Susan from the Parish Council Has Risen - Truly?


I once brought my young family to attend a Mass at a retirement home. In all honesty, it was a pitiable sight. Couches were dragged to form a circle, and the few residents in attendance sat mutely while the priest said the Mass on a small table in the center. There was a general aura of unresponsiveness to the Mass, and I half-wondered if at some point one of the residents would simply keel over and give up the ghost. Suddenly, an impressive miracle occurred. At the sign of peace, the elderly attendees burst from their couches, like the paralytic from his mat, and began dancing around the room to shake hands and hug each other. The Spirit-is-a-moving, as they say, and so were they. There is no sickness which the God of active participation cannot remedy.

With this in mind, I share the news that Susan from the Parish Council, the mighty womon of whom all priests and men without chests tremble before, has risen from the dead, as we knew she would. “Only the good die young,” says Billy Joel, and Susan, meeting neither criteria, must wait longer for her eternal.. reward. Therefore, though she was feared deceased back in February, she has risen. Truly?

Immediately the vision of Bram Stoker’s infamous UnDead comes to mind. The UnDead are they who appear dead but, when least anticipated, prowl about seeking to suck the life out of well-intentioned citizens. Their coffins are at times empty, other times occupied. Notably, they shriek in terror at holy matters, such as crucifixes or belief in the Real Presence. Come to think of it, this has described Susan for quite some time.

Oh, but the world has changed greatly since we last had a word from Susan! And not for the better. Last time I wrote on Susan I offered her a eulogy. Today I offer her something worse, the removal of her liberal liturgical dreamworld. The pandemic of COVID-19 has removed what Susan once lived for: self-ministering worship.

As the Mass is removed, so too is Susan’s liturgical inventiveness. For now, there will be no Purell pumping before sharing the “meal”, no Peace is Flowing like a River to cackle aloud to, and especially no hands to hold during the Lord’s Prayer. Felt banners hang lonely – can a Catholic truly know about “Peace and Harmony” without reading these words on a felt banner? – guitars fall further out of tune, and fake made-in-China flowers rest idle, with no aged eyes to gawk at their polystyrene floral representation.

It is forbidden. All of it. Susan has temporarily lost her authority, audience, and agenda. In this moment, the truth sounds as harsh as a traditional homily: no one cares about her.

Who has done this? It was not the traditional priests and bishops who raced first to institute widespread sacramental lockdowns. Rather, the ones championing the immediate and widespread removal of worship were the bishops so beloved by Susan, such as Tobin, Cupich, and Rozanski. In other words, Susan has been stabbed in the back. What she lived for – the creative platform of worship - was taken away by the very men she controlled supported. It is gone, like a 2019 copy of the Breaking Bread hymnal. Ironically, the bishops have done this to save old souls like Susan. One wonders, to not be able to dance a bowl of incense in front of the altar table… can you even call this living?

All things have their season, and even the pandemic will end. When, I cannot say. But will it truly be the end? Shall Susan, a womon already flirting with death (if you can use the word “flirt” and “Susan” in the same sentence) be around to see the end? If so, shall she be able to rise to her former prominence? Will people care to listen to her cackles? Will there even be much of an audience that returns to church? It is all so unknown; a bitter trial.

Or perhaps more likely, in Susan’s already fragile state, she will eventually be constrained to a nursing home. Maybe once a month a priest will come, say a Mass at a small table, and Susan will sit lifelessly. Perhaps she will miraculously jump from her couch at the sign of peace to shake hands with a neighbour. But it will be a pitiable sight. Then, back to the couch. The effort being too great. The life viciously sucked out. The tables turned on the UnDead.

You may have cheated death once, dear Susan, but not forever. Seek Christ, and not yourself. For only in Christ can you truly rise. 

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