The Sorrows (or Compassion) of Our Lady are commemorated on this day, Passion Friday. And on this day, in particular, we experience and participate more deeply than usual in the Holy Mother’s grief due to our present situation.
To assist us, we received both an updated directive from Metropolitan Joseph, and a letter to all clergy and laity in the Archdiocese for this unique Holy Week. The letter is attached below. Please take time to read it. It is, in my view, very comforting and heartfelt.
As you read, I ask you to take to heart these words:
We need all of our homes to be churches during this Holy Week, and we need all your prayers to be offered up continually as sweet-smelling incense. Do not let up, my dear spiritual children!
This year we will anticipate the glorious Resurrection on the third day as the disciples did – from within our homes with the doors being shut. Just as the Resurrected Christ came to them in the Upper Room to reveal His victory over sin and death, may He also reveal Himself mystically in all our homes and instill in our hearts the joy of His presence and the firm assurance that He has overcome world.
That our homes be our church this Holy Week: this is especially this Holy Week because, in the latest directive, His Eminence has closed our parish (and all churches in the Archdiocese) until the end of April.
The exception is this: only the pastor and 4 other persons (who must be the same four each time) are permitted in our buildings. With careful consideration and deliberation, I’ve designated the four who are permitted only to assist me prepare and conduct the liturgical services. (I am permitted to work in my office during the week, provided no one else enters except those four.)
These four are making a sacrifice that is no less honorable, no less laudable, than the sacrifice you are making by not attending the services. Your sacrifice is to protect others by staying home; their sacrifice is to expose themselves in order to pray for you and all humanity, and assist you to pray with us, as we offer the Holy Sacrifice beseeching God’s mercy.
Most unfortunately, no other persons or parishioners may enter for any reason: to pray, to clean, to work, to meet with me, to purchase items, or to do anything else. I know that several have a key; but I must ask, for the safety of all else and in obedience to your bishop, that you not make use of that key to enter the church unless you are one of the four mentioned above. Of course, we may still meet, as we have been, via Zoom, telephone, or other electronic means. And I heartily encourage you to join us so that we can still, in some way, be together.
These are unusual times. But they are not unprecedented. For two years (or more) during the Bubonic Plague, churches were closed in many European cities. We are hoping that, by God’s grace, our extended Lenten discipline is shorter. Toward that end, we all need to do our part so that, through the prayers of you faithful Christians and all the Saints, we may soon gather to worship together.
Finally, I encourage you to take to heart His Eminence’s words (in the attached letter) about what the new normal should look like in our parish and in each of our lives.
May God be gracious to us all!
Rev Msgr John W Fenton