Scaffolding and Masks: Restoring Our World

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Father David BonnarFor the past 11 years, I have been stationed at a parish whose church building has been in major restoration. Needless to say, during this time, we have had to look at scaffolding both inside and outside of the church. As unsightly and inconvenient as the scaffolding has been, I have found the sight to be a wonderful image of our Church, inasmuch as we are a faith community continuously in need of restoration. Quite simply, the edifice is never finished while we are here on earth.

One year, when scaffolding covered the façade of the church, I remember taking a call from a parent whose child was being married that weekend. They asked me to have the scaffolding taken down for the wedding because they wanted to have the best pictures possible. However, it would take three days to re-erect the scaffolding to the tune of thousands of dollars. I simply told them, “This is a temporary inconvenience for a permanent improvement.”

Following the wedding, I noticed the bridal party positioned in front of the church posing for pictures in front of the scaffolding. Interestingly enough, they were all wearing hard hats. They took a lemon and turned it into lemonade. Thank God for a sense of humor.

Right now, we are facing a different kind of scaffolding. This scaffolding is not as expensive as the typical kind. The cost for each one is only $1. It takes only a moment to put in place, but in many ways, it is just as unpleasant to the eyes as regular scaffolding. The scaffolding that I am referring to is the mask that we need to wear to restore our world to good health and some sense of normalcy.

While the mask is used to impede the spread of the coronavirus, it also blocks one from seeing another’s expression. There used to be a saying, “Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.” Nothing reveals more about our moods than our faces. And how good it is when we can read someone’s face and behold their smile or be attentive to the sadness or fear they may be feeling. It is difficult to see one’s facial expression, let alone identify the person behind the mask. It really has become a case of walking by faith and not by sight. Nevertheless, wearing a mask is absolutely necessary for the good of public health.

Even before the pandemic, many people have always worn a mask. For example, doctors, nurses, firefighters, welders, catchers and goalies, just to name a few, all wear masks. For the time being, we now join this illustrious group of courageous individuals.

While these masks may signify an obstruction of sorts and feel like a nuisance, we need to keep reminding ourselves that they are really about protection. The masks seek to protect us from contracting and spreading the virus.

Perhaps the hardest part of the mask for me is that I wear glasses. Not only can people not see my facial expression, but I cannot even see them because the mask makes my glasses foggy. In these moments, I need to bear in mind that this is for a finite number of days, we pray, and merely a “temporary inconvenience for a permanent improvement.” At the same time, too, in these moments, I find myself taking off the glasses and simply walking by faith and not by sight.

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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