Dear Sisters and Brothers
Barely a week into there being no public Masses, it already feels for ever! I write to let you know I am thinking of you and praying for you very much. We are “going through the mill” of trial and uncertainty and for some of you it will be more trying and uncertain than for others.
Rely on your faith and trust in God to see you and those around you through and out the other end of this tunnel. The light, or better the Light Himself, is there, even if we cannot quite see Him. But He sees us and knows how each of us is in a most personal way, so don’t be afraid to turn to Him and pour out your heart and, why not, your tears, too, if that is how you feel. Let Him console you.
I had Fr. Eamonn over to concelebrate with me on Saturday evening at 6pm, the Vigil Mass of “Laetare” Sunday. One of the only two occasions in the year I get to wear that pink vestment! And no-one there to see me! It was good to have the company of a friend. We prayed for all of you. I felt quite emotional looking down at the empty pews in the darkened church and asked the Lord to feed you directly now with his truth and grace.
After Mass, I invited Fr. Eamonn in to taste my questionable cooking but he seemed to enjoy it as I enjoyed both food and company. We will do that again!
As you know, I am leaving St. Mary’s church open all day from after the 10.30am Mass until 7pm, with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. It has been very moving to see a steady stream of a few people coming and going throughout the day. I expose the Blessed Sacrament because I think this is a time in which the Lord is keeping vigil over his people, as he did when the Israelites came out of Egypt. Soon, it will be the Easter Vigil and it’s almost as if we are now in an anticipated and prolonged Holy Saturday experience, when Jesus was in the tomb. We are waiting and keeping vigil with him. We look for an end to this pandemic that is ”burying us” in all sorts and forms of isolation and mist. We trust he will raise us up.
I am hoping very much that we can get our own live-streaming video up this week. Watch this space.
I have been using the phone more to try and reach out to those of you who are sick or isolated and whom I know about. I have found it personally very rewarding and I think those I have phoned have been given a wee lift. I will keep doing it. Let’s all try and keep in touch. Sometimes there might not be a lot more you can say, but even a few minutes of pleasantries can calm someone’s anxious heart.
Just a reminder that I am available for confessions every day as soon as the church is opened and, on Saturdays and Sundays, also at 4pm. If you need and qualify for the sacrament of the sick and can come to church, I am happy to administer that to you in the sacristy, too, with all of the precautions required.
If anyone wants to come along at confession time just for a wee blether, that’s OK, too. You may need to unburden, so step inside.
Many of you have kindly offered me help of every description, so please know that I am thankful for that. I will ask if I need, don’t worry! Some of you have expressed concern as to how I am getting through it all, but between prayer, work, piano and eating, and a good dose of stubbornness, thank God I am doing fine.
A particular word of affection for the children who I know must be a bit bewildered by all this. I know how good their parents are and how safe and happy they will keep them. I also realise that there is extra strain on parents for all the reasons they know better than I, so I hope they find creative and healthy ways to destress and to bond even more closely at this challenging time.
The 70+ parishioners are the protected group! That said, one of you said to me yesterday in passing, “I feel like a leper!” Well, you are not lepers, you are our treasure! You carry long years of wisdom and insight that we all need to have and hear. So an extra buffer zone is around you, not only by dint of state decree, but by dint of our love for you! Please take care of yourselves!
I hope to have more news soon for all who are isolated or self-isolating about the group we are setting up in the parish to make sure you are getting basic help with domestic needs like shopping and meds.
Sorry for the long-windedness (“what’s new?”, I can hear the chorus cry!), but I’m too long in the tooth now for that to change, even if I wanted to!
I give you my blessing and assure you all of my affection and prayers.
Yours sincerely in the Lord