Dear Parishioners & Friends:
For most of this year we have been challenged to make a number of sacrifices out of love and concern for each other. The parish has responded well in adapting to these challenges by making necessary sacrifices so that we can continue to offer Mass daily to as many as are able to attend. Although our worship and social routines at church have been disrupted, and perhaps our personal spiritual life has diminished, I’m convinced that we have done well together in balancing the importance of worshiping Our Lord with our love for all humanity, because we have kept in mind this soul-searching question from St John: “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn 3.17)
These past few weeks have challenged us again. Our hearts are set on celebrating Christmas as we are accustomed. The weather has changed and so requires changes in our usual routine. Our hearts are also close to those parishioners who are hospital workers, caretakers, and who have endured separation, isolation, or the effects of loved ones who have been sick. And we must not ignore the concern and uneasiness brought to our attention by the physical and emotional strain on all those who work in our healthcare system.
It is quite apparent that concern and anxiety have certainly increased during these past few weeks as we have seen an alarming increase in cases which are taxing our health systems. Permit me to remind you that our fears can cause spiritual harm. Equally important, refusal to have compassion or acknowledge the fears of those in our parish family can also cause spiritual harm.
The challenge before us, then, is to maintain our care for others without falling prey to pride, anger, judgment or—worst of all—dispiritedness; and to balance love and prudence with the necessity of gathering as Church. This challenge faces us directly with the question of how we will continue the Mass in the days ahead.
As I have, in prayer, considered these challenges and weighed the various factors, I am persuaded of three foundational points:
- That we are able to gather for Mass is a matter of faith.
- How the Mass is conducted announces our faith.
- Where, when, and under what conditions Mass is celebrated is a matter of love and sacrifice by each one of us.
With these thoughts in mind, last Thursday I sought the counsel of the Parish Council concerning Mass for the next few months. We discussed the possibility of moving the Mass from the courtyard to inside the church. The members of the Parish Council made several good and necessary points which adequately represent the wide spectrum of opinions among us concerning the pandemic and the attendant restrictions. I genuinely appreciate their counsel and thoughts as I weighed this decision.
Based on these considerations and taking into account the conversation with the Parish Council, after prayer and reflection I have determined that, out of love and concern for all, it is best that we continue for now to worship outdoors in the courtyard.
I realize that this decision may be disappointing and that it asks us all to sacrifice our own comfort and ideals. Among other things, being outdoors means that
- We will not be able to have the usual Christmas decorations, which I know is a significant marker of Christ Mass
- We will get the joy of attending the Mass in the same conditions (temperature, etc.) that the Holy Mother of God and her spouse Joseph experienced on the night when Christ was born
- We will not be able to gather on church grounds as we have in the past to greet each other with Christmas joy. Instead, we will need to be content with receiving our Lord’s sacred and precious gift of Himself in the Mass.
Yet it will also mean that all those who are able can gather as the Body of Christ to receive the Body of Christ. Therefore, despite sacrifices and inconveniences, the good news is that we will be able to worship together, unlike at Holy Week in Easter earlier this year. And these sacrifices will permit us to focus on exercising our faith in the most foundational way—as God’s children gathered in adoration around His altar. Above all else, this is of greatest importance.
This year challenges how we live our faith; whether we will truly love one another to the same extent as Christ first loved us; and whether we will set aside our notions of rights and justice and convenience as Christ did for our sake. (1 Jn 3.16)
Most certainly, that is the heart of the Christ Mass story: that He, who had all the comforts and did not need to take on any sins or death, came down into our meanness, poverty, sickness, and death; so that we, who had no possibility of escape, might share and partake fully in everything that is rightly His, and extend the Love He is by being that love to others (cf. 2 Corinthians 8.9).
Fr John W Fenton