“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9)
In this time of pandemic, we are learning new things every day: how to work, teach our children, even worship our God—from home or in smaller congregations when we venture out to visit our parish. We’ve also learned the importance of masks: My mask protects you, your mask protects me. We know to take nothing for granted with extra cleanliness protocols. And, particularly hard for me, physical distancing with no demonstrations of affection and hugs for friends! Even our parish singing must undergo temporary changes. It is well-documented in healthcare that droplets of moisture from singing can be “super-spreaders” of Covid-19, even if the singer shows no symptoms. And even if we sing with masks, there’s still a risk. As a cantor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Irvine, there is nothing I love more than when you sing with me! Our wonderful parish music ministries enlighten the Word, inspired by the Word.
Sadly, on July 2, Orange County’s infection rates and ICU beds were so high, the state put this county on a “watch list” —no indoor dining or bars, fireworks shows canceled, and gatherings limited to family only. Even singing at church is now temporarily prohibited, mask or no. Bishop Kevin Vann was able to secure worship exceptions: one cantor, our priest celebrant, and accompanist to share music at Mass so that we can continue to be moved in profound ways.
Our faith calls us to be a people of love. In testing Jesus, the Pharisee asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” and the Lord responded, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind…The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matt 22: 36-40. It is this I meditate on today: Loving our neighbor includes inconvenient, selfless acts—like wearing a mask, like not singing whenever I want. In this way, loving our neighbor protects us all as a community to get through this pandemic as soon and as healthfully as possible. Other countries are already opening up. Until we are able to join them, keep the faith, pray for compliance and deliverance from increased infections.
Indeed, even more than merely being our brother’s keeper, we are called to proactively love our brother, elderly neighbor, co-worker, and child. In love, wear a mask, and join me in song by keeping music alive in your hearts—if not on our lips–for just a while longer.
Lucy Dunn is a cantor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Irvine where she has been a parishioner since 1996.