By Melissa LaNeve
Director of Campus Ministry, Anna Maria College

For months now I have been anxiously longing to return to Mass and receive the Eucharist. While the virtual Masses with Fr. Mike Schmitz have provided some much needed spiritual nourishment and guidance, nothing takes the place of receiving the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. So, when the announcement came from the Governor that churches could be opened and then the announcement came from the different dioceses that they would be finding ways to safely welcome everyone back, I was overjoyed! And yet… anxious and uncomfortable. My home parish decided they needed another week before resuming Masses so when I got a text from a friend inviting me to Mass at his parish, I had to make a decision. Do I go and finally receive what I’ve been anxiously longing for or is my worried anxiety there to protect me? That Sunday morning, I woke up with intense feelings of unease and discomfort. As I debated going to a new church, with people I didn’t know, to try and follow what limited protocol was on their website, I grew more and more anxious. I asked my friend a couple of questions which help relieve some of those anxieties and then I finally made the decision that for me, Jesus was worth facing those feelings. This won’t be true for everyone, especially families, but I did take note of certain feelings that may be helpful as you too discern when and how to return to Mass.

A few things you may experience when you return to Mass:

  • It will be a very different experience and have a somewhat sterile feeling. However, it is the same Mass which should bring comfort.
  • You may feel uncomfortable or your heart beginning to pound simply from having to walk into a building you haven’t been in in months while also trying to pay attention to all the new protocols you’ve been told to follow.
  • You may get easily distracted throughout Mass worrying if you’ve touched your face, or if the pew has been wiped down properly, or if you’re going to walk up or down the aisle the right way.
  • You may not even find yourself as joyful or grateful as you thought after finally receiving Jesus in the Eucharist because you’re concerned with putting your mask back on and not getting near other people in line.

A few things to remind yourself of as you prepare your return:

  • If you’re anxious, try to stick with your parish church instead of finding any that are open. Send your parish staff questions if a particular answer could help alleviate any of your worries.
  • Others will be there to help guide you through this process.
  • Stay calm. Even if you make a mistake and someone gets mad or frustrated with you, don’t be afraid to express your own worries and intentions. Don’t lash back out but show love for those who may not be handling their own anxious feelings in the best way.
  • Be patient. This is a learning process for us all!
  • Have hope! A small number of attendees does not mean the Church is dead. It will take time for everyone to reach their own comfort level to return in this situation.
  • Recognize your feelings and be ok with them. If you need more time to get comfortable before going back to Mass, that’s ok! Just don’t allow it to become an excuse not to return.
  • Finally, TRUST JESUS. He will relieve your anxieties and allow you to praise Him and receive from Him through the Mass in the ways He desires.

It is a true gift to have access to the Sacraments again! Let’s remember to pray for and offer great gratitude to our parish priests and staff as they try to protect us all in this process. Jesus Christ, draw us close to you and protect us!