Masses are being canceled; churches are being closed. What’s a faithful Catholic to do?

Simple: Stay faithful. Be obedient. Don’t try to pull a fast one.

My friend Father Matthew Schneider has some words of wisdom about obedience: 

I’m seeing some Catholics post online about how to circumvent their bishop’s rules in response to COVID-19, and get the Eucharist. Different people have suggested things like finding out when the priest celebrates private Mass and slipping in, going to other Catholic Masses – either in other dioceses or in other rites – or going to Masses where the priests aren’t in Communion with the Pope.

First, it is great to have such hunger for the Eucharist. However, even though we Catholics are generally, asked to go to Mass each Sunday, that is not absolute. If someone is in some remote place and does not see a priest for 2 months, he has committed no sin by missing Mass. This happens in remote settlements like in the Arctic or Amazon, it happens in the military and it happens on scientific expeditions. In these cases, many bishops have explicitly lifted the Sunday obligation to make sure that nobody feels obliged to go.

Second, obedience is both to the letter and the spirit of what is asked. When a bishop orders A in order to avoid B, a healthy spirit of obedience avoids B in other ways. Take a different example: let’s say a bishop orders no alcohol at parish festivals to avoid drunkenness at them. It might fulfill the letter of the law to invite alcohol vendors to set up 10 feet outside the parish festival, but if we really want to obey the spirit of the rule and to achieve the goal of no drunkenness at parish festivals we would say no to that too.

St. Albert the Great (Doctor of the Church and teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas) noted this ideal of virtue: ”He that is truly obedient does not wait for a command, but as soon as he knows what his superior wishes to have done immediately sets himself to work, without expecting an order.”

St. Faustina went so far as to point out she takes a word of obedience over the word of Jesus in her visions. She said, “I will follow Your will insofar as You will permit me to do so through Your representative. O my Jesus, it cannot be helped, but I give priority to the voice of the Church over the voice with which You speak to me.” (Diary, 497)

He has more. Read it all. 

When it comes to the subject of obedience, I always like to remember Padre Pio. I wrote about him several years ago on my blog, when the Corapi scandal was still in the news, and I recounted this story from his biography:

After Vespers, Padre Raffaele summoned Pio to the friary parlor and read the decree received on June 11, 1931, without comment:

“Padre Pio is to be stripped of all faculties of his priestly ministry except the faculty to celebrate the Holy Mass, which he may continue to do provided it is done in private, within the walls of the friary, in the inner chapel, and not publicly in church”.

To that, Ruffin explains St. Pio’s initial reaction:

“God’s will be done,”…then he covered his eyes with his hands, lowered his head, and murmured, “The will of the authorities is the will of God.”

While this caused immense suffering for Pio, which was confided privately to his friend and former teacher, Padre Agostino, he did not complain or make objections, especially in a public way. Padre Agostino asked him how he spent his time and Pio replied, “I pray and I study as much as I can, and then I annoy my Brothers.” Pio went on to elaborate that he jokes with his brothers.  With regards to study, he spent much time in Sacred Scripture, and he especially studied the Fathers of the Church.

Read more. 

N.B.: It is easier to become a saint by being obedient than by being disobedient, even if you think your superiors are wrong.