Coronavirus Update

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear. The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid. (Prayed at every Sunday Matins)

Earlier this week, I wrote that “we need to take this and other influenza viruses seriously. Yet let us not be overwhelmed.” To say it another way, do not let fear paralyze us so that we are afraid to worship God together or to care for others; and let us deny our inclination to think only of our needs. These three are intertwined, so that one cannot be emphasized at the expense of the others.

Coupling this spiritual sense with common sense is increasingly important as the situation with the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) continues to develop. Toward this end, after consultation with Bishop John and in line with the Metropolitan’s encyclical (attached), St Michael’s will be implementing these measures to be loving, to ease fears, and to encourage our mutual worship of our merciful Lord:

  • The Lenten Retreat will be held tomorrow, as planned. We ask that those who attend be mindful of social distancing practices out of love for others.
    • According to the CDC, “Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”
  • Our service schedule remains unchanged. We need to pray frequently as a parish during this time; for that is what Christians have always done in times of pestilence and anxiety.
  • During all Masses until further notice:
    • We will receive communion single file at the rail, not kneeling side by side
    • The Holy Bread will not be available
    • The offering basin will not be passed down the aisle; instead, a basin will be placed on a table near the entrance
    • The icon in the Narthex should be reverenced by making the sign of the cross and bowing toward it
    • After the Mass, you may greet me in the manner that is most comfortable to you.
  • The usual practice of myself and all servers washing their hands will be observed. We also have hand-sanitizer which will be available for their use.
  • Until further notice, coffee will be available after Mass but lunch will not be served and Didache will not be offered. You may join us for coffee according to your comfort level, and ask that you are mindful of social distancing practices out of love for others.
  • We are being diligent (even as I write this) to wipe down all services and door handles with disinfectant solutions.
  • If you are sick and/or present the symptoms of fever or shortness of breath, please stay home and seek medical attention. And please telephone, text, or email me so that I can include you in my prayers.
  • There are prayers in your St Ambrose Prayerbook (or other Orthodox prayerbooks) that I encourage you to pray. I also ask you to meditate on Psalm 27 (quoted above) and Psalm 54.

Additionally, please be mindful of these statements from the CDC and WHO:

  • “Older adults (i.e., 60’s and up) and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.” If you fall into one of these categories and would rather not venture out of your home, please let me know and I will bring you communion.
  • “A mask should be worn by infectious patients any time they leave the isolation room.” And “wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.” But “if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.”

You can be of help to us in one very simple way:

  • By donating disinfectant wipes
  • By donating hand sanitizer

Above all, please resist the temptation of the devil and the fear you might feel to avoid Mass. This is the time when, as we are able, we care for each other by praying together.

Please know that I am staying in contact with the Archdiocesan Headquarters during this pandemic, and if they send out further updates affecting our parish life, I will let you know.

As I minister to you, I covet your prayers.

May God have mercy on us all.

Your spiritual father in Christ,

Fr John

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Coronavirus: Some Spiritual Reflections

I think it is no coincidence that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is becoming more prevalent among us in this area during the Holy Season of Lent. For it seems likely that Satan is using this potentially debilitating or fatal virus to frustrate our Lenten plan by keeping us from acts of charity towards others, or attending Mass, or practicing self-control and self-denial. Yet while we are rightly concerned, let us also not be undone nor overcome with fear.

We should, of course, use common sense when dealing with any virus. Fever and shortness of breath appear to be the most common symptoms that distinguish this strain from the common cold. Therefore, if you suffer these symptoms or other flu-like symptoms, then by all means take care of yourself and act in love toward those with whom you may associate. (This may mean making choices about attendance at Mass.) As for my part, I will frequently clean my hands and will do all I can to ensure that our common spaces are clean.

Since the devil uses this, and other sicknesses, to drive a wedge between us and others, we should couple common sense with spiritual sense. To assist you with this, let me reflect on three phrases from the Our Father that we recite in our daily prayers and at church. For this prayer, and these phrases in particular, ought to help quell our fear and increase our confidence in our loving Father who directs and protects us at all times.

When we say, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are stating and acknowledging that things don’t spin out of control, but that Our Lord is the God even of viruses. This does not mean that God is the cause of sickness; that traces back to our corrupt condition. It means that our Father does not use these events to frustrate or frighten. That can be easy to forget as we increasingly hear concern about the virus’ spread. It is the devil that plays on our fears with these events to cause us to feel, believe, and think the worst for ourselves and our family. Yet our prayer reminds us that our Lord God always gets his way, and nothing—not even sickness—will prevent Him from doing what He knows is best for us. Remembering this, as we say, “Thy will be done,” gives us a perspective that is not fatalistic or fearful, but hopeful and calming.

“Give us this day our daily bread” is not simply about making sure we have food and the things we need. On a deeper level, these words also assure us that our heavenly Father arranges everything for our salvation. “In everything God works for good with those who love him.” (Rom 8.28) So when we are sick and when we are healthy, our Lord is not only in charge but also looking toward a greater purpose: life for Him and with Him both in this world and in the life of the world to come. Keeping in mind this longer view can certainly ease our hearts as well as our minds.

Finally, our prayer that our Father “deliver us from evil” means that we are confident that He will protect and guide us through even the worst. In the Mass, this petition is expanded to include “every evil past, present, and to come.” Too often, as we pray these words, we think only of big evils. But every evil includes all manner of sickness or injury. During this particular time, let us ask the intercessions of the Blessed Mother and the Saints, that Our Lord, by His lovingkindness, may keep us and our loved ones “safe from all disquietude” (i.e., everything that unsettles us). And as we say that prayer, our fears will subside since our faith is that our Father makes good on His promise to help and deliver us.

Certainly, we need to take this and other influenza viruses seriously. Yet let us not be overwhelmed. Common sense helps when sickness is rampant. And if we add the spiritual sense that I’ve briefly mentioned above, then our fears will decline, and we’ll be able to continue our Lenten plan of charity, self-control, and prayer together and individually.

May God be merciful to us and bless us!

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Annual Lenten Retreat

To aid your Lenten Fast with prayer and meditation, the Society of St Benedict of St Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church will host the V Rev Patrick Cardine on Saturday, March 14, for a day-long Lenten Retreat.

Fr Patrick will present three meditations on the theme “Discovering Stability in Community.” Fr Patrick is the Pastor of St Patrick Orthodox Church in Bealeton VA.

His meditations will be will surrounded by prayer and Liturgy, silence for reflection and private prayer, and opportunities for confession.

The retreat begins with First Hour (Prime) prayers at 9 a.m. and concludes by 3 p.m. with Ninth Hour (None) prayers.

Fast friendly meals will be provided; however, child care is not offered. St Michael Church is located at 3333 Workman Mill Road, Whittier CA 90601.

Please RSVP by sending an email to St Michael Church (stmichaelwhittier@gmail.com) or by telephoning the parish office (562.692.6121).

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Advent Retreat

The Society of St Benedict will host the annual Advent Retreat on December 14 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. The Very Reverend Patrick Henry Reardon from All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago will offer three meditations during the retreat.

Fr Patrick is known for his podcasts and sermons on Ancient Faith Radio, and for his many books on the Saints, the Atonement, and the Scriptures. He is also known for his work with the Fellowship of St James.

In the pattern of a Benedictine retreat, Fr Patrick’s meditations will be surrounded by prayer and quiet meditation. The minor hours from the Monastic Breviary (prime, terce, sext, none) will be prayed and Mass (Divine Liturgy) will be celebrated. Generous time will also be allotted for quiet contemplation on the meditations.

This retreat is primarily for you—to help remove you, for at least a few hours, from the many distractions in December so that you can focus on the gift of Our Lord in our flesh.

The retreat begins with Prime at 9 a.m. and concludes by 3 p.m. with None and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Please RSVP by email (StMichaelWhittier@gmail.com) or telephone (562.692.6121).

There is no cost and meals are provided. Donations are gratefully accepted.

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Lessons & Carols

Christmas Lessons & Carols will be held on Saturday, 21 December beginning at 6 p.m. This service features 9 Scripture readings concerning Our Lord’s Nativity interspersed with special choral selections and congregational hymns.

A special choir of parishioners and friends of St Michael will be accompanied by a string quartet and conducted by Nathan Fratzke, a USC PhD choral conductor candidate, and Sbdn Ian Abodeely at the organ.

All are welcome to join us for this service of prayer and song, preparing us to celebrate with great joy Our Lord’s holy Birth.

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The Feast of Saint Michael

The celebration of the Patronal Feast will commence with Vespers on Saturday, September 28, 2019, at 6 p.m. Mass will be celebrated on Sunday, September 29, 2019, at 10 a.m.

His Grace, Bishop JOHN, will preside at all of these
services, and will be our Guest of Honor at the Patronal Banquet.

Buy Patronal Feast Tickets




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Vice & Virtue: A Men’s Retreat

On Saturday, April 13, St Michael will host “Vice & Virtue: A Men’s Retreat.” Participants will be challenged to reflect on the examples of St David the King and St Joseph the Spouse of the Virgin Mary in their personal battle to be victorious against various vices.

The retreat begins at 9 a.m. with prayer and Mass (Divine Liturgy) and concludes with prayer at 4 p.m. In addition to the main presentations, time will be aloted for silent reflection, conversation, and confession.

The retreat will be led by David Paddison, Fr John Fenton, and Dn Nicholas Mamey. Various resources will also be available.

The cost to cover meals is $12.50 online, or $15 in person. Registration is not required, but is requested. See the link below.

For more information or details, contact Fr John Fenton at stmichaelwhittier@gmail.com

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Lenten Retreat March 16

To aid your Lenten Fast with prayer and meditation, the Society of St Benedict of St Michael Antiochian Orthodox Church will host the V Rev John Finley on Saturday, March 16, for a day-long Lenten Retreat.

Fr John will present three meditations on the theme “The Inner Heaven of Man” which will focus our attention on the healing of Mind, Heart, and Will.

Fr John is the chairman of the Department of Missions & Evangelism for the Antiochian Archdiocese. His meditations will be will surrounded by prayer and Liturgy, silence for reflection and private prayer, and opportunities for confession.

The retreat begins with First Hour (Prime) prayers at 9 a.m. and concludes by 3 p.m. with Ninth Hour (None) prayers. Fast friendly meals will be provided; however, child care is not offered.

St Michael Church is located at 3333 Workman Mill Road, Whittier CA 90601. Please RSVP by sending an email to Fr John Fenton (frjohnfenton@gmail.com) or by telephoning the parish office (562.692.6121).

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