If you are like me, you are probably desperate to see the sun again, though, perhaps, the weather lately has fit many of our moods – kind of cloudy and dreary. Many things have quickly changed in our lives and that also includes how things function at the parish. Similar to what I did last week, I wanted to write to all of you with a few practical things to keep you informed on what is going on “behind the scenes” and what practical steps we are looking at or implementing during this time of trial and then also to include some thoughts on a spiritual side. I am hoping to do this weekly and, in addition, we will be doing a few other things as well over the next few weeks, more of which is included below.
- First, I wanted to say “thank you!” to all of those who have been mailing in their weekly contributions to the parish and those who have been giving online. When we opened the mail and saw many envelopes sent through the mail my heart was moved – we do need your contributions at this time, the parish, like everyone, has financial obligations and so your generosity in helping us meet them is much appreciated. We are, under the guidance of the Archdiocese, coming up with a plan to function financially during this time and, in the meanwhile, are working very hard to keep expenses down to the best of our ability.
- Secondly, I want to also thank you for your patience as the parish pivots to a different way of doing things – every day seemed to bring new guidance, new timetables, new restrictions, etc., it involved many, many decisions behind the scenes. One of the most frustrating elements was not knowing how long this would be going on for, if it was just a couple of weeks we would move one way, if we are looking at a couple of months, we would go another way. As things become more clear that allows us to plan better for the future and so we are working on doing that now.
- As part of that planning process, we’d like to let you know how we plan to communicate with people – please note that the parish website will be the primary method of communication, please check that regularly for details and information. We do have some parishioners’ e-mail addresses and so we are also trying to send out e-mails on a regular basis, however, we don’t have everyone’s e-mail address, so please keep your eye on the website.
- Now that we have a sense that things will not be resolved for a number of weeks, we can make some decisions on what to communicate to all of you, both on a practical and spiritual level. Our plans include the weekly online publication of the bulletin, a weekly note from me, the posting of a Lenten video from me (which was previously going out to the school families, but will now be posted for everyone), and we are looking at the possibility of recording a Sunday Mass beginning the Sunday after Easter and posting it online if the suspension of public Masses goes longer than Easter – it would be a simple Mass, but one which would hopefully allow people stay connected to the parish. In the meanwhile, the Cathedral will be broadcasting Holy Week Services from there with the Archbishop – we would encourage those who would like to, to view those, as being united in heart with the Archbishop is a great sign of our unity as Catholics no matter which parish we call home.
- I would like to open the church up more frequently for private prayer. We had to make some changes with the Adoration Chapel in order to conform with the Governor’s orders and also to prevent more than ten from gathering there at once. Beginning this Wednesday, April 1st, the church will be open for private prayer every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9:00-Noon. This is in addition to it being open during the time of confessions, which will continue at Noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 9:00 on Saturday morning. We would ask that no more than ten people be in church at the same time and that people not come if they have a fever, a cough, or any symptoms of illness and to maintain space from one another in the church itself.
- Finally, I would like to encourage everyone in the parish to start praying the Rosary at Noon on Fridays – this way we can be united in prayer even if we are separated by distance. I would suggest that each decade be given a particular intention – in reparation for our own sins, for the end of this pestilence, for the protection of ourselves and our loved ones, for guidance for our ecclesiastical and civil leaders, and for the repose of the souls of those who have died.
- Prayer and penance – prayer and penance – prayer and penance. This has been the constant refrain of the Church during times of pestilence and disease – we must do them. Add more time for prayer to your routine, fast more frequently, do not give up on your Lenten penances – situations like these are like a fork in the road – we can either become more fearful or more confident, we can either become less faithful or more so, we can either turn away from God or to Him.
- This morning I was reading a book from Fulton Sheen, it’s called “The Seven Virtues” and he discusses the virtues in light of the Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross. In one chapter, he discusses the importance of fortitude and patience, both of which are virtues which our time calls for, so I thought I would include what he writes: “The shock of sorrow comes only to those who think this world is fixed and absolute, that there is nothing beyond. They think everything here below should be perfect. Hence, they ask questions: ‘Why should I suffer? What have I done to deserve this?’ Maybe you did nothing to deserve it. Certainly, Our Lord did nothing to deserve His Cross. But it came, and through it, He went to His glory. The virtue to be cultivated, then, by such souls is what is known as patience. Patience and fortitude are related as the convex and concave sides of a saucer. Fortitude is exercised in the active struggle with dangers and difficulties, while patience is the passive acceptance of what is hard to bear.” These words are applicable to us right now as well – fortitude and patience. He goes on too to discuss the reality of suffering and bearing our sufferings well, “In the business world, we contract debts and recognize our obligation and duty to acquit them. Why should we think that in the same moral universe we can sin with impunity? If, then, we bear the imprints of the Cross, instead of complaining against God, let us occasionally think of offering them up to God for our own sins, or for the sins of our neighbors.” These are very wise words and help us to understand and interpret things that are unfolding on a supernatural level, because, I believe, God is telling us something right now and asking something of us – He is asking of us (very directly) to what all of Lent has been asking us to do – which is to turn to Him, to strive for holiness and for our hearts to be converted more completely to Him. If we allow this reality to do that, then this trying time will also be a time of grace for us.
- Please know that you are in my prayers, every day and numerous times over the course of the day and are remembered in particular at the consecration at the Masses I celebrate.