St. Mary Star of the Sea, Largs
Covid-19 News Bulletin, No. 8
6th January 2021
Dear Sisters and Brothers
You are all by now aware that the Scottish Government has locked the whole of Scotland, bar some of the isles, down into a new series of restrictions similar to those of the first lockdown of March of last year. I don’t want to address here all of the restrictions imposed (please go to the Scottish Government’s website for the details) but only those which impact our parish community.
In summary terms:
- The church will remain completely closed until further notice. This means that there will be no Sunday Masses with the physical presence of the people. That includes the Vigil Mass at 6pm on Saturdays and the Sunday morning Mass at 10am. Masses will continue to be live-streamed. I encourage you therefore to join me in this way and would recommend that, if you can, you do it at the actual hour I am celebrating the Mass, and not later in the day. This way, our spiritual presence to one another and to the Lord is intensified.
- The Requiem or Funeral Mass can continue to take place with the maximum attendance of 20 people, not counting the stewards, undertaker personnel or the priest.
- Baptisms may not be celebrated, unless the baby’s life is in danger. (By the way, I am hoping for a baby boom in the parish from lockdown 1 and lockdown 2, so don’t delay in contacting me to make a date!!)
- The employed staff (house-keeper and secretary) have been furloughed. Any volunteers who come to work in the parish buildings should keep their visits to a minimum and strictly follow hygiene protocols (face-mask, hand-gel, gloves where appropriate) and social distance.
- My intention is also not to allow tradesmen to come into the parish buildings unless absolutely necessary.
- Anyone who wishes the sacrament of reconciliation is welcome to get in touch but confession will have to be heard outside with face-mask and social distancing, probably walking rather than sitting.
- Anyone whose health takes a serious turn for the worse can receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. The sacrament can be administered by the use of cotton buds rather than with the thumb. Given the dangerous climate we are in, I ask people kindly to seek this sacrament only when the situation is serious.
I am truly sorry that we are back in this situation. It has concerned me since last March that many parishioners who were receiving Holy Communion weekly and even daily were suddenly deprived of the sacrament. That cannot but have been a serious shock to the spiritual system. It is at times like this when we need all the more the sacramental grace of Christ. It is true that we receive grace in other ways, but the sacraments provide a sure and tangible connection to the person and saving power of Christ in a way that other means do not. We are flesh as well as spirit, so we need grace to come to us in the flesh, too.
The Bishops of Scotland issued a statement yesterday, 5th January, expressing their cooperation with these new Government restrictions. At the same time, they had some critical words to address to the Government which I personally and wholeheartedly condone. I reproduce their statement as follows:
“Recognising the dangers posed by the new faster-spreading variant of COVID-19, we note the Scottish Government’s decision to close all places of worship from Friday 8 January 2021.
The Scottish Government believes that such measures are necessary to curtail the spread of this new strain during the roll-out of the vaccine. We appreciate the difficult choices facing the Scottish Government at this time and we have shown ourselves ready both to cooperate with and to support its efforts in protecting the common good. This has included curtailing public worship in extreme circumstances and for a limited period.
However, we are also perplexed by the decision, given that the stringent measures taken since last March to ensure public safety in our churches have been effective. No evidence has been forthcoming to justify the inclusion of places of worship as sources of infection. Without such scientific evidence these restrictions will appear to Catholics to be arbitrary and unfair. Moreover, a significant number of other sectors similarly restricted last March alongside public worship – such as construction, manufacturing and elite sports – have now been left free to continue in operation.
We also note that, in England, the essential contribution of public worship to the spiritual welfare of all citizens during this crisis has now been endorsed by the decision not to close places of worship while the Scottish Government has apparently retreated from this view, causing dismay and confusion
We are very aware of the disappointment these closures will cause not only to our own Catholic community, but to many of our fellow-Christians and those of other faiths in Scotland. We wish to emphasise again the spiritual, social and psychological benefits provided by continuing public worship, and we ask for these to be taken into full account in future decisions. Public worship is a human right and is a duty humanity owes to God. More concretely, Catholics need the Eucharist and the Sacramental encounter with the LORD as necessary to their spiritual wellbeing and their ultimate salvation.
While we unequivocally share the common goal of protecting public health, we urge the Scottish Government, when the present measures are reviewed later in January, to reconsider these restrictions in the light of the above concerns.”
Let me end by encouraging you to keep looking to the Light of Christmas, of the Epiphany and of Easter. That Light is perennial and cannot be conquered by any darkness, whatever its name. Keep praying. In fact, intensify your prayer, your search for the Lord. Begin and end the day in his Presence, keep him close by you as you move through the day. When your thoughts or feelings turn negative or ugly, quietly dismiss them and turn to him, calling his name, “Lord Jesus.” Keep your daily routines going. Get up at the same time, plan the day, brush your teeth, don’t fret, think of things that give you life and joy. Reach out in small ways. Turn covid against itself by using it to strengthen your inner self in the company of Christ and his ever-watchful Mother. Before you know it, covid will be history.
Yours devotedly in the Lord,
Father Peter, PP.