A priest gives a blessing following a funeral Mass. CNS photo/Karen Callaway

Francis Campbell: Setting course on road back to normal

By 
  • June 3, 2021

A glimmer of light is now visible at the end of our 15-month-long tunnel of unnatural existence.

“Our phased plan will allow us to safely enjoy summer with public health measures in place while we work at getting most of our population fully vaccinated,” Premier Iain Rankin said May 28 in announcing Nova Scotia’s plan for a gradual summer re-opening.

“Then we should be able to further ease restrictions in the fall and ease in to a new normal of living with COVID-19.”

The abnormality that has held us it its grip for more than a year is not natural for humankind. Humans are social beings and not being permitted the regular social behaviour of gathering with family and friends, of attending events with small, medium or large crowds or even of attending Mass regularly has simply been unnatural.

A friend or family member dies and any service held has been limited to single-digit gatherings. That is not the way it is supposed to be. Wakes or visitations for the dead are cathartic for loved ones left behind as stories of the person’s life, accomplishments and quirks often leave bereaved families with a sense of comfort and satisfaction in knowing that their loved one touched people’s lives in different ways.

Those services may in fact take place when we return to what the Nova Scotia premier refers to as the new normal of living with COVID-19, but can wakes and funerals that take place more than a year after the death really serve the same cathartic and prayerful purpose?

The Nova Scotia government announced that phases of re-opening will occur based on COVID-19 activity, public health, testing capacity, hospitalizations and vaccination rates.

At the time of the announcement, the province’s chief medical officer said more than half of Nova Scotians had already received the first shot of a vaccine.

“The more people who get vaccinated, the more we can re-open our province,” Dr. Robert Strang said.

In the meantime, the unnatural existence drags on.

As of June 2 in Nova Scotia, we can gather outdoors with a consistent social group of up to 10 people without physical distance.

The limit for indoor gatherings remains the people we live with and two households with one or two people each can still join together but they must be the same two households all the time.
Faith gatherings can be held outdoors with a limit of 10 plus officiants when hosted by a recognized organization.
Wedding and funeral ceremonies remain limited to five plus officiants indoors, but can increase to 10 plus officiants outdoors and there can be no receptions or visitations.
Restaurants and licensed establishments can open patios at their maximum capacity with physical distance between tables, a limit of 10 people per table and masks when people are not eating or drinking.

All retail stores can operate at 25-per-cent capacity, ensuring physical distance.
Travel is no longer restricted within most of Nova Scotia, although people are asked to avoid non-essential travel into and out of Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Halifax Regional Municipality and some nearby areas that include Enfield, where our home is located.

If the number of new daily cases continue on a downward trajectory, the restrictions are likely to be relaxed even further two weeks down the road, but we still have a way to go to reach the premier’s re-jigged normal.

That re-jigged normal will bring us to a level of socialization more consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

“The human person needs to live in society,” the Church catechism reads. “Society is not for him/her an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential.”

Again, the catechism explains the importance of social participation, defining participation as “the voluntary and generous engagement of a person in social exchange.”

“It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. The obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person.”

Now, after 15 months of our social obligation being frustrated by the deadly coronavirus and the mandated restrictions that accompanied the pandemic, it appears we are finally approaching a time when we will be able to again act with the inherent social dignity of human persons created in God’s image.

(Campbell is a reporter at the Halifax Chronicle Herald.)

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