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Gretchen R. Crowe
Our Sunday Visitor
August 18, 2020 // Columns

Making the most of masking, Catholic style

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Gretchen R. Crowe
Our Sunday Visitor

Cloth face masks: They’re the unexpected fashion trend of 2020. We’re making them, we’re buying them, we’re wearing them (hopefully). TV news reporters and members of Congress have such perfectly color-coordinated masks, it’s like they’ve been collecting them for decades to pair with their pandemic-era outfits. I, myself, have made a few (including a Scooby Doo themed one for our 3-year-old) and bought a few (thank you Washington Nationals MLB Online Team Store).

We can probably all agree that wearing masks isn’t the most fun. It’s hard to take deep breaths, and it’s strange not being able to see the facial expressions of the person with whom you are speaking. Wearing a mask can play psychological games, too — making us feel like we’re arming ourselves for battle, even though it’s really the other way around. Whenever I put on a mask, I find it helpful to remind myself: “I do not wear this mask out of fear. I wear it because I love and wish to protect my neighbor from germs I may not even know that I have. Relax, and take a deep breath … or not.”

With a majority of states now requiring masks to be worn in public spaces to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, face coverings are becoming more and more ubiquitous. Since they are part of life as we know it for the foreseeable future, I’ve made it a personal mission to make the most of them. Forget lemons and lemonade. When life gives you a mask-wearing mandate, you might as well find some cute fabric.

That’s not hard to do these days, as private individuals and bigger companies have sprung into action to create masks that appeal to all personality types. There’s your basic solids and flower motifs. There are the Darth Vader look-alikes. And, for the funny guys, there are those featuring quips like, “If you’re reading this, you’re standing too close.” My sister, who recently was married, wore a “bride” face mask, and she provided personalized, wedding-themed coverings for those in attendance.

One of the unintended benefits of mask-wearing is the ability to use them to shout our Catholic pride. And the options are plentiful. For the DIY hobbyists among us, Abigail Halpin’s Marian-inspired patterns are subtle yet stunning and would make for enjoyable crafting time. (Personal aside: My husband got me several yards of her fabric for Christmas, and I love it.) For those who prefer someone else to do the work, artist Jen Frost offers beautiful homemade face masks at her online shop Faith and Fabric. And Courtney Freiburger offers simple and lovely Catholic-inspired face masks at Hardy Design and Photography. For clergy, Tonini Church Supply Company, based in Louisville, Kentucky, sells face masks made with “vestment style print” in every liturgical color. Even the Knights of Columbus have created a branded face mask that proclaims: “Leave no neighbor behind.”

A Google search will uncover plenty more, and it’s fascinating to see the designs that touch on so many aspects of our faith.

So while no one likes to be in the middle of a pandemic, and no one really likes to have to wear masks, who knows? Maybe your Catholic-inspired face covering will prompt a (socially distanced) conversation with someone about the faith? Or maybe it will bring you a sense of peace, reminding you to set aside any worries and anxieties, and instead trust in the Lord.

These are hard times, and more uncertainty lies ahead. But, several months into this thing, we know wearing cloth face coverings can help reduce the spread of coronavirus germs. Why not support Catholic artists and companies, get a little crafty, and join me in making the most of it?

Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV. Reprinted with permission.

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