Like many people, I’ve gotten into the habit of thinking of life prior to the pandemic as the before time. As the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines accelerates, one can’t help but feel impatient about getting to the after time. In the meantime, I jokingly ask my husband if he remembers how we used to plan trips, go to the movies, and eat out in the before time. This helps us shake off the daily pandemic routine. We remember that it hasn’t always been like this, and we hope for a time when it will all be a memory.
It was exactly the second Sunday of Lent in 2020, a liturgical year ago, when I last celebrated Mass with my community. As on every second Sunday of Lent, we heard a Gospel account of the Transfiguration of Jesus. It was also the last time I had dinner and drinks with friends in a crowded restaurant. I was into my fifth year of serving as the director of evangelization and adult formation at the cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, and as is tradition, we were celebrating the RCIA’s rite of calling to continuing conversion. This rite affirms the spiritual journey of candidates, commits them to a lifetime of conversion, and recognizes the candidates, who have already been baptized, to complete their initiation in the Easter season. This meant a full day of ministry, Masses in the morning with RCIA dismissal, and an archdiocesan-wide liturgy in the late afternoon, where parish groups from across the archdiocese gathered in one place. The cathedral has a capacity of approximately three thousand people. In hindsight, it’s unsettling to think I was around so many people that day; just a few days after that, Masses closed to the public because of COVID-19.
A very close friend of ours was among those celebrating the rite, so we gathered afterward at a local Mexican restaurant. It’s one of those places where you can count on great margaritas and fajitas that come to the table sizzling; there’s live music, too, and the sound of lively conversations and laughter reverberates throughout the room. I remember this day fondly.