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Largs – Covid News Bulletin, n.6, 09.10.20

St. Mary Star of the Sea,

Largs Covid-19 News Bulletin, No. 6

9th October 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers

Warm and heartfelt greetings to you all from St. Mary’s parish house! Although I cannot see or greet each of you personally in your homes, as I would truly love to do, I frequently use my imagination to “fly over” the parish and consider how everyone is doing. I am no angel, of course – that, too, would be only something I could imagine!

My thoughts and prayers go particularly to those of you who live alone, especially if you are housebound. I am very conscious that your anxiety at this present time can be more intense than that of those who have family at hand or companionship of some kind. For you, I offer special prayers and affection.

Jesus once said how he experienced terrible loneliness when he felt abandoned by everyone, but he quickly added, “And yet, I am not alone. My Father is with me” (John 16:32). I invite you to let these words of Jesus enter deeply into your heart. Ask him with great simplicity to be with you, to be near you, and talk to him confidently and unburden your heart onto him. He is with you indeed, and he is looking after you. Let him give you peace and joy, for his joy is our strength.

None of this is to say that we are not going through a difficult time, made worse by the recent news of the further spread of covid-19 throughout our country and the world. However, rather than let it paralyse us or force us into a siege mentality, let us draw on our faith and on the reserves of courage deep in our humanity to face this situation without fear or despair.

Stay strong in your life of faith: prayer especially and, if it’s possible for you, attendance at Mass. Our live-stream Masses are always a useful alternative if prudence recommends staying at home. The live-streaming of Liturgy throughout the world has been one of the unintended blessings of this time!

Try also to stay strong in reaching out and caring for one another, both within the family and outside it. Let charity begin at home, but not end there. Keep an eye open and an ear to the ground especially for those who are sick and live alone, as also for the elderly who cannot get out. Sometimes even a knock on the window, or a door step hello (with mask!) can be enough to brighten up someone’s day. Send flowers, get your children to draw pictures, write letters even to your neighbours in need. Human creativity for good rises to the occasion when times are tough!

Don’t let slip your practice of safety measures to thwart covid-19. Keep washing or “gelling” those hands (for the length of two “happy birthdays”!), wear your mask in indoor situations outside your home, keep those two metres apart. Yes, I know it’s all tiresome, but not as tiresome as catching, or worse, infecting someone else with the virus.

I encourage you most earnestly to obey all of the rules and regulations which the Government gives us for our own protection and for the protection of others. I would also encourage you to avoid all indoor situations of any kind where those rules and regulations are flouted or ignored. The observance or non-observance of these rules may actually be a matter of life and death, and are always a matter of fraternal charity. Sure, Jesus says nothing in the Bible about covid-19 restrictions, but he says a lot about the eternal fate of those who practice, and who do not practice, charity!

By the same token, it is imperative that we all adhere carefully to the measures and protocols which our Covid Team has put in place here in the parish. I do understand that people don’t like this or that aspect of those measures, but we all need reminding, and I say it first to myself, that it’s not just about what I might like or not like – it’s about what is safe both for me and for others. We need to think of other people.

Therefore, I invite you, please, to ensure that if you want to come to Mass:

  • You book a place according the method outlined in previous Newsletters (a summary of which is on the Home Page of the parish website);
  • You do not come if you have any of the symptoms associated with Covid-19;
  • You wear a mask from the point of entry into the church until you leave it, with the sole exception of the moment of consuming the Holy Eucharist;
  • You sanitise your hands on entering the church, even if you have already done so before leaving home;
  • You arrive no earlier than 20 minutes before Mass begins and are seated by 5 minutes before it begins;
  • You remain in your place throughout the Mass. If you need to leave your seat, please raise your hand and a steward will come and escort you out in a safe way;
  • You refrain from talking loudly in the church since the sound carries over the live-stream system;
  • You remain in your place until invited by a steward to come forward for Holy Communion;
  • If you need to leave the church before Mass is concluded, re-entry is not permitted;
  • As you are heading towards the exit of the church, please do not stop to make conversation with others in order to avoid bottle-necks and the accompanying risk of violating the safe distance rule.

I repeat that I fully understand that all of this is the last thing we would normally expect to have to endure in our parish church, but that’s precisely the point: we are not in normal times.

I have posted on the parish website a Message from the Bishops of Scotland, which is just out, in which they encourage our parishes to continue with the disciplined way in which we have controlled the re-opening of our churches. It is this strict adherence to the rules which is the best guarantee of our churches remaining open for Mass. If we become lax in our observance and, God forbid, the virus rears its ugly head in our communities, then we risk draconian measures from the Government which could lead to the total closure once again of our churches. This would inflict further grave damage on the spiritual and sacramental life of the parish. Hence, we can actually say that good covid discipline is, in the current circumstances of our pilgrim way, for the glory of God and for our own good of salvation.

I am truly pleased to announce that, beginning with the Vigil Mass on Saturday 17th October at 6.30pm, you will be able to return to your seats for a few moments’ prayer after receiving Holy Communion. Please follow the directions given by the stewards.

In due course, and provided all things are equal and duly observed, I hope to reintroduce other things which are part and parcel of the Mass.

As well as the protocol we observe at Mass, our Covid Team has been busy putting together protocols for the Funeral Mass, for the Wedding Mass and for Baptisms. Each of these different pastoral situations has its own peculiar challenges, so they are being studied in detail in order to produce the best possible way of celebrating them in a covid-safe manner.

I would like, finally, to thank the Covid Team and all those who help them in stewarding the Liturgy and in doing the demanding work of constant cleaning and disinfecting of the entire building. I am most grateful for their generosity of spirit and for the impressive way in which everyone has been cooperating and pulling their weight. It is a testimony to how alive and healthy our parish is. What is actually very moving about it all is that it is being done out of love for the Mass and for the One who so faithfully gives Himself to us in the midst of all our joys and sorrows.

May He Himself bless you, one and all, keep you safe in his protection and ward off all attacks from any virus of any ilk, now and in the future.

May St. Mary, Star of the Sea, visit you in your hearts and homes and bring you all that loving tenderness which She alone can impart.

Yours sincerely in the Lord,

Mgr. Peter Magee, PP