I miss you! It’s surely a different experience offering Mass in the presence of my brother priests, two religious Sisters and one or two others who serve the liturgy or help in the daily production of the live-streamed Mass in our otherwise empty church building. I do miss the camaraderie that we usually enjoy in exchanging greetings after Mass by our church doors. I miss the uplifting music that accompanies so many of our liturgies (and just to be fully honest, I miss the sacrificial offerings that sustain our parish, too; so, you can send in your offerings).
It has been suggested to me that we “pass out” Holy Communion after a Mass to those who can drive by the church in their automobiles. I will not minimize or cheapen the Sacrament of the Most Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ just for the sake of convenience, as if it were a “take-out” fast-food drive through meal like at Burger King or McDonalds. The true celebration of the Mass is meant to be likened to a family meal. Since we’re half-way through the season of Lent, it might be worthwhile again to consider that circumstances are such that if we must, we will sacrifice convenience and ease in order to master our desires and ourselves. I think of those Catholic men and women worldwide who have been deprived of the Eucharist for much longer periods of time than we, because of persecution of the Church, such as in places like China or North Korea. And what about those who are sick and cannot drive their cars? Should not they be the ones who are comforted by the presence of Our Lord in their lives? In any event, there is the ancient teaching of Spiritual Holy Communion for those who really wish to receive Jesus but are truly unable to do so. We can, however, justify drive-thru Confessions on Saturdays. Jesus walked about curing the sick and forgiving sins. The Last Supper, however, was at tableside.
By focusing on God and our neighbors who are suffering from the virus, loss of employment or loneliness, we can retain a perspective that makes our present sacrifices more bearable and meaningful. Follow reasoned guidance on social distancing and other safeguards to keep yourself and others safe. Continue to be as generous as possible to our parish as well as any charity that serves the poor, hungry and homeless. Whenever you venture out for food shopping or other essential errands, don’t forget to show the kindness and compassion of Christ to everyone you encounter. Offer to shop for the elderly and homebound. Give encouragement to those who are fearful. Be patient in the face of stress. Be calm in the face of anxiety. Be a beacon of hope in the face of doubt. Be an example of shining light to a world that seems to cling to darkness.
You and your families are in my prayers and daily Masses. I pray that our parents will be courageous leaders of their families and community in the ways of faith. This time of stressful social distancing can also lead to greater family togetherness and faith in Jesus. Please stay connected with the Church via our parish and diocesan websites and other Catholic media to facilitate spiritual growth. From live-streamed Masses, praying the Rosary as a family and mealtime prayers, you can keep God at the center of your homes and hearts in a way that will endure long after the virus passes. Our parish Masses are being live-streamed from Sunday thru Friday, and can be opened on our website about 10 minutes before they are to be celebrated.
I pray that you and your families are safe and well and will remain so during these challenging times. As the Coronavirus continues to spread and our church services, meetings and activities are suspended, I am writing to encourage you as determined people of faith to let the charity, hope and faith shine forth from you as strongly as ever in the weeks to come. As we journey through Lent, united more than ever to the suffering Christ, be steadfast in faith in Our Lord, who has already won victory over death and is the source of eternal life. Please join me in praying for an end to COVID-19, healing for those afflicted by it, eternal rest for those who have died, consolation for those who have lost loved ones, and protection for all people, especially medical professionals, first responders and others whose jobs put them in great danger of contracting the disease. Please see pages 7 and 9 for prayers for protection from the Coronavirus.
Since we were unable to have our Bishop Barbarito here for the conferral of Confirmation on Friday, March 20th, we will postpone the reception of that sacrament until a time that our bishop discerns that it is possible to safely confer that sacrament. The same holds true for the blessing of our new school addition. It was to be held Friday, May 8th, but is now postponed to some future date that is yet to be determined (now I can have my knee replacement surgery that day instead!).
Finally, I draw your attention to the beautiful article on page 5 of this week’s bulletin by our capable Director of Stewardship and Development, Dan Siller. It is a touching story of a devout (and generous) 90-year old woman parishioner who expresses her deep desire to attend Mass on Sundays, but is held back by the problem that perplexes so many at this time of the virus. She doesn’t complain in a negative manner, but finds a way to calm her anxieties and focus on the realities of life. How blessed we are to have such a parish family member still among us!
May God protect her and you, and deliver us from all harm!