Thinking out loud about a return to “Sunday normal,” a veteran pastor recently told me that he thought it would take one year for each month of lockdown/quarantine/ shelter-at-home for Mass attendance to return to where it was in February 2020. I said I hoped that people’s hunger for the Eucharist would bring them back more quickly, once they concluded that it was reasonably safe, for themselves and others, to do so. But whether “Sunday normal” returns this year or next year, the “Sunday normal” of February 2020 isn’t something for which we should easily settle. Because “Sunday normal” isn’t what it should be. This extended moment of Eucharistic fasting may be a providential moment to do something about that.
Why isn’t pre-pandemic “Sunday normal” the norm to which we should aspire? Because too few Catholics take the Sunday Eucharist seriously enough to participate in it weekly. And because too few Catholics understand just what the Eucharist is.
“Never let a good crisis go to waste” is a maxim that applies beyond politics. Applied to the Church, it suggests that this in-between time is a privileged time to re-catechize (or in some cases, catechize) the Church in the U.S. on the full, amazing, supernatural meaning of the Eucharist. If bishops and pastors turn their homiletic attention to that over the next weeks and months, re-enforcing with e-mailed catechetical materials what they say from the pulpit to those in church and those participating through live-streaming, crisis may be transformed into opportunity, such that the new “Sunday normal” is something better than the old.