Dear Friends in Christ:
This is really new territory for me and I am sure for you as well. I find myself in a most peculiar setting. It is my fervent hope and prayer that a remedy will soon prevail and that this trial will not find us wanting. As I am writing this letter, I do so with a broken heart knowing that our parish is not able to come together for Mass. I ache for those who wish to be at Mass to offer their praise to God and receive the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. I pray that the Lord will bless us through this “fasting” with a deeper love and appreciation of Sunday Mass, reverence for the Eucharist and gratitude for a wonderful gift of being able to come to Mass here at St. John Vianney.
One of the challenges for me has been to see so many people suffer from anxiety, anger, fear, and unable to adequately assist them. The world has undergone pandemics of illness and disease before with much larger and more horrible results. The Black Plague in the 14th Century killed nearly 200 million people in Europe wiping out up to 60% of the population. While tragic, the COVID-19 has killed only several thousand throughout the world to date. What is so very different with this pandemic is the constant and unrelenting coverage in the media. This is a totally new phenomenon which in turn has caused great panic and fear in an unprecedented form. The fear of the virus has impacted far more people than the actual virus itself. One of the other challenges is that we are currently living with a widespread and general sense that God doesn’t really matter in all of this. Throughout history, in times of plague and pestilence, people turned to God and to the Church for solace and strength. Great trials tested people’s faith and made it stronger. To be honest, I don’t see that right now, but hopefully we will. God is the antidote and the cure for everything that we suffer.
While we all desire that this pandemic runs its course quickly, we should not waste this time. It is still Lent! It is still a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. We now have more to offer up. The question for us is will we allow God to bring us closer to him? Will we use this time to serve Him by reaching out to others in prayer, with a phone call, an e-mail or even a handwritten note? I am not sure how we are going to handle all of this. What I do know is that God will get us through it and we are going to be fine.
Here at the parish, even though we are not allowed to have public liturgies and all of our activities are suspended, we are busy at work. I will not bore you with all the details right now, but rest assured that the staff is working hard to handle this situation and to serve you and help you stay close to God. Like in every crisis situation, people want immediate activity. Experience teaches us that it is better to go slow at the beginning and then come up to speed. Experience is a very good teacher! There are a lot of things the staff is trying to juggle under very trying and unique circumstances, so please keep us in your prayers as you are most definitely in ours. Another challenge in this situation is in how we respond. In a “normal emergency,” we issue a clarion call and all come together to tackle whatever needs to be done. That is exactly what we cannot do this time! Likewise, our greatest strength is our coming together in prayer at holy Mass and that is exactly what we are being denied. My heart aches that people cannot receive Jesus in the Eucharist. I am confident that the devil is thrilled, laughing and pleased to no end that so many are unable to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Fight the devil and the temptation of anger, fear, anxiety and panic. Do not distance yourself from God. Stay close to Jesus in prayer by a Spiritual Communion,
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I Love you above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
In Pace Christi,