Memorial of St. Sixtus II and Companions
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our first scripture reading for this Sunday is I Kings 19:9a, 11-13a. We are all, I’m sure, familiar with this account of Elijah fleeing Jezebel’s wrath and finding shelter in a cave on Mount Horeb. I read the entire chapter again and noticed that the portion given to us is bracketed by the same question being put to Elijah by God, “Why are you here, Elijah?” God had not told the prophet to flee from the queen’s presence, and in some ways, it seems that God’s question to Elijah is a bit of an accusation or even a rebuke that he had abandoned his prophetic office. In verse 15, then, God tells Elijah, “Go back!” In other words, God is calling Elijah to go back and be faithful to his call no matter its difficulties. In obedience to that call, Elijah is actually renewing his faith in God’s call, trusting that the One who has called him will keep him according to the fullness of His will.
Can you find yourself today in God’s question? In what are truly and undoubtedly difficult times, I’ve had to question myself concerning my own faithfulness to my call as a Christian believer. Mind you, Horeb is in a desert, and it’s these difficult desert experiences where we feel so spiritually dry that God so often tries to speak to our hearts to get us back on track. These “desert days” may yet prove to be days of incredible blessing if we keep ourselves open to the ways in which God is continuing to encourage us in our spiritual journey. It requires us to be faithful in the place He has given to us and in the calling with which He has blessed us. Have you ever heard the little saying, “Bloom where you’re planted?” That is how we can look at this experience in Elijah’s life, and maybe it’s how we need to be looking at our own in these days. Bloom!
You may have already heard that our Bishop has given permission for those parishes who are able to open again for limited public worship to do so this weekend. St. Frances Cabrini Parish, however, is not one of those parishes which, at this time, is able to be partially reopened for public worship. To reopen, even partially, required an ability to sanitize our church and other facilities in a way which we are not able to do due to the amount of upholstery and carpeting which we have in our church. Another of the protocols for partial reopening is that doors are to be opened during an indoor Mass with the air conditioning/ventilation system fully running. I have been having the HVAC systems in all the buildings here on our campus looked at since it’s been a number of years since they have been checked. I know that in my two years here, this is the first time that technicians have examined all the units. We are finding multiple problems with the units which include broken parts, disintegrated belts, leaks, ductwork which seems to have never been connected to the system, and in one case an entire motor is missing from a unit. Needless to say, this inability to adequately ventilate the church or the hall makes it impossible to reopen even in a limited way at this time. Nevertheless, we will continue to have our drive-through reception of Holy Communion every Saturday from 5:00pm – 5:20pm and again Sunday from 8:30am – 8:50am as well as from 10:00am – 10:20am. I wrote several weeks ago that private confession is also available by appointment only each Thursday from 9:00am – 12:00pm and again on Fridays from 9:00am – 3:00pm. Confessions are heard outdoors in the patio between the Religious Education Building and the Parish Hall. As always, masks are required while celebrating this Sacrament.
Having shared the above with you, I also need to add the following from our Bishop. He writes, “I urge pastors, whether open for public indoor Masses or not, to provide times for the faithful to come in person and receive Holy Communion outdoors. I also urge that those identified in the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines as highly at risk to refrain from in-person participation at Masses. This includes persons with chronic health conditions as well as persons age 65 and older.” I add this paragraph because I’m aware that some may choose to go to a Mass in another parish which has partially reopened. If you are in that at-risk category from the CDC, I entreat you not to do this. Please, listen to our bishop in this matter. Our bishop goes on to write, “The use of a mask is to protect others and also shows great respect and concern for our priests. It is clearly a pro-life issue. While already listed in approved protocols, I wish to remind everyone that face masks are a firm requirement for all persons age six and older. Parishioners with a health condition making it impossible for them to make use of a mask are to contact their parish office ahead of time to verify the health condition with their pastor. There are no other exceptions to this protocol.”
And lastly, Bishop Weisenburger writes, “Lastly, I once again urge the faithful to enter into a true spirit of prayer, asking Our Lord and His Blessed Mother to intervene quickly, bringing us the vaccine and better medical treatments we need in order to celebrate our faith with far fewer constraints. I also ask for prayers for the sick, as well as for healthcare workers and first-responders. They are powerful witnesses to the love of neighbor.”
One final note. Word came from Bishop Weisenburger on Wednesday morning that Msgr. Todd O’Leary, emeritus pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, passed away that morning. As of this email, there are no further details. When they become available, I will share them with all of you.
This is another long letter to you all. I truly did miss sharing this time with you last week, and I want to thank so many of you who expressed your concern for me both in your emails and when you came to receive Holy Communion last weekend. I’m doing fine again. Now, I will sign off for this time, asking only that you keep me in your heart and in your prayers even as I keep you close to my heart in prayer always.
Joyfully your brother in Christ,