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COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: Refreshed after a Great Day Off

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Father David BonnarThe pandemic has fractured many of our common day rituals. These repeated actions, as mundane as they may appear, always have a way of keeping us ordered and even refreshed. We all could provide a laundry list of these routines, some of which may include attending daily Mass, checking the box score from last night’s baseball game, going to mom’s house for Sunday dinner, walking and shopping at the mall, bowling each week in the church league and/or gathering with friends at a local establishment for a beverage or even dinner.

For me, one of the lost rituals of this unusual time has been my day off. I realize some may argue that since there are no public Masses and little of seemingly anything else, Father does not need a day off. For some, the pandemic has been an extended vacation from work or at least work away from work. But since we priests in this parish assignment (we are three) work where we live, coupled with the fact that there is no office staff right now, all three of us are working, sometimes in new ways. We sort mail, answer calls, respond to emails, celebrate funeral liturgies in the funeral home, livestream the Mass each day and cover the hospital on our scheduled day.

As priests, we are entitled to a 24-hour overnight each week. Ever since I was a newly ordained priest and lived 60 miles from home, I have always taken an overnight when possible. There is something freeing and refreshing in getting away and being with family and friends. I don’t know of a priest alive who does not look forward to his day off. No matter how grueling the week, we always know that there is light at the end of the tunnel with the day off.

The concept of the day off really got lost during the pandemic, in large part because there is nowhere to go. Malls, golf courses, gyms, dine-in restaurants, museums, theaters and sports venues are all closed. Another challenge is that we certainly want to do everything we can to keep those with whom we stay safe, even if it means not visiting with family.

After the death of my parents, I have been spending my days off at one of my two sister’s homes. For the last eight weeks, however, I have gone nowhere. A week or so ago, I stopped at my older sister’s home for a brief visit. I asked her if she and her husband would be fine with me coming for a quick overnight. Thankfully, she never hesitated in saying yes. I really needed an overnight. I not only wanted to see them, but also my four-legged Shih Tzu friend, Murphy.

When I arrived to begin my stay, Murphy was waiting at the door to greet me. In fact, he became so excited that he vomited. Already, it felt like home. We all enjoyed a meal together and talked for a good long while. It was so relaxing and so normal. I felt like, for the first time, I was having a day off. To top it off, I slept that night for nearly 11 hours. After a quiet morning of prayer and a long walk with my sister, I was ready to return to the parish. What a great day off!

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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