02May Return from Exile

Making the Undoable Doable

Pádraig McCarthy

If someone had said to me (or you?) six months ago (or even three months ago)  that the government would close all pubs, and that there would be little resistance from the Oireachtas or among the public, I would have found it difficult to believe or imagine.  Mere legislation on drinking and driving involved so much controversy. Simply undoable. Even unimaginable. Just as difficult to believe would be that all GAA and FAI and Rugby matches would be banned and schools and universities and businesses closed. Hospitality and entertainment and, almost completely, air travel.

And yet it happened. Overnight. Without consultation with the organisations concerned. “Fiat!” – “Make it so!” This at a time when our country does not have an established government. What seemed utterly undoable has become very doable, in the particular circumstances.

Banning all public gatherings for worship, including for our most sacred rites, seems equally beyond belief. And yet, except for funerals which are limited to a maximum attendance of ten people, this is where we find ourselves. The cause has been the overwhelming topic in the media ever since: Coronavirus, and Covid-19, the disease it causes.

On Friday 1 May, the government launched its “Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business.” It proposes five phases in this reopening. These are not fixed, but will depend on the progress of addressing the Covid-19 pandemic. Dates are proposed (page 3) for each phase, three weeks apart.

The 21-page Roadmap document can be downloaded here. 

On page 12 there is reference to Cultural and Religious activity. In phase 4 we find: “Open religious and places of worship where social distancing can be maintained.” The date planned for this is 20 July. This means we have nearly three more months before opening of places of worship. It is not clear from the document whether this applies just to indoor religious events, or whether it also includes outdoor religious activities – for example, cemetery services, outdoor shrines etc.

Every week perhaps about one million people of a variety of faiths take part in such group religious activities. No other activity in Ireland involves such a large number of participants.

Do we as a religious community have something to say about this? The Conference of Catholic Bishops in Italy has had discussions with the government on the matter. The Archdiocese of Milan has set up an email address to invite the people of the diocese to offer their suggestions and reflections. So far I have heard of no such moves in Ireland. We have no time to lose in addressing this.

Given the opportunity, what might Christians and Catholics say? When the close-down began in mid-March, it seemed to me that it might be a matter of two or three weeks, perhaps at most a month. There seemed even to be a possibility that we would be able to celebrate Easter in our churches. Was I the only person thinking on those lines? Instead we have the close-down for five months, with the possibility that it could be shortened, but also that it may be extended. When we can reopen places of worship for community celebrations, we are still faced with the requirement to maintain social distancing. This is understandable, for the health and safety of our whole society, and it affects all of society. Opening of hotels etc (but not hotel bars) is also envisaged for 20 July.

Phase 5 on 10 August envisages “Open theatres and cinemas where social distancing can be maintained.” Also “Indoor recreational venues (roller skating, bowling alley, bingo halls where numbers can be limited, cleaning can be maintained, restrictions where social distancing can be complied with. Open pubs, bars, nightclubs, casinos, where social distancing and strict cleaning can be complied with.” Full details are in the government document.

 

Outlining the challenge

Here I just want to offer some reflections which may be useful to start our planning, and so we do not just slip back into the way things were. Because, whatever happens, it will not be the same. It may not look too different at first, but the tectonic plates have shifted. Not only that, but we cannot say at this stage how this “novel” Coronavirus will affect our individual and collective lives. As yet, we have no proven cure for the disease, and a vaccine, if found, is in an unknown future. The challenge of the virus will be with us for an indefinite length of time; perhaps permanently.

It is important that the people of Ireland are part of the discussion. We have had more than enough of being told what we must do. The decisions have been arrived at often by people we never heard of before.

Some argue that since off-licences are open and considered essential services, church services should be considered essential. Yes, they are vital for members of the congregation. But they are in a very different category. An off licence store does not require that a crowd of people gather together. Entry and spacing can be controlled as at present. By definition, a church assembly in normal times essentially involves people being present, “congregating” together. This presents particular challenges in this pandemic. Similar challenges face all situations which involve gatherings of people – concerts, sports, restaurants, festivals, etc.

 

Liturgy

As restrictions are lifted, “social distancing” will remain with us for quite some time, perhaps a considerable time depending on progress in controlling the virus, in development of treatment for the disease, and in the search for a vaccine. This presents very practical challenges for planning gatherings for worship, especially Sundays. These challenges include sanitising the church building and furniture, and figuring how “safe distance” can be maintained in the gathering. Families living together, of course, could be together; free movement of children seems excluded. But to ensure 2 meters between such groups and the various individuals present would require careful planning.

Depending on the design of the building, the maximum safe attendance would be greatly reduced from normal full capacity. How many people per pew? How many vacant pews between occupied rows? How to assign people to particular locations? This may have the unexpected advantage that it will be necessary that some people occupy the front rows! But how willing will people be to attend such a church?

How can we ensure people will keep safe distance on their way in and on the way out? Do we need to plan to have people apply to come to Mass at a particular time? Do we exclude any others who come, expecting to be admitted? Do we need to increase our schedule of celebrations to provide for full normal attendance in smaller groups? Do we insist that everyone coming must sanitise their hands on arrival? Will face masks be required?

Will some or many people, although wanting to come, be reluctant to come for fear of infection?

The Sign of Peace poses no problem, as long as it is without physical contact.

Communion, whether one species or both, poses particular challenges. How can we have a congregation receiving Communion while avoiding possibility of cross-infection as far as humanly possible?

Since singing involves more scattering of air from lungs and mouth, is it safe to have singing by congregation or choir?

Will the building need to be fully sanitised following each celebration? Who would be responsible for this? What supplies do we need for this?

Special celebrations, like baptisms, weddings, First Communion, Confirmation, Funerals, Christmas, Easter, outdoor events, etc. will also need attention. The process of working out what to do is best done in conjunction with the parish or the people involved rather than handed down from above.

These are all practical considerations. But probably more important is the understanding of the nature of what we are doing. The implications are not just for the cultic life of the church, but for the mission of the church in the world, awakened to how utterly we are interlinked, even if it takes a tiny virus – one million in a straight line would be the width of a hand – to awaken us in a new way to this.

 

The pandemic as a time of grace

Because of creation, and amplified by the Incarnation, every moment and event is a moment of grace which we can experience through the indwelling of the Spirit and the abiding present of Jesus.

We have experienced a fast, a famine, from the sacrament of the Eucharist. Not all, of course – some have been able to celebrate Mass each day, albeit with an on-line congregation. For those of us who have been accustomed to unrestricted availability of the Eucharist, it has been a time when we share the famine from the Eucharist which many millions of Christians experience as their normal faith life: those who may be able to receive the Eucharist only a few times a year. It seems this will continue in Ireland at least until late in July.

Can we then experience this as did Teilhard de Chardin? “Since once again, Lord — though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of Asia — I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world … Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again the words: This is my Body. And over every death-force which waits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again your commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my Blood.” (Hymn of the Universe, Ch.1: The Mass on the World.)

As our society shares with people all over the world the suffering and sickness and death brought by the Coronavirus, can we live these moments as Christians, willing to bear the cross of the moment and to do all in our power to assist those in greatest need, as St Cyprian wrote when pestilence struck Rome in the third century: “What grandeur of spirit it is to stand up with living faith” before “the onsets of devastation and death” and to “embrace the benefit of the occasion.”

When in our online worship, either as ordained minister or as the one linking in from afar, we experience the physical absence of our congregation, we miss then the experience of being embodied. While engaged (or disengaged) in the digital experience, we know the insufficiency of the what we call “virtual” reality – in reality a hollow substitute for presence, the sacramentality of the gathering of our sisters and brothers who are the living presence of the Body of Christ.

Have we sometimes slipped into presenting worship and the Eucharist as a religious product to be passively consumed, rather than as an essentially transforming incarnational experience? A “service station” model of the Church? Is Eucharist sometimes experienced as something (even someone) we receive, rather than as a verb: something we do as the Body of Christ?

Have we been lured into living as if the mission of the Church is to make the Eucharist, rather than knowing that it is the Eucharist that makes the Church? The Eucharist is not an end in itself, as food is not an end in itself, but is a gift to nourish and enliven and strengthen the living presence of the Risen Lord in his body, the Church. Jesus sends us, just as the Father sent him, so that the world will have life, and life in all its fullness (John 10:10).

When we cannot gather as a community in a church building on Sunday, are we simply bereft, or can we find a renewed sense of the presence of Jesus who promised to be with us all days? As the Coronavirus can deprive us of the functioning of our lungs, do we at times try to live on just the “lung” of prayer in the church building, while deprived of the “lung” of worship at home and everywhere we find ourselves? In seeing the Eucharist as the “centre and summit of our Christian lives”, is there a temptation to the mistake of regarding the Eucharist as the whole of our life of faith? Can we learn from this strange experience (not strange to millions of Christians) to discover anew that we are the Church, and that we must be Eucharistic every day and all day?

The Coronavirus brings death to our attention in a way to which we are unaccustomed. But, before Coronavirus, on average 2,461 (2011-2017) died in Ireland in the month of April. That is 82 each day, on average. We don’t know yet what the numbers will be in 2020. Now, in the very fact that we are called almost to view every person we meet as a possible contagion, a carrier of death, and to view ourselves as such a person. We are faced with how precarious life can be for human beings. But millions of people live that every day before Coronavirus came along. Will we hold on to that awareness of the links, the bonds, which unite us with every human being on this planet?

We have three months before we can begin to gather again for Mass; and many months after that when our celebration of Mass is in the world of social distancing. How will we use that time? When again we can gather, will we be ready to start? Will we have a celebratory liturgy of return? Will it just be back to “normal”, or will we ensure that it is both a grieving and a healing, a renewal, of the full church in which each member is welcomed and valued and entrusted with the Mission?

We have this time of grace for discernment so that our re-emergence will not be a rush to get back to the “old normal”, but will be the beginning of the next phase. Not the phase in the government “Roadmap”, but the Easter phase into which we and the Church are re-Christ-ened.

 

20 Responses

  1. Eddie Finnegan

    Meanwhile, Pádraig, a whole 79 days before 20 July and a mere 166km or 103mi north of Leo on the same island, Ballymurphy’s Parish Priest is merrily hearing confessions, whether at Corpus Christi parish church or in the parochial house I know not. Trust him to find a loophole. Or should the Code of Canon Law introduce a new seal on Fr Paddy’s confessional?

  2. Paddy Ferry

    I am always amazed, Eddie how you get all this insider information.

  3. Seán Ó'Murchú

    It is great to see that the discussion has commenced. Go raibh maith agat (Thank you) Pádraig.
    I remember many years ago in a Dublin parish, when the debt on the parish church had been cleared and it was about to celebrate it’s silver jubilee and the question of how was being considered. I suggested a Mass of thanksgiving and it seemed so out of step with thinking amongst the parishioners and clergy at the time!
    Surely we need to have a Mass to celebrate and commemorate. However the time for that is not July 20th but rather I suggest the end of September or perhaps even the end of October to coincide with the public holiday (24th, 25th & 26th)
    Parishes will have a lot to do in the months after service may resume (I dare not say ‘normal service’). There will be Confirmations, First Communions, First Confessions, Baptisms, memorial/celebration of life Masses etc. With social distancing rules these will all take some time to be worked through, and it would not be fair to expect either on the part of priests or laity that we would have a conveyor belt approach. Such will therefore take time. Dare I suggest July and August even if it does not encroach into the next school year [ which per the Dept of Education website can commence on 24th August).
    October would also allow for a time of preparation – a bit like Advent or Lent – before a great Thanksgiving in October.

  4. Pádraig McCarthy

    Thanks, Mattie for your most appropriate heading: Return from Exile!

    We have eleven more Sundays of exile before the Return … but the Lord is with us in our exile.

    Seán (#3): Yes, definitely thanksgiving for the Return from Exile. I would suggest, however, that we see our first Sunday celebration of the Return as a significant moment of grace both to give thanks and to look to the future.

    Our time of “Exile” may at times have seemed more clerical-centred than ever, with following Mass and other services on line and on TV. There is surely more than that, into which the clerical mind does not have direct access to and insight.

    It is important that our Return to the new normal does not lose what it is that people in our parishes have been doing during the “Exile” in the way of keeping the Lord’s Day special when there has not been the possibility of gathering in a church building. Each home is a “domestic church.” Our parish celebration should be exactly that: parish (as in all the people) rather than clergy or church building centred. Not that these are unimportant. Rather, their importance is found in the community they serve, and without which they would not exist. The people of the parish could perhaps share what they have done in taking prayer time at home, alone or with others, setting up a Sacred Space, reflecting on Scripture and on the place of the Eucharist and of their parish in their lives. I’m not saying everyone did these things. Do we actually know what people did to mark their Sundays as the Lord’s Day, rather than an opportunity to avail of Sundays when they “didn’t have to go to Mass”?! How could this feed into the Return celebration? As Milan diocese has done, can we set up a consultation in every parish and diocese, asking people to reflect on it and send their suggestions?

    20 July is a Monday. The first Sunday of our Return is 26 July, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, last Sunday of July, Reek Sunday, Lughnasa.
    First reading: 1 Kings: Solomon requests wisdom.
    Second reading: Romans 8: God turns everything to good!
    Gospel: Matthew 13: Treasure hidden in a field.

    It is the day after the Feast of St James the Apostle, in whose honour many walk the Camino to Santiago. Might people walk in pilgrimage where possible to their parish celebration rather than drive?
    It’s the Feast of Sts Joachim and Anne (not celebrated this year), grandparents of Jesus. Could we especially welcome all those who have been most fully “cocooned” (or house arrest, as my sister describes it)?
    Can we have a particular welcome for those who had been looking forward to being received into the Church at Easter?
    And for those who were looking forward to the Baptism of a child, and to First Communion and Confirmation, and who still do not know when this will be possible?
    Can we mark the occasion especially for those who have experienced the death of someone close to them during the restricted times and who had the added sorrow of being unable to gather for the kind of funeral which is so important to people in Ireland?
    We can remember too those who are unable to come to Mass even in “normal” times, and who were unable to have someone bring them Communion since March?

    There is the advantage that Sunday 26 July is in what (we hope) will be summer weather. With the difficulty presented by social distancing and the limited number of people possible within the church building, if the weather is suitable there could be an outdoor celebration at a selected location in the parish which would allow for a larger number and respect safe distance.
    Whatever we do will take some planning and preparation, but we have these 11 weeks.

    The Conference of Catholic Bishops in Germany has suggested to parishes to consider outdoor celebrations where possible, for those reasons.
    Although some parishes doesn’t have a tradition of this, many parishes have experience of outdoor celebrations for their cemetery Mass every year.

    For the “Return from Exile”, rather than starting with just a normal Sunday Mass, perhaps it would be worth considering making it extra-ordinary.
    We couldn’t celebrate Easter as we would in normal times, or St Patrick’s Day, as will also be the case with Ascension and Pentecost.
    Perhaps we could incorporate elements of those celebrations.

    Every Sunday is an Easter & Pentecost Sunday.
    Every Sunday is the First Day of the New Creation.
    This is the day that the Lord has made.

  5. Mattie Long

    I would counsel a note of caution. Is there a temptation to do too much too soon, to run before walking?
    There cannot be any grand re-opening on 20 July, or in any of the weeks or even months immediately following. We are not ‘returning to normal’.
    Social distancing will still apply and this will have a huge bearing on what is possible in each parish.
    If the virus continues through the autumn and into winter and there is another second wave we could be looking at a rather bleak Christmas. Dr Cillian De Gascun has warned that many events will be seriously curtailed until a vaccine is arrived at and that could be 18 months from now.
    Following 20 July parishes will be in a very difficult position organising Sunday Masses or other liturgical services.
    For example; a survey we did a year or so ago here in Louisburgh Parish, a smallish rural parish in Mayo on the edge of the Atlantic, showed that on an average weekend throughout the year 623 people attend Mass in our parish, split between three Masses, two in Louisburgh church and one in the second church in the parish in Killeen.
    On the weekend just gone past, the May Holiday weekend, usually there would have been a huge influx of visitors including many for Féile Chois Cuain, a traditional Irish Music festival, and we would have had approx 450 people at Sunday Mass in Louisburgh church. With social distancing, everyone kept two metres apart, Louisburgh Church can accommodate approximately 35 individuals! If family groups who live together sit together in one seat this can be increased somewhat.
    There’s a long way to go to beat this virus and a long time before we can expect congregations to be anything like they were before this crisis. Maybe they never will be and that is something else to plan for.
    In what ever we plan it’s important we do not try to do too much too soon and end up risking the health and lives of parishioners and priests.

  6. Paddy Ferry

    I completely agree with Mattie’s note of caution. Over here too I hear absurdly optimistic predictions of when we can expect normal worship to return.

  7. Pádraig McCarthy

    It’s good we’re discussing the challenges.

    Mattie’s comment exemplifies how local situations can vary enormously, and planning must be undertaken according to normal size of congregation, size and layout of church buildings, and planning for occasions when the congregation is larger than normal.
    I have not heard whether Covid-19 has taken the life of any priest in Ireland. It seems over 100 priests in Italy have died.

    Where churches do not already have a public address system heard outdoors, perhaps this is a good time to plan for it.
    The Thomistic Institute in Washington DC offers “Guidelines” for how we might re-start public celebration of Mass with some congregation, and for Confession and Anointing of the Sick:
    https://thomisticinstitute.org/covid-sacraments
    There is a link to the document of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Germany at https://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2020/05/01/more-masses-because-of-corona/. The document itself is only in German.
    In recent days on television, there was celebration of Mass in a cathedral in Germany. For Communion, a wide plexiglass screen was used, and the Eucharist was received through an aperture.

    The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland is putting proposals to government about the when and how of their re-opening, in the light of the “Roadmap for Reopening”, so they have clearly had discussions about it among themselves.
    RTÉ reported: “Religious leaders from a number of faiths will discuss the Covid-19 emergency with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on a conference call.”
    That was on Wednesday 8 April. Spy Wednesday. That now seems almost a century ago! The meeting of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, in their statement on 11 March, said: “At this time the celebration of Mass on Sundays and on weekdays – including Saint Patrick’s Day – will continue as normal.” This was very quickly overturned by circumstances.

    It’s a very busy time for all involved in government, and in trying to form a new government. In view of the fact that attendance at religious gatherings is the single largest kind of gathering that takes place in Ireland all year round, it would be appropriate that religious leaders should consult and consider whether to put proposals to the government, in the light of the “Roadmap.” There are still eleven Sundays before we can resume any kind of congregating, in the Roadmap plan. As government says, the Roadmap is a “living document”, and the plan in it will depend on progress in confining the disease. Elements in it could be brought forward, or put back for a later date.

    Certainly we must take the best advice and proceed with caution, and at the same time it is important that we be part of the re-formation of the “living document.”

    Perhaps ACP might encourage priests to gather the suggestions of the members of their parishes and communities, and draw up proposals which could be put to our Conference of Bishops to assist them. Their next meeting was scheduled for June, but what format it may now take is unknown.

  8. Cainneach O Bradaigh

    There have been a number of priests and religious who have died of the virus in the Dublin area and in other places. God help their families and communities.

  9. Pádraig McCarthy

    The French government had indicated religious ceremonies would be banned until June 2 at the earliest, but Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told the Senate this might be advanced by four days.

    “Many faiths have made proposals to reconcile how their meetings are held with social distancing rules,” the prime minister told the Senate. “I know the May 29 – June 1 period is for several faiths an important date on the religious calendar.”

    Pentecost, celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday, falls on June 1.
    A week earlier, and before the government has said it might allow religious festivities, Muslims mark Eid, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-france-worship/france-may-ease-coronavirus-curbs-on-worship-earlier-than-planned-premier-idUSKBN22G270
    Pentecost Sunday and Monday are public holidays in France. Our June holiday this year coincides with Pentecost (“Whit”).

    If France goes ahead with this, it will be interesting to see how cautious they will be and what social distancing, travel restrictions, face-masks and other precautions will be implemented.
    There have been 330 Coronavirus deaths registered in France on Tuesday 5 May, making a total of 25,531 , but the true number is likely to be higher.

  10. Paddy Ferry

    This link below is to an article in NCR on a proposed temporary ban on communion on the tongue.

    I wonder did any of you watch Newsnight on BBC 2 last night.
    They had a report from Germany on the partial lifting of the lockdown there. As part of the piece they showed us the inside of a catholic church in Berlin. The pews were suitably marked to allow appropriate social distancing. Then, as the priest was about to distribute holy communion, we were told he “disinfected” his finger and thumb between each communicant. We saw him dip his finger and thumb into a little vessel containing a liquid and held by an adult altar server. Now, I would be very dubious about the efficacy of this so called “disinfection”
    But then, to crown it all, he places the host on this woman’s tongue.
    Incredible !!

    https://www.ncronline.org/news/parish/liturgical-federation-proposes-temporary-ban-communion-tongue?clickSource=email

  11. Sean O'Conaill

    “I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world …”

    That, from Teilhard de Chardin, is most striking. As is the reality that adherence to those rules that protect the most vulnerable a natural corollary of a major principle of Catholic social teaching – the principle of social solidarity.

    So far I haven’t heard any bishop say so – and how I wish I had, especially in the context of surreptitious communion on the tongue – which is also happening, according to reliable reports I am hearing.

    Both Teilhard’s reflection and Pádraig’s own on the Eucharist as ‘an essentially transforming incarnational experience’ are reminders that if we confine the meaning of ‘religion’ to prayer and church-going we inevitably consign e.g. care of the elderly to a merely secular ethic, when it is very far from that.

    Furthermore, we lose entirely the dimension of the social implication of the baptismal call to the common priesthood, and even the meaning of ‘priesthood’ itself – that calling to bridge for everyone we meet the distance between themselves and the sacred, by incarnating the reality of perfect love.

    Are those elderly priests now needing the tender care of poorly paid and highly vulnerable care workers ready to tell those workers that this is an expression of their baptismal priesthood, every bit as pleasing to God as the sacred ritual, the Mass? If not, has that too to do centrally with Irish Catholic clericalism, that residual disconnect between the sacred and the secular that allows militant secularism to argue that all religion is introverted and ‘useless’?

    I haven’t the slightest doubt that the selfless sacrifice we are witnessing from so many – and the strong adherence to the rules of social distancing on the part of most – are in fact evidence of, and expressions of, divine grace. That some in Ireland can see piety only in e.g. Latin Masses, church-going, closeted confession and communion on the tongue is surely a consequence of culpable ignorance instead.

    Could there ever be a better opportunity, or a greater need, to say so?

  12. Eileen Clear

    Roadmaps notwithstanding, we simply do not know for how long the restrictions will be in place. I like Teilhard de Chardin’s incarnational understanding of the world which enabled him to see the whole earth as his altar. The notion of The Pandemic as a Time of Grace provides learning opportunities which might, in turn, lead us to a deeper understanding of Eucharistic living. As Padraig says, “Eucharist is an essentially transforming incarnational experience” and it can nourish, enliven and strengthen the presence of the Risen Lord in his body, the Church. I would add, citing Thomas Aquinas, that the fruit of the Eucharist is not in the sanctification of the recipient, nor in the Real Presence but in the gathering together of God’s people in fellowship and love i.e. community. Is that not what we are seeing in the heroism of the frontline workers, the providers of essential services, the unsung carers of special needs children and other patients in their homes AND the countless initiatives to bring food to the hungry, entertainment to the lonely and comfort to those in need of it? I see a huge theological resource in the many stories of generosity and compassion. While I look forward to a time when we can safely gather to celebrate Eucharist in our churches again, can we, in the meantime, like St. Cyprian, “embrace the benefit of the occasion” rather than be too focused on the future?

  13. Paddy Ferry

    Sean@11, what an excellent reflection. Thank you.

    And, Eileen, … “nor in the Real Presence but in the gathering together of God’s people in fellowship and love i.e. community” this was also St. Augustine’s undrstanding, a view supported by many right down through the centuries, despite the best efforts of Rome to bury it,and especially after Aquinas’ doctrine of transubstantiation was accepted at Trent as the official catholic church understanding of the eucharist.

  14. Colm Holmes

    Meeting in person as a community is a very important part of life. But with the virus we must all support the social distancing and all the other protocols to protect our community.

    I would remind everyone of our baptism where we are all baptised as “priest, prophet and leader”.

    So when we view a Eucharist broadcast on TV everyone should have some bread and wine and a candle with them and join in all the prayers. Better still take part in a ZOOM Eucharist which allows everyone to share in the breaking of the word as well as sharing bread and wine.

  15. Neil Bray

    No 11 above
    Are there some human acts of human charity that equate with Christ’s act of Redemption,
    reenacted in the Sacrifice of the Mass, in terms of pleasing The Father?

  16. Eugene Sheehan

    Neil @15, I believe that the closing of the Churches during the pandemic may cause us to consider our liturgies and seek a fresh understanding. The idea that God needs pleasing bothers me. “Jesus did not come to change God’s mind about humanity. Jesus came to change humanity’s mind about God,” Richard Rohr. The Father does not need pleasing by performing simple rituals. The Father IS love, to the point of Jesus’s self-sacrifice on the cross. The more we “lay down our lives” for others, the more we reflect the living presence of Jesus and the more we become the image and likeness of God. No amount of ritualistic actions will cause this to happen.

  17. Paddy Ferry

    I don’t think it can get any more mad or more outrageous than this, can it?
    And of course, Sarah’s name appears once again, though, of course, he has nothing to do with it. How could he, he being a top Vatican official!
    And there was me thinking that Mueller was a bright, intelligent man !!

    https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/vatican-cardinal-in-row-over-claim-that-virus-hurts-religion/ar-BB13Nb4m?ocid=spartandhp

  18. Neil Bray

    No 16
    In his act of redemption, was Jesus not fulfilling the Father’s will, the Father’s desire? Was the re-enactment of this act of self-offering in the Sacrifice of the Mass not also the Father’s wish?

    Since when did the Sacrifice of the Mass become a mere ritualistic activity?

    Prior to the Preface of the sacrifice of the Mass there is a trilogy of interaction between priest and laity. Laity and priest agree to “lift up their hearts to focus on the eternal sacrifice going on in Heaven. Both agree as does the opening lines of the preface that “it is truly right and just, our DUTY AND SALVATION always and everywhere to give you thanks …”

    Furthermore the doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer in effect says that the re-enactment of The Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection give God all the glory he needs, and which Christ showed, God desires.

    None of this of course takes away the requirement of serving the needs of others.

  19. Paddy Ferry

    Now for some good news, a sensible, humble pastor, and a Franciscan, promoted to be Archbishop of Genoa. I visited the cathedral in Genoa last summer, once home to the infamous Cardinal Siri.

    https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/05/09/pope-francis-surprise-appointment-chooses-franciscan-archbishop-genoa-italy?fbclid=IwAR1Dk-A5udoboabsaz-lAPhuqsFGLVjME5fUvUSGPzZuDW5dq13JXM0pWLc

  20. Paddy Ferry

    It really does get worse–I don’t think even Cardinal Sarah would approve of this.
    Not relevant to Return from Exile but I just had to share.

    https://www.newwaysministry.org/2020/05/12/with-catholic-support-polish-government-seeks-to-define-lgbtq-people-as-child-abusers/?fbclid=IwAR0PkVsuVkAYCTERXiNpz-zshxb44s0IcM6c4w9BWbtqYUwf3oPO1eNHWNw


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