This is one of the more difficult articles in a long time that I’ve had to write, for, as our Bishop has told us in his most recent letter, “these days of the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus have been very challenging and even painful.” As Pastors on different levels, both the Bishop and I have had to make some difficult calls in situations that we never expected we would meet. They seem to fall beyond the scope of what our many years of seminary training and “hands-on” experiences have taught us. Nevertheless, decisions have to be made for the good of the people, even if some of them might not be too happy with the results. So, more than usual, I placed these matters in prayer so that divine guidance from the Holy Spirit would lead me to do what is best in the current situation.
Since our Bishop has given us permission to re-open our churches (but, not the chapels) beginning this coming Monday, May 18th for private prayer and visits (only), we will open our church (via the EAST door only) for that purpose from 10:00 am until 4:00 p.m. each weekday (including Saturday). Then, on Monday, May 25th, we’ll resume only the weekday Mass schedule.
We will officially re-open the church for the Sunday schedule of Masses at the 4:00 Vigil Mass on Saturday afternoon, May 30th. This will be the last weekend of Masses using the present schedule.
BEGINNING WITH SATURDAY, JUNE 6th, WE WILL HAVE A NEW WEEKEND SCHEDULE OF MASSES. The Schedule will be: Saturday 4:00 pm; Sunday 7:00, 9:00, 11:00 am, and 5:30 pm. This will give us a chance to sanitize the pews, doors and other objects that need to be purified before the next Mass.
YOU WILL NEED A FACE MASK FOR ALL SERVICES CONDUCTED IN CHURCH. YOU WILL HAVE TO MAINTAIN PROPER SOCIAL DISTANCING (of at least 6 feet) in church. This will also pertain to waiting in line for Confessions, once we return to the church building for all services.
There will be no physical contact or shaking of hands, such as the Our Father or the Sign of Peace. There will be no public gatherings before or after Mass.
Masks may be lifted when you are approaching Holy Communion. No gloves are to be worn in receiving the Eucharist. All Ministers of Holy Communion will wear their masks at Communion time instead.
Holy Communion will be distributed during Mass only in the hand, not on the tongue. Only concelebrants will be able to receive the Precious Blood through intinction.
There will be no collection basket passed among the congregation; rather, large wicker baskets will be placed at the side door entrances and the main aisle of the church whereby you deposit your offertory envelopes in them when you first enter church.
These are most of (but not all) the protocols and guidelines for us to follow in order to have a safe and healthy public celebration of the Holy Eucharist. There will be ushers and parish assistants (“Guardians of the church”) to help us adjust to these new protocols. I suspect the most difficult ones we need to observe are those regarding Holy Communion, especially on receiving Communion in the hand (by the way, an older custom than on the tongue). Let me share some thoughts on this by Rev. Mike Nolan, Office of Worship, Diocese of Wichita:
“I believe there has always been a certain amount of liturgical practice praeter ius (apart from the law) and contra ius (contrary to law). It would be my opinion that practices contrary to the law should not take place without a clearly justifiable reason. I think the present pandemic is a very justifiable reason to require Holy Communion in the hand if the local ordinary determines that will be the practice in his jurisdiction.
No one has the right to endanger the life of another even unknowingly by demanding Communion on the tongue when the persons following could be exposed to a virus of which the oral recipient is not yet aware.
There is a great tradition in our faith of “sacrifice.” I make the sacrifice to receive in a way that protects the whole community. Moreover, how does one respect the Sacred Species if one is willing to burden it with the possibility of contagion?”
I hope this helps us to prepare for the “new normal” (something of an oxymoron, don’t you think?). It will take time to adjust; but with a fervent faith, trust in God and a love of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, we will be able to come out of this situation stronger, wiser and holier.