2nd Sunday after Easter 2020 according to the Use of Sarum, with sermon. I mention the impending end of lockdown here in France (11th May) with some continuing restrictions. I intend to continue recording Mass and sermons for the sake of people unable to attend church services for other reasons like sickness and remoteness. Watching a recording is no substitute for physical presence in a church, but it is better than nothing.
Discussion about recorded services continues in places like Facebook. The rigorist position would outlaw such “invalid” fulfilments of Sunday obligation and push people to protest against lockdown rules and even attend clandestine services. “Jesus is my vaccine“, exclaimed some Evangelical pastors in the USA. They caught the virus, and some of them died on the ventilators! Their presumption of divine intervention did not pay off. Recorded services may be a poor substitute but it is a service we priests offer in this time of lockdown, fear and distance. There are no “tele-sacraments” other than the grace a soul receives through prayer and desire.
Strict lockdown is to be lifted here in France on Monday 11th May. The French President will address the nation on Tuesday to unveil the plan, because it has to come in stages. We will no longer have to justify the least trip out of the house to police and gendarmerie, but there will still be distancing rules in place to prevent a second wave of the epidemic. We will have to wear masks in public places. Hopefully, the economy will recover and I will start to get translating orders again, and others will find their jobs. Bars and restaurants have to wait until about mid-June and there can be no gatherings of crowds before mid-July. We can only hope that the plan will be effective, since the vaccine remains academic for the time being, barring a scientific miracle which is being worked on as I write.
The internet has been full of comments and articles written by those who think all this is a conspiracy to gather the “sheeple” into a totalitarian dystopia. It is interesting that the same image of sheep is used, but in a very different meaning to that of the Good Shepherd. It is more like the image of the slaughterhouse! Many French people project collective memories of the 1940 Occupation onto the present situation and call for massive demonstrations and strikes against the Macron government. As far as I see it, it is not a conspiracy, but perhaps something that could have been better planned and managed from the beginning of the epidemic in France. It makes sense to the government to let us go back to work and buy goods and services as soon as the levels of people needing hospital care can be kept under control within the given threshold. That is just common sense and concern for the economy and the common good.
Another thing is that many people have deserved to be treated like sheep as they behaved in a very selfish way, refusing to take the epidemic seriously and their duty to protect others against themselves (in the event of their being infected). I hope that after the date given by our government, people will behave responsibly and not need to be threatened with fines and other sanctions by the police. There is every reason to believe that we will soon be allowed to go cycling, hiking, sailing and other things that bring health and happiness without endangering others. These are things we can look forward to and no longer to take for granted.
I hope and pray that the conditions in the UK will also make it possible to introduce a process of release from the lockdown. May churches be allowed to reopen and welcome back those who thirst for the liturgy and prayer in the community of the Christian faithful.
Some talk of a new normal, which seems to me a very nebulous idea. Lockdown cannot continue indefinitely anywhere, certainly not the years needed to produce a reliable vaccine. We cannot behave like flocks of sheep and risk a second wave worse than the first. I will certainly be avoiding crowds this year. Any sailing I do will be solo and far from collective humanity. Spring brings optimism and a ray of light.