Today we went together to a publicly celebrated Mass for the first time since St. Joseph's Day. Benedict Ambrose wore a suit. I wore my brown silk dress and velvet jacket. We were cheerful, and not even the sight of closed cafes along our way could dim our joy for long. Some of the cafes are just closed on Sunday now. Some ... Well, we'll see.
At any rate, we were two of the fortunate thirty-five who signed up to go to Mass this morning. Five others turned up without leave, so they were especially fortunate there were places left. There was a large blond Austrian scientist with a clipboard at the door, checking off names.
As we were already wearing masks, the Sacred Bouncer just indicated the bottle of hand sanitiser beside the box of disposable masks and asked us to leave the long pews in the centre of the church for families. He also explained that we now have a one-way entrance-exit system, so we would have to leave the church through the sacristy door afterwards.
The loos, being in the parish hall, were unavailable.
When B.A. and I went into the church, we saw that pairs of pews had been tied closed (as it were) with long blue cloth tape, and that worshippers had to sit, therefore, in every third pew. The faithfuls' door to the sacristy was open and the sacristy door to the car park was also open. There were a few open windows, too, so the church was certainly well aired.
It was lovely to be back in church before the Blessed Sacrament and to see people we haven't seen in person for months and to guess who they were. Some were obvious, even wearing masks, but others were less so. I was feeling quite gleeful, in fact, until the priest came out and gave a pre-Mass homily in which he declared that we should be angry at the injustice done to us by governments and that there would be no Te Deum
as we had nothing to be thankful about, etc.
He also explained that there would be a Low Mass, and no singing, and that the [Eastern] Orthodox have only sung liturgies, so this no-singing rule affected them most severely. He then read the regulations about masks, so that we knew the actual letter of the mask law.
Then we had a Low Mass, complete with an organist in the back playing deedle-deedle, which made it more difficult for people with early onset age-related deafness (e.g. me) to hear, but B.A. liked it. There was no homily after the Gospel.
Between the checklist, the masks, the halved congregation, the blue cloth tape, the regulations, the unknown five, and the instruction to fume, I was strongly reminded of the Penal Times. I was not around during the Penal Times, naturally, but it really did seem that the government, casting around for someone not the CPP to blame for Covid, had hit on the idea that public worship should be deemed particularly dangerous and discouraged as much as possible.
One thing I noticed was that people in the church were much more spaced apart than people are on Scottish buses. The pews were naturally cleaner than the buses, as they were disinfected after the up-to-forty people at the Novus Ordo left the building. I don't know how many times a day the buses are disinfected, but it is almost certainly not after the first 40 passengers have all left. Scottish bus passengers do not sit, stand or kneel in silence, but chat away as usual. Presumably Scottish bus passengers could also sing, if they were so minded. Oh, and many Scottish bus passengers don't bother to wear their masks the whole time they are on the bus.
Don't get me started on the supermarkets.
Anyway, an offertory basket was set up at the door, and it looked like we didn't disgrace ourselves, so that was cheerful. Also cheerful was standing around 2 metres apart from our unmasked friends, chatting in the sunshine. Eventually a party of us strode off in the direction of the train station, most of us turning off, however, on an elegant street to have a three-household picnic lunch. It was supposed to be in the private park in the middle of the square, but the weather was uncertain, so we had it in the drawing/dining room instead.
In the kitchen (wonderful view!) our host caught his finger on the edge of the tin he was opening and exclaimed something highly mysterious, heartfelt and Austrian. It seemed to involve cats, but I am not sure. I am mentioning this only for colour. But I must say, although it is unlucky to cut oneself on a tin, it is lucky if the first words out of your mouth afterwards are in a dialect no-one around can understand.
Benedict Ambrose says that objectively speaking it was better to be present at Mass than in our sitting-room watching the Warrington Mass over the computer. I agree that this is objectively true, but I note that I was a lot more distracted than I have been watching the Warrington Mass, even though everyone around was at least outwardly attentive. A Low Mass on Sunday is not what I'm used to, and also I wasted a lot of time pondering the government regulations, the sad absence of half the congregation, the comparative danger of bus travel, how germy the mask my mother made me might be by now and what temperature I ought to wash it at, what emotions one ought feel at Mass, was that the thurifer in the pew ahead of us and will he eventually bring his new fiancée.
Now Polish Pretend Son is preparing to type "How just like a woman" which will be unfair, as I am sure St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Theresa Benedetta of the Cross and probably even Mother Teresa never got so distracted during Mass. My point is that life is nowhere back to normal although I am very happy indeed to have been back in our church and to have seen some of our friends again.
I suspect the governments, Westminster and Holyrood, don't actually know what they are doing and, indeed, that they have been very badly advised. Naturally they have been running roughshod over our inalienable right to public worship, which is an utter outrage, as human beings owe worship to God as a matter of fundamental justice. But on the other hand, most of them are ignorant of this, some, no doubt, invincibly.
Those who cannot be invincibly ignorant of this are the Catholic Bishops. The most charitable interpretation of the Bishops' behaviour over the past four-and-a-half months is that they were terrified of their priests and flocks dying on ventilators en masse
and then, once they noticed the busy supermarkets, they realised they had been conned and began to negotiate to get the churches open again. One does wonder what they will say to St. John Ogilvie, St. John Fisher, St. Edmund Campion, St. Margaret Clitherow, and the Carthusian Martyrs of London when they see them, but I suppose that's their business. No doubt quite a few saints have some choice things to say to me.