic Church as the means to eternal salvation when its vital Sacraments are deemed less essential than material goods?
7. Why should the sick see the Sacrament of the Anointing as a Sacrament when all of the Sacraments are rendered less essential than nearly every man-made good and service?