A listener named Gordon asks Father Dave if the Church will grow after the pandemic is over. Gordon shares that his own faith has deepened as a result of the pandemic and having access to faith resources online.
Father Dave responds, “The one phrasing in your question that we might all have to wrestle with is ‘when the pandemic is over.’ We hope that where we are right now will not forever be the case, but we don’t know when this will be over. There is this hopeful assumption that once it’s over, everything will go back to normal. I think a lot of our lives will be changed permanently in terms of the ways we interact together or commute to our offices. So, there will be a lot of lasting changes. I would say one of those changes that I am hopeful about is people’s connection with God through community.”
“Will the church grow as a result of the pandemic? That’s what I pray for every day. Even long before we had a pandemic, one of the mission directions of the Paulist Fathers was evangelization… Maybe what you’re asking is, are there any particular things that we’re going through now that might lend themselves to a time of growth in contrast to if there was no pandemic? Chief among them is people realizing our human need to connect with one another, to engage with one another, and to be part of a community. At the same time,complimentary to that in the same way that we see religion in general, is being aware of our own human fragility and weakness and mortality.”
“When we become aware of our own mortality, we start thinking toward what is immortal and whether that’s our relationship with God or needing to clean up our act so that we will enjoy life with God. It seems to me that during the course of the pandemic, many people have witnessed people dying and thought, ‘That could be me.’ And it makes you ask, ‘What does this mean for me and my spiritual life? And what if it were my family member or me who were called home to God? Am I ready for that?’ I think you’re right that this time of pandemic has engendered that change in our thinking.”
Father Dave reflects on virtual Mass as a result of the pandemic, “One of the things that the pandemic has taught us is that virtual Mass is not a substitute… But these virtual meetings have helped in other ways. You can have Bible studies or other faith meetings online. I do think there’s a lot to be gained from the forced lessons we’ve had out of this pandemic. And yes, I do hope that the Church will continue to grow, and I’m glad to hear that you’ve been drawn closer to your faith through this season.”