It’s the time of year for cabin fever.
Christmas is past and Lent (with its promise of Easter) is weeks away. Football season has ended — not as Packer fans wanted — and baseball training camps may be delayed.
Imagine having this “closed in, all alone in the world” feeling all the time.
The Olympics (ongoing through Feb. 20) and Paralympics (March 4 to 13) help fill the current weeks with some excitement. But both these have their own echoes of the “closed in” feeling. Precautions due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns have led to what some call “the Olympics Bubble,” isolating athletes and staff. They have their own hotels, sports venues, transportation, even their own highway lanes.
It’s reminiscent — though larger — of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) “Disney Bubble” for the final eight games of the 2019-2020 season. Named for its location in Orlando, Fla., the Disney Bubble was highly successful. During its three-month duration, no players tested positive for COVID. However, it was not repeated for several reasons: fans missed players, players missed fans and “fan energy,” and teams and host cities missed revenue.
Today, many people not involved in any sports still feel a bubble of isolation and corresponding lack of energy. Not only do they have cabin fever, but struggles with the pandemic — along with all sorts of corresponding emotions, perceptions and realities — drag at them. The cumulative effects have exacerbated an already difficult reality.
Along with all these other problems, these brothers and sisters of ours struggle with increasing age or chronic illness. During winter, they can also have mobility issues or find the extremes of cold and/or snow inhibiting.
For these and many other reasons, they cannot attend Mass the way they once did. So, they — even more than the rest of us — feel isolated, trapped in a bubble. Yes, to varying degrees, they felt some of this before COVID-19, but things are worse now
When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, the Sunday obligation to attend Mass was suspended by Bishop David Ricken (along with most bishops in the United States). Locally, this suspension began on March 17, 2020, and affected daily, weekend and holy day Masses. Instead of in-person Masses, parishes turned to virtual ways of worship, including livestream Masses on Facebook and YouTube, as well as other virtual church experiences, such as faith formation classes, listening sessions and extra phone outreach to the homebound.
On March 22, 2020, the diocese began broadcasting Sunday TV Mass with Bishop Ricken, celebrated at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay and shown at 10 a.m. on WFRV, Channel 5. The Mass was gratefully received. WFRVs ratings for that half-hour soared. According to Justine Lodl, communications director for the diocese, this Mass had “an average viewership of 31,000 households.” There is also access to the Mass after the broadcast, allowing people to watch later in the day.
“I so enjoy watching the Bishop‘s Mass. His sermons are short and stay with me,” wrote one Compass reader from the Fox Valley. It was just one of many positive responses from people who might feel isolated.
When the Mass obligation was restored in August of 2021 and parishes reopened, the Sunday TV Mass continued. When Packer games began last fall, the broadcast was moved earlier, to 7:30 a.m. on Sundays.
For those feeling any form of isolation and relying on the TV Mass for some relief — both spiritual and social — don’t be alarmed when you turn on TV this Sunday (Feb. 13) at 7:30 a.m. The Mass is not gone. It’s only “a delay of game.” The Mass will be broadcast at 10:30 a.m. on WFRV.
When someone is alone at home or in a care facility, there is nothing like personal connections. Mass on TV or the radio — such as Relevant Radio’s Mass at noon — or from their parish on Facebook or YouTube, bursts those isolation bubbles. For a time, at least, they feel connected again.
Even as we hope and pray to move out of the pandemic soon, we should remember that there will always be people unable to come to parish Masses. With our ongoing support for TV Masses and other virtual worship opportunities, everyone can remain connected. If we ever feel a bubble forming around us, it should always be one that envelopes everyone in one embrace of faith, hope and love.