My Dear Ones in Christ,
This is coming to you a day early because the parish office will be closed tomorrow in observance of the 4th of July weekend. I hope all of you will have a very safe holiday as we remember the great sacrifices that were made over 244 years ago when our country was birthed into being. We’ve heard that freedom isn’t free. As we continue to be a country that struggles to emerge into the fullness of what our Founding Fathers envisioned our republic to be, let this 4th of July be spent in deep gratitude for the courage and sacrifice of countless Americans who have sacrificed so much to give us the measure of life, liberty and happiness that we presently enjoy. May their struggle embolden us all to embrace that early vision of what it means to be a great people. I wish all of you a joyful and safe 4th of July!
Yesterday, our Bishop made the incredibly difficult decision to once again suspend public worship in all the parishes of the Diocese. He made the decision in the light of the well-reported and documented spike in the reported cases of the Covid 19 virus in Arizona. Even though the churches are closed for public worship, we can still, as our Bishop has written, “Let the Church come to us through technology.” Bishop Weisenburger continues to stream a live Mass on the diocesan website (www.diocesetucson.org) on a daily basis, so I urge you to watch that Mass frequently. His care for all of us comes through in each of his homilies, and I know you’ll be uplifted as you listen to him. In spite of the churches being closed, we are still permitted to do our drive-by reception of Holy Communion here at St. Frances Cabrini. We’ll follow the same procedure and the same schedule as we have been for the past several weeks. As a reminder, our schedule is: Saturdays from 5:00 p.m. – 5:20 p.m., Sundays from 8:30 a.m. – 8:50 a.m. and again from 10:00 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. I am thankful for your understanding over the past several weeks when I haven’t been able to be outside to give you all Holy Communion. As the Big Horn Fire continues to weaken and the smoke clears out of the valley, I am greatly looking forward to being back outside to have that very holy time of communion with each of you. One wee change for me: it gets REALLY hot outside wearing the vestments, so, as the temperatures continue to climb to summer levels, I won’t be wearing all the liturgical vestments. The sign and symbol of my priesthood is the stole, so you’ll see me in my black clerical attire and wearing just the stole … along with a face mask and gloves! I look forward to getting a little peek at all of you this weekend.
I know some are going to ask how long Bishop Weisenburger will keep the churches closed. I would venture to say, “Until it’s safe to start opening them again.” With the virulence of this virus there is absolutely no way of guessing how long this will be, and it would be extremely foolhardy to even hazard a guess. Please know that I will always keep the parish as up-to-date as I can, and will pass onto you anything of importance from our Bishop.
A protocol has been set in place that allows for the reception of the Sacrament of Penance (Confession), and I will implement it starting this coming week here at St. Frances. As with the reception of Holy Communion, this is done with some rather strict procedures for the sake of the safety of both the confessor and the penitent. Personal confession will be by appointment only. I’ll take appointments for Thursday mornings from 9:00 a.m. until noon, and on Fridays from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. I will be wearing a mask, and it is an absolute requirement that the penitent wears one too. Confessions will be heard outside in the patio between the Religious Education Building and the Parish Hall. The CDC standard of social distancing of at least six feet between the confessor and the penitent must and will be observed. If the weather becomes a factor, I will move the celebration indoors, but the standard will be to celebrate it out in the fresh air. When you come for your appointment, please come to the parish office to let us know you’re here, and I will then walk over with you to the patio area (with an appropriate distance between us, of course!). I look forward to celebrating this gentle Sacrament with you.
Our Gospel reading this weekend is so wonderfully familiar to us all. It is Matthew 11:25-30. Are you like me that at times I need to sit with the familiar and let what I know so well wash over me in new ways? That’s why the last part of the Gospel has been a gentle resting place for my spirit these days.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Many biblical scholars would tell you that the burden Jesus is referencing here is the burden of what we call the “Old Law.” For the Jews of Jesus’ time, that could have held some real truth, but I believe Jesus was also looking well beyond the days in which He was preaching and was speaking a message for us in these days, in these times.
I receive emails and phone calls all the time in which people admit to a spiritual and psychological weariness and a sense of just being burdened within due to the uncertainty of these days. I sometimes ask them if they have actually taken all their burden, their weariness, their complaints, all these things to the Lord in prayer. Jesus said, “Come to me.” We are the one who has to bring all our burden to Him; He is waiting for us to approach Him first. And, we must approach Him in the honesty of our hearts. As I’ve shared before, prayer isn’t an attempt to impress God with all the religious-sounding words we can string together. No, prayer is the fullness of our hearts being poured out in total honesty and trust before our Heavenly Father. It is when we approach Him in such a spirit that we find true rest to our hearts. How many of you may be familiar with the old hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus?” If you’re not familiar with it, may I give you a little homework and ask you to Google it for the lyrics? I believe you’ll find it to be a comfort for your burdened self, and that by linking it to Sunday’s Gospel you will find rest for yourselves.
This is really long, right? Much like one of my famous homilies, huh? Again, my prayers are constantly with and for all of you, and I entreat you to intercede often on my behalf before our Heavenly Father.
With prayers for your deep peace,