If we really thought masks were essential to protecting us from a deadly virus, we would not spend hours at restaurants, or in large groups at public parks, without wearing them. Either we don’t think that masks are necessary, or we think that the virus is not as deadly as we are told, or we want to die of the virus. So which is it?
We are told that masks can help stop the spread of the virus, and we should wear them when obligated, both to curb the disease, and as a penitential act of charity to those who are afraid. But let's be honest: many of the mask's most fervent proponents do not wear them in crowded restaurants or in public parks. The emperors of society who declare that masks are crucial while in proximity to strangers are not wearing them while in promximity to strangers. The Emperor has no Mask.
What do we make of this curious social phenomenon? I'm not sure what to think, but let me end on a lighter note. I was recently at a retreat house where the nuns wore masks all the time, even while taking walks in the country alone. I saw some priests taking walks along the lakeshore, alone, quietly praying their rosaries, quietly wearing their masks. Most nuns these days are a bit "woke"--they don't wear habits. Most priests don't wear their Roman collars. But they do wear their masks. "Clothes make the man," and few that give up wearing some kind of traditional, socially-recognized vesture will go completely naked. Most will adopt some other defining clothing. The mask has become, to most of us, a socially-approved "uniform," a kind of "habit" to the religiously-minded. Masks have become fashion symbols, accessories, a badge of virtue and individual identity. The problem is, we are all wearing the same thing. We Amrericans are inveterate conformists. I'm sure masks help flatten the virus curve, but the deeper reason many of us wear them, perhaps, is that they give us a sense of purpose and identity. I'll wear my mask, when I need to, but I will certainly wear my roman collar, all the time. I'd rather be identified as a Catholic priest than anything else!