Dear Padre Serra Parishioners,
I have both deeply saddening news about the coronavirus, and challenging and hopeful news about our parish reopening.
As you may have heard, our beloved country passed the 100,000 count today for those who have died of the coronavirus. The parish bells tolled for them today at 4:05 pm after I heard that announcement. I ask you to pray with me now:
Gracious and merciful God, look with kindness on all who have died of this scourge throughout the world. Give them your forbearance, and grant them a place in your eternal kingdom, where Lazarus, who once was poor, suffers no more. Comfort the hearts of all who have lost a loved family member or friend.
May they find themselves strengthened by belief in your eternal plan for us. Help us to find a cure or vaccine, quickly, that will lift the weight of this virus from all our shoulders. We ask everything in the name of Jesus, our Lord, may he live and reign, forever, in our hearts. Amen.
Reopening of churches: With the governor’s announcement, allowing the re-opening of churches, Archbishop Gomez has given us a number of guidelines and steps to achieve before we can begin having Mass again at Padre Serra. I will be sending an update this next week. There are too many questions left unanswered to be certain when Mass will begin, but it will certainly be within the next month. The archbishop is not permitting Masses this weekend.
Live-streaming: The archbishop is continuing to lift the obligation on attending Mass, with no end date. We will continue to broadcast a live, on-line Mass for all those who need or choose to maintain their distance. In fact, it is our intention to keep on live-streaming the parish liturgy after the crisis passes as a continuous service to our home-bound parishioners.
We need volunteers: The new guidelines require volunteers for some of the new safety and health requirements. In the words of the archbishop, “High risk individuals (e.g., people who are 65 and older, who are immunocompromised or who have underlying health conditions) should be discouraged from serving in any capacity that brings them into contact with others.” With that in mind I ask any parishioner of high school age or older, who is not health compromised, to consider assisting us in one of the following ways:
If you can assist in any of these tasks, please email Jane, our receptionist, at email@example.com, and be as specific as you are able with your availability, contact information, concerns and which tasks you are open to undertaking.
Reconciliation / confessions are immediately permitted: I am happy to say that I will be available for drop by confessions this Friday and Saturday, May 29th and 30th, from 3:00 to 6:00 pm with the following guidelines:
Parishioners may also schedule confessions with my assistant, Barbara (firstname.lastname@example.org).
These times are challenging, but I am very hopeful for the future. Please, please, please – as our community opens up, maintain all the healthy protocols to maintain your health!
Also visit: Regarding COVID-19 at Padre Serra
Some of you have asked how to enter the moment of Communion, when our current circumstances make it impossible for you to receive. The centuries-long practice of making a spiritual, rather than physical, communion while sick certainly applies here. The essence of it, as St. Thomas Aquinas puts it, is to express “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in communion at Mass, and to lovingly embrace him as if we had actually received him” I have a few options for you to consider. The first, which allows you a lot of freedom to say what you need to the Lord, is good for those whose words come easy to them. Some more traditional versions give a tried and true approach for those for whom that’s helpful. Be free to do what you want here…so long as you do something at that moment.
Four worthy steps for a deep spiritual communion, to do in your own words:
A traditional spiritual communion suggested by Pope Francis (only slightly altered by me):
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire you with all my heart. Since I cannot receive you now sacramentally, I ask you to come into my heart spiritually. I embrace you as if you were already in my heart, and unite myself to you completely. Please do not ever let me be far from you. (St. Alphonse Liguori, (1696-1787)
A spiritual communion suggested by Archbishop Gomez:
I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.
The prayer (taken from Matt 8:6) in the Mass just before Communion can be enough:
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
A final suggestion from me is to pray Psalm 63, vv. 2-9:
O God, you are my God — it is you I seek!
For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless, and without water.
I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory.
For your love is better than life, my lips shall ever praise you!
I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.
My soul shall be sated, as with choice food, with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!
I think of you upon my bed, I remember you through the watches of the night
You indeed are my savior and, in the shadow of your wings, I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me.
So...I’m certainly having a different Lent than the one I set my mind to those days before Lent. You too? The governor’s announcement has thrown my plans for keeping the parish open into complete disarray. I accept what Gov. Newsom is hoping to accomplish (flattening that curve of infections / not overwhelming the medical personnel and facilities).
As we move into this odd Lent of restrictions on our movements, and our current inability to work and support ourselves, I remember the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Ash Wednesday: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you” (Matt 6:16-17).
That has a renewed meaning for us as we deal with enforced enclosure, boredom, difficulties in shopping, loneliness etc., that we are to do it with good will, with calmness, and with a supportive attitude to others who will be having a harder time than we are.
Regarding the parish:
I will leave you these words that have been attributed to Pope Francis:
“Tonight before falling asleep, think about when we will return to the street.
When we hug again, when all the shopping together will seem like a party.
Let’s think about when the coffees will return to the bar, the small talk, the photos close to each other.
We think about when it will be all a memory, but normalcy will seem an unexpected and beautiful gift.
We will love everything that has so far seemed futile to us.
Every second will be precious.
Swims at the sea, the sun until late, sunsets, toasts, laughter.
We will go back to laughing together.
Strength and courage.
See you soon!”
Sacristan ministry is coordinated by Deacon Neil Kingsley.
Sacristans ensure that all the materials needed to celebrate liturgy are ready and in place for each celebration.