"It isn't fear to exercise prudent care for ourselves and others," she told CNA. "This is a serious situation…When 60% of the population falls into a risk group because of age or an underlying medical condition such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease, it's prudent to try to avoid infection."
Golder acknowledged that conflicting advice early in the pandemic may be confusing, but explained that federal guidance has changed as scientists have learned more about the new virus and how it is spread.
"We now know that it is communicable by aerosol droplets that are expelled by coughing, sneezing, and even, to a certain extent, by breathing," she said. "We also know that this happens even in patients who are infected and shedding virus but who do not have symptoms."
For this reason, masks – along with social distancing – are an important tool in fighting the spread of the disease, she said.
"Wearing a mask limits the possibility of dispersing infective particles in the air, as well as reducing the risk of inhaling them," she said.
Golder noted that small children, those who have breathing difficulties, and those who are physically unable to put on a mask need not wear one, but added that they may want to significantly limit contact with others.
But for most Americans, she said, "wearing a mask is a way of exercising our care for the other, who could be harmed if we do not."
Leah Libresco Sargeant, author of "Building the Benedict Option," echoed the idea that wearing a mask is a way of showing love for one's neighbors.
"It's much more a question of care than of fear," she told CNA.
While masks may be somewhat uncomfortable, they are a small inconvenience that can be embraced out of charity for others, Sargeant suggested.
"Mask wearing is a small, humdrum discipline. It's harder to romanticize than a big gesture," she said.
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"Think about the difference between going on a big pilgrimage and keeping up a habit of daily prayer, including in times of spiritual dryness. We have to do it out of love-there's no other way to sustain the dull parts of caring for others."
Dr. Golder acknowledged there are legitimate concerns about government overreach with some of the mandates surrounding masks and other pandemic limitations.
"[I]t's absolutely true that there has been some overreach of government officials in imposing restrictions in various places," she said.
"There is a real possibility of infringement of our constitutional rights and those charged with protecting our rights are hard at work to prevent that," she added, pointing to court rulings blocking some of these regulations as signs that the American system is working.
But ultimately, Golder said, Catholics may want to consider the question of public health not solely from a perspective of rights, but from the viewpoint of service and friendship to which Christ calls us.
"God as man never once asserted his many 'rights' against us, maintaining to the last his role as servant and friend," she said. "I think that might be the model here-How do I as friend and servant act in the presence of others? Wearing a mask might be a good start these days."