Saint Mary, Star of the Sea, Presbytery
28 Greenock Road
19th May, 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Lord
It is hard to believe it, but we are approaching fast the final days of Eastertide. It was two months ago today, 19th March, that I celebrated my last public Mass with some of you in attendance. It was the Solemnity of St. Joseph, 19th March, a Thursday, so the Mass was in Millport.
We have now been a full two calendar months without the possibility of being physically present at the Sacrifice of the Mass or of receiving physically the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. That’s quite a Eucharistic fast! I know that it has been quite a struggle for some of you to be deprived of both the Mass and the Sacrament, but it is my earnest hope for all of you that your desire to receive it worthily has grown stronger by the day. The Lord sees that, and will reward it richly in good time.
Please remember that, if you want the Sacrament of Reconciliation, all you need do is get in touch with me (anonymously if you wish) and we can arrange a suitable way to celebrate it safely. The phone number and email address are on the website homepage.
Likewise, if anyone suddenly becomes seriously ill or is, sadly, approaching death, I will do what I can to come out and administer the Sacraments and/or Last Rites as required and as the health protocols demand.
I want to encourage you all very much to use this time to pray more, be it individually, as couples or as families. There are plenty of websites and resources online which can assist you. I have listed a few at the end of this letter.
Prayer focuses us on the Lord, on his Mother or on the saints, and helps us keep our bearings. Lifting our heads and hearts upwards will help us handle what’s around us with both feet on the ground. Remember that prayer is not necessarily saying a lot of words, but can be simply a turning inwards and downwards, into the depths of our heart, maybe just to call on the name of Jesus or Mary and ask him or her to be with you.
Sometimes a wee look at the Gospel is a good idea, just until something strikes you. That will give you something to hang on to as you centre and sink into your heart, like a sponge gradually sinking to the bottom of the sea-bed. The water around and within you is the Holy Spirit. You can rest in his peace and consolation.
If you are in turmoil or upset or suffering, hold on to the Crucifix and stand with Mary and John and let them support you as you cry to the Lord. Don’t be afraid of tears: they cleanse the heart and bring calm to both body and soul.
Have you ever thought of writing a spiritual journal? It’s like a diary! Instead of writing about the everyday things that happen to you, write down where you sensed God at work in you or in others during the day. How was your mood during the day: mainly good or mainly a bit off? Reflect on that in the presence of Jesus and try and work out why you felt how you did, and how it showed itself in actions or words. Sometimes you might think what you write is daft – but it’s never daft! If you keep doing it, you will feel your way towards a deeper awareness of the Lord and a deeper knowledge of yourself. When you go back and look over what you’ve written over a period of, say, a month, you might be surprised at what you discover …
I think it would be good, too, to discuss with those around you, or even on the phone, what you have been learning from this unusual situation we are all in. It would be sad if it ended and we had learnt nothing! Here are a few questions that might help in the discussion, or even for you just to write something down in your journal. It’s not an exam! It’s just to prod you to think and reflect. Maybe even just one question will be enough:
What has the lockdown taught me about myself (e.g. my habits, my priorities, my fears, my hopes)? Is it leading me to make any changes in my life? What might they be? Can I really sustain them?
What has the lockdown taught me about others close to me, both considered in themselves and in their relationship to me? Can I draw any lessons out of all this that will affect my life and how I relate to them?
What has it taught me about the society in which I live, the bright side and the shades? Looking at a global level, what are the up-sides and the down-sides of how we have processed this crisis? What needs to change and how and what can I do to change it?
What has the lockdown taught me about God? Has it affected my faith and the practice of it?
Finally, what is the single most important thing I have learnt and the single most important decision I will take as we move ahead?
I hope that we can soon at least open the churches again for private prayer and visits to the Blessed Sacrament, although I have been given no indication as to when that might be. I imagine that there will be all sorts of sanitisation and disinfecting measures to be taken, along with the maintenance of social distancing, of course.
As these measures become known, I will keep you up to date. We will probably need a team of volunteers in both parishes to organise all this. The last thing we need is someone coming to pray and going home with the virus!
Please know, though, that I do pray for you all several times a day: for your safety and health, for your peace and happiness, for your faith and trust in the unfailing goodness of the Lord, and for your recourse to Our Lady for the protection and comfort she alone can give.
On my part, I am doing fine, apart from hay fever and a few extra pounds! I’ve been learning to cook new dishes. I made my first pot of soup ever and managed to avoid hospital in the process!
A final word of encouragement to the children and to our young people: I know you find all this very strange and will be missing all the friends and things you get up to with them. But please remember that the Lord in his providence is letting us go through this trial only because somehow he intends to bring something very good out of it. Stay close to Jesus, obey your parents, behave nicely towards each other and, if you feel a bit down, go round the house singing alleluia and it will lift your spirits!
Why not write a poem or a song? Send them in to me! We can open a page on the parish website and put them up!
With all my love and prayers and with my humble blessing to one and all!
Websites to help you pray: