You have probably heard stories where someone had to convert to the faith of their spouse when they got married. Well, that’s me. But this might not be the type of conversion you are thinking of.
I’m a New South Wales girl and grew up in a home of fanatical NRL supporters. My husband hails from South Australia and is super fanatical about the AFL. There was a running joke that in order for the marriage to proceed I would have to renounce the NRL and convert to the AFL. My conversion was slow and painful, especially as my family were quite disgusted that I had left the one, true faith. Over the years I have slowly come around, and I now quite enjoy watching our team, Port Adelaide – especially when they are winning.
But things have changed this year. Come September we would usually be debating who would make it into the finals, who was going to win the footy tipping competition and planning our Grand Final BBQ. Even when our team didn’t do well, we’d really enjoy the end-of-season festivities with our kids running amuck in the backyard (and me yelling at them to kick the footy away from the windows), singing the national anthem (badly), good food (too much), wine and friendship (never enough).
COVID-19 has changed all this. As I write this article, we aren’t sure when the Grand Final will be or where it will be held. There’ll certainly be no MCG packed with almost 100,000 footy fans.
What surprises me - or maybe it doesn’t - is the lengths to which the AFL and NRL have gone to try and keep some semblance of the season going. No one seems to have lost their passion for the game. There’s no thought in the minds of fans that they would prefer to watch a livestream game if they had the chance to be there in person. No expense has been spared, and many sacrifices made by players and their families, in order to keep the game alive.
This dedication for the game has caused me to pause and compare it the dedication people have for their God and their faith. If you are a person of faith, do you feel a similar loss about not being able to worship as part of a community? Are you missing the Mass and your fellow parishioners?
If you are new to Catholicism, or thinking about becoming a Catholic, has the pandemic dented or invigorated your faith?
On the (digital) journey?
COVID-19 has provided an enormous impetus for Catholic parishes to provide more online content, video conferencing and livestreaming of the Mass. Many websites have also received a much-needed makeover.
Making good use of digital technology has been vitally important in trying to keep faith communities connected during these tough times. But, like football fans who would prefer to be “at the game”, many Catholics are also keen to attend Mass physically. The Catholic faith places a critical emphasis on coming together to celebrate the Mass. Pope Francis agrees, and has warned Catholics that it would be dangerous if they start living their relationship with God “for just myself, detached from the people of God”.
Digital technology, such as social media and YouTube, are now seen as important ways for the Catholic Church to provide information about God, Jesus and the Catholic faith. However, during these last few months, the Catholic Enquiry Centre has been contacted by people who are interested in becoming a Catholic, but are looking for some personal connection. Unfortunately, when they have made contact with their local parish, they have been advised that, due to restrictions placed on the parish during the pandemic, they are unable to assist.
With every blessing
Catholic Enquiry Centre team
Words: Sharon Brewer
Images: Unsplash, Football stadium, Daniel Anthony
Unsplash, Online Church, Greg Whitty
This article is part of Faith Journey, a newsletter from the National Centre for Evangelisation.