What to expect when public Mass resumes

Closing the doors was simple – opening them back up will take thought and understanding 

As painful as the decision was to suspend all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Denver, the process was straight-forward and necessary for the common good. 

When health restrictions are eased and we are able to start gathering together again, it is important for everyone to understand that things won’t immediately go back to normal. 

Health experts and elected officials are currently determining new guidelines and restrictions for the next weeks and months, and at the same time the Archdiocese of Denver is planning for how public Masses will be celebrated with respect to any new regulations 

We know the desire to return to your parishes, participate in the liturgy, and receive the Eucharist is incredibly strong, but we ask that everyone approach this next phase with a patient, loving and charitable mindset.  

The specific details of when public Mass will resume and how it will look are still being determined, but here are five things for everyone to be prepared for. 

1. Attendance will be limited. We know restrictions will remain on holding large gatherings, so we are working with parishes to determine a fair way to cap attendance for Masses. It is important for people to register to receive communications from their parish so they will know how their parish is going to handle how many people can attend any given Mass and who those people may bee.g., sign-up systemsassigned days, etc. No one should expect to be able to attend Mass with regularity.

2. Social Distancing will be practiced. Expect that your parish will have pews/rows that are taped off, and that families will be asked to keep six feet of separation from other familiesBe prepared to wear a mask to Mass to guard against germ spread. If you are showing any symptoms of sickness, please stay home.  

3. Liturgical changes will be in place. Similar to protocols established in early March, extra precautions will be taken, like suspending the distribution of the Precious Blood and receiving Holy Communion only on the hand.  

4. A general dispensation from the Sunday obligation will remain. For at-risk groups, those who have symptoms, and anyone who feels safer staying at home, no one will be required to attend. Because your family might only be able to attend Mass on an irregular basis, and not necessarily on Sundayplan to continue to keep the Sabbath holy by participating in livestream and pre-recorded Masses

5. There still will be a risk for anyone who attends a public Mass. Even with best health practices and strict social distancing, anyone who enters a public space should recognize there is a risk of contracting the coronavirus. Improved cleaning will occur at our churches, but no one should expect that they will be any safer from germs than other public spaces.

Finally, let’s strive for progress and not perfection. There will no doubt be challenges and frustrations. Your family might not be able to attend Mass the first few weeks it resumes. A parish might have a sign-up blunder and things won’t go according to plan. But we believe following these guidelines is a reasonable sacrifice. As we see numbers flatten and decrease, we are beginning to sense the situation improving. For the interest of the common good, and ultimately to best serve our own community, we do not want to contribute to a rebound effect that would actually push normalized Mass attendance even further into the future.

So if we all work together, we can ease back into this and continue to incrementally add more people and options. However, if we look for ways to get around the regulations, we will likely create situations that force us to take steps back.

*Information in this article accurate as of April 21, 2020. 

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”