Dear Ones in Christ,
I hope that this finds you doing well in every way possible. While there isn’t a lot of news to share today, I still look forward to reaching out to all of you. Staying in touch through whatever means is possible is a spiritually and emotionally healthy thing to do for all of us, so I’m hoping that you are all being faithful in checking in with family and friends even while continuing to remain “socially distanced.”
There are a couple of things I want to share with you this morning which have arisen from questions from our parishioners. The first one concerns whether or not we’ll be having a communal penance service this Lent. Simply put, no, we won’t. At this time, confessions are limited to one-on-one celebrations with the priest, and are by appointment only. Confessions are to be heard out-of-doors, and social distancing/masking must be strictly observed. If there is bad weather, the confession can be heard indoors (in the case of our parish, that would mean in the parish hall) where, again, social distancing/masking must be observed. I’m so thankful for the little measures in which we are coming back to “normal” (being able to have limited attendance Mass again is a huge blessing!), but we’re far from being out of the woods yet. So, let’s continue to be both patient and thankful for the blessings which we are enjoying.
The other question that came up concerns singing and music during Mass. At this time, diocesan Covid-19 protocols require that there be no choirs and no congregational singing. Singing, even through a mask, has apparently been shown to produce increased droplet spread and, thus, greater risk of spreading germs and viruses. Some parishes, I know, are making use of an accompanist and a cantor. However, there are very strict guidelines around this. They are to be at least twelve feet from any other person, and of course have to remain masked throughout the entire Mass. Having a cantor, unfortunately, encourages congregational singing, and, as I shared above, that is not permitted. At this time we do not have an accompanist nor a liturgist to help coordinate any liturgical music, so that would further make it difficult to have any music during Mass. As I indicated above, we are taking baby steps in what we are all hoping will be a return to unimpeded liturgical celebrations. Again, that entails a lot of patience on the part of each of us. So, let us focus our spiritual energies by praying that every effort, including our own, will be made to defeat this awful pandemic, and that through the efforts of all we will be able once again to enjoy the closeness of fellowship which means so much to us.
By the end of my first week in seventh grade, my English teacher, Miss Esther Eide, had about lost her mind in frustration. She couldn’t read our handwriting! She was totally old school; she dressed in immaculate three-piece suits every day (skirts – no pants ever!), and, when she would read to the class, she would hold her four-foot-ten-inch self perfectly erect and hold the book in the ancient and prescribed manner (three fingers in back of the book, little finger and thumb in the front. To turn the page, a lick to the middle finger and a quick swipe to the upper right-hand corner of the page.) She was memorable and not to be fooled with. Back to our penmanship. By Monday of our second week, Miss Eide presented us with old Palmer Method penmanship books along with special penmanship pens, and for the entire first semester of that year every class was devoted to practicing the Palmer Method: ovals and strokes, ovals and strokes, the proper way to sit, hold our pens, how to rest our arms on the desk, how to form each letter, both upper case and lower case in proper cursive only! Back to the basics! All of those memories came back to me as I was reflecting on our first reading for this weekend which is Exodus 20:1-17: The Ten Commandments. Rereading those commandments in a very real sense is like being called back to the basics, and by reflecting on each one of them a question comes to my mind. The question, “Do I believe this and do it?” This caused me to look at something else that is one of our “basics”: the Creed. I would very much encourage you during the remaining days of Lent to make this your spiritual exercise, that you’ll spend some time each day reflecting on either one of the 10 Commandments or on one portion of the Creed. Please be serious about this exercise, and don’t be too quick to pass over any portion of either of them. For instance, the Apostles Creed begins with, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth.” Do I? “What a silly question. Of course I do! After all, I’m a Catholic Christian!” Ok. But knowing about something is different than actual belief, isn’t it? I can know all sorts of things about God, but do I believe in God so completely that my belief informs every portion of my life? In going back to the basics of that belief, do I have a growing relationship with God which is rooted in my deepening love for him? Do you begin to see how a calm, extended reflection upon the basics of our faith can help us grow? As a part of the exercise, it may even be helpful to try to remember when you first learned the 10 Commandments and when you first learned the Creed. Then, having remembered that time, ask yourself where you are now in your relationship with God as compared to what it was way back then. Miss Eide helped her students by bringing them back to the basics of penmanship. Lent can help us to reflect on our spiritual basics and to grow spiritually as a result.
With deepest brotherly love in Christ,