The Exile Commences

Here’s the Sunday morning parking lot at my parish:

Way different from the norm.

My white car, a priest’s blue car, and our faith formation director’s in the distance. You can see the green canvas-covered fence of our construction zone off to the left. I was out in the parking lot before our Masses so far. People came. Maybe thirty for four English-language liturgies. One lady “just wanted to check.” I understand that.

Not having Mass is unbelievable. For me and the young miss, not having soccer to watch or attend is unbelievable. My main social activity outside of church is playing bridge.  That’s all cancelled too. Unbelievably. From the local club to the North American championships scheduled for Columbus this coming week.

“When do you think we will reopen?” was the most common question in the drive-up this morning. When they pressed me, I said my opinion is that Easter would be a miracle. I think it will be longer. Possibly much longer. The green canvas-covered fence is due to come down in June. If someone today offered me a surety of getting back into church nice and healthy by the time we’re ready for the dedication or to roll the dice on when the restrictions ease naturally, I would take late June. In a heartbeat.

For the parish, we can make plans. We’ve talked about using the Pentecost Vigil for initiation on May 30th. I feel sure if we approached the archbishop about abrogating an ordinary Sunday in June or later to do a Vigil Mass with a votive Mass for the initiation sacraments, we would be heard.

I sense an opportunity in this. In this country, we Catholics have–let’s admit it–a country club church. People pay weekly dues and they get to sit in on music and preaching and prayers for an hour. Such people believe they are Catholics. It says that on their baptismal certificate and in our parish filing cabinet. But that’s the only way it’s determined for too many Christians.

I hope we can delve into some creativity and thinking outside the box in the weeks ahead. How does Church continue without worship, without classes, and without meetings?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to The Exile Commences

  1. Brendan Kelleher svd says:

    I thought you and some of your blog readers might find some help in these lines I wrote up earlier today. Nagoya/Aichi, Japan has the second-largest number or confirmed case of corona-virus infection here in Japan. We also have one of the largest ex-pat/migrant-worker communities in Japan. Mass is celebrated in up to a dozen languages every Sunday, with the local parish providing a significant place and space for networking for the Brazilian, Filipino and Vietnamese communities.

    This morning at around 6:45, I headed for our weekday chapel. I didn’t head to the entrance, but slipped in through the sacristy. There were no lights on yet, it was cold, empty and dark. None of the familiar faces were to be seen. Two full weeks have passed since all “public” Masses were suspended. We, the priests of the parish, have however celebrated the Eucharist every day. The main Church is also opened sometime before 7:00, and stays open every day until fairly late in the evening. At different times during the day it is not uncommon to find one or more parishioners sitting or kneeling quietly before the Blessed Sacrament. During Mass I sit in the pews facing the altar. Though I have received the grace of the Sacrament of Ordination, I celebrate the Eucharist first and foremost as one sharing in our common Baptismal Priesthood, as a member of the Body of Christ. I celebrate the Eucharist everyday painfully aware of those who regularly attend daily Mass. I cannot name all our parishioners during Mass time, but many of their names, faces and voices echo in my memory as the Mass proceeds. While they are not present, they are present in ways that are hard to name. The mystery of the Eucharist that we celebrate, even in their physical absence.
    Again once more as I sat with the Parish Priest, Fr Shintate taking breakfast we wondered when we could once more celebrate the Eucharist gathered with the faithful. If the families of the housebound are open to the suggestion, one or other of the priests will take Communion to them. Fr H., the youngest on the parish team, whose responsibilities include the pastoral care of the Vietnamese community spends some time each day visiting them, particularly the older members. It was within that community that the seeds of his own vocation were sown and nurtured. What we can do is limited. The last thing we need to happen is for the corona virus to infect members of the community, and one or other of us be the unwitting cause of that infection.
    As ministers of Word and Sacrament, being with and among those for whom we have pastoral care, is at the centre, the foundation of our identity and mission. None of us are comfortable with the present arrangements. The pain and sadness we feel is not easy to put into words. If tomorrow our Bishop said we can once more celebrate Mass in public, we would be the first to raise our voices in thanks. However our responsibility extends from the youngest to the oldest, and as the media has also brought to our attention the youngest and the oldest are the most vulnerable.
    Personally, as someone whose seventieth birthday is coming closer, and having both a compromised immune system because of a viral skin infection that occasionally flares up, along with a pre-existing cardiac condition, I need to be more conscious and cautious about whom I come in contact with. I am also aware of friends and parishioners in the same age bracket who have pre-existing conditions.

    Brendan Kelleher svd, Nagoya, Japan.

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