Vaccines Work, in More Ways than One

On Sunday, while my wife stayed home still feeling punchy from her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, I did a solo trip to St. Gerald in Oak Lawn for Mass. Nothing unusual about that, we’ve become regulars at the 9:15 a.m. liturgy since we moved across the state line at the end of July last year.
I certainly wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary on the third Sunday of Lent. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered – the pews nearly packed, or at least as packed as COVID-19 rules will allow.
Since I started returning to in-person Mass last summer at my previous parish, attendance everywhere I’ve gone has consistently fallen well short of even the limited capacity. Good seats were always available.
Not this past Sunday. A rough estimate suggests about 50 percent more people were in attendance than the previous week. I hadn’t seen that many people in church since the pandemic began, including this past year’s Christmas Mass, which brings out the otherwise occupied.
What could account for the difference? Sure, the weather was nicer than it had been through most of February, but not any better than it was the prior Sunday. The only explanation that really made sense to me was the fact COVID cases were going down and, more important, inoculations were going up. I reckon people are finally feeling a little more comfortable going to Mass, more certain they will either avoid catching the coronavirus or unwittingly spreading it.
I dearly hope this trend continues. I imagine there are many in the faith who have worried this yearlong removal from regular Mass attendance could become permanent, as people fell out of the habit of the weekly commitment. I hope the opposite is true, that being deprived of the Eucharist for so long has reminded Catholics of the joy that comes from attending weekly Mass.
Sunday’s service, even with masks and other social-distancing protocols still in effect, gives me hope it’s the latter.

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