Reservations, Please…


(Credit: Kate Novack ’24)

The phrase “Oh, I’d like to make a reservation please” has taken on a whole new meaning in 2020. When I think about a reservation, I think about upscale exclusive restaurants that require fancy dress for a special occasion like a birthday or an anniversary. During these past eight months, reservations have gone out the window at many restaurants that were closed. Our churches closed too, which made it impossible to worship in person. Now at many Catholic parishes including my own, Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, MA, “reservations” are part of the new normal. 

Christmas Masses this year will look a little different. Ever since Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley gave the go-ahead for public Masses to resume, each church has implemented necessary safety protocols in different ways. At my church, there are ushers that lead parishioners to seats properly socially distanced from other churchgoers. My mom and I have been ushers since July. Under Covid-19 restrictions, the capacity is 150 people. Christmas Masses normally fill the church, requiring the overflowing crowds to sit in the choir loft or spill out onto the street. This Christmas, there are a limited number of Masses and worshippers are required to make “reservations” for their “party.”

It seems strange to me that we have to make a reservation to attend Mass. On the one hand, God’s house is very special. But on the other hand, it is meant to be open to all. There is a song frequently sung at my church and familiar to many Montrosians: “All Are Welcome.” The lyrics are “Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live….May the love of Christ end divisions. All are welcome, All are welcome, All are welcome in this place.” These lyrics are emblematic of the Catholic Church’s purpose and how we are all welcome in it. The thought of turning some away on this blessed and holy feast day because they don’t have a reservation forms a troubling contradiction. We are not welcoming people in the normal numbers, but love dwells there and following this practice means, as the song goes, that we can “safely live.”  Ultimately, keeping everyone safe is what God wants us to do. 

My church’s pastor, Father Dan Riley, is an amazing priest; he makes everyone feel welcome when they enter our doors. When I see him every Sunday, he always has a “tough religion question” about an upcoming Holy Day of Obligation, a Gospel writer, a Latin phrase, or about the Catechism of the Catholic Church. After he is dressed for Mass, Fr. Dan goes around and says hello to everyone. When I asked Father Dan to share his thoughts about making reservations for Mass, he said: “Reservations this year are required to keep everyone safe. Without this precaution, parishioners would be lining up outside the church not properly socially distanced and not following the appropriate safety guidelines.” The numbers of Covid-19 patients, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rise in Massachusetts, and according to Fr. Dan Mass reservations are required to keep the parish community safe. 

Our Lady Help of Christians Parish and many other parishes across the state are doing all that they can to celebrate the Advent season and the birth of Jesus Christ with reverence and joy. As we enter into this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we pray to God for an end to the virus, a successful vaccine, and for all loved ones or family members that have been stricken by the virus. In one of Fr. Dan’s Monday greetings, he reminded us to be grateful for our blessings during the pandemic. He also wisely pointed out: “The Grinch cannot keep Christmas from coming and neither can Covid.”

If you are in or near Newton and you are looking for a Mass to attend, here is the link for reservations with instructions on how to sign up: Christmas Mass Schedule, Guidelines, and Reservations – SHOL Newton – Newton, MA. Spots are limited, so sign up soon! My mom and I may even guide you to your seats. 

A blessed and safe Christmas to all!

Kate Novack ’24