CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) DIOCESAN AND PARISH RESPONSE
To all of St. Theresa’s beloved children:
Please note the following updated, summary of directives from Bishop Caggiano regarding the corona virus:
He is suspending all public Masses beginning 8pm March 16, 2020, until at least April 3. This is in light of the CDC recommendation of no more than 50 people at any group meetings. Churches may remain open for private prayer, (thus our Adoration chapel remains open for the time being). Regarding sacraments: baptisms may be done, but with a small groups, just immediate family and godparents. Social distancing is necessary. All confirmations are postponed that are scheduled prior to Easter. Weddings and funerals may continue, but outside the Mass. Again the need is stressed for less than 50 people in the number. A public memorial Mass could be celebrated at a later date. Anointings of the Sick and confessions are still accommodated as requested, and the bishop has said he will send more information regarding these sacraments. (I hope to keep regular confession times).
The Critical Response of Steady Prayer:
The corona virus pandemic demands a serious and sober response. The first response to any danger must always be prayer and deeper worship of God. The peace and strength God gives our soul can only contribute enormously to our disposition to handle natural disaster; there is no substitute whatsoever for supernatural grace and Divine Love. The maternal love of the Blessed Mother, Queen of Heaven, awaits our petitions to pour out even further prayers and consolation on our behalf; always call on your Queen-mother! I take great inspiration from a recent bishop’s book on how his family survived the horrors of Soviet persecution, including even the execution of devout family members. They continued to centralize prayer, spiritual communion, and intense Sunday worship despite the Soviets. They would go many months without a priest, who would need to sneak into town celebrate Mass, and sneak away. And yet, they grew powerfully in faith.
The corona virus, just like the many pestilences we find in the Holy Bible, has wreaked havoc in places, but likewise can bring us closer to Christ because they compel us to admit our helplessness. Our desperate need for God must be admitted. Only Christ resolves the mystery of suffering through His Holy Cross. Sin brought suffering into the world, but now because of His Holy Cross, suffering becomes a means for defeating evil. How? By offering all to God for souls. By continuing to love Christ intensely amidst suffering, our ability to love others grows exceptionally. Suffering, if united with cross of Christ turns us into saints on fire for God. If we grow angry and curse, or despair, we play right into the devil’s hands.
What can we do? Family Prayer, Rosary, Adoration, great Catholic Movies, Bible discussions.
What to do while in lockdown? Push aside the TV and embrace Daily Rosary, novena prayers, litanies of the saints, Bible discussion at home, plenty of great solid Catholic content on the web. Great Catholic movies like the Song of Bernadette, or Exciting news: We had already begun to install livestreaming in the Church, and we hope to have that soon so everyone can observe Mass here at St. Theresa’s. Pray with the daily rosaries we will lead in the Church. In the meantime, EWTN offers daily Mass on television at 8am. We are also working on several technical details to bring the Perpetual Adoration to the Church; this will permit healthy social distancing as requested by the experts. St. Theresa’s huge size easily expedites spaced seating! Fasting and penance: have the whole family embrace some daily fasting to offer to God; it’s what the great ones always did in the Bible.
I implore all Religious Education families to join in our CCD group Rosary, from their homes, during the time their child has religious education class. We will lead a Rosary in the Church, while families pray at home. Livestreaming is almost finished at St. Theresa. That would be either every 5pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, or at 6pm on Tuesday or Wed. This remains a profound opportunity for the whole family to come together for most important family activity in the universe: praying to Our Lord and Our Lady. Every Rosary you say with your children will empower their love of God, and becomes the greatest jewel you bequeath your children. Again, there is no substitute for supernatural grace and Divine Love, let that be the lasting lesson and gift we give our children in this difficult time.
One last note: I cannot get to Mass so What is Spiritual Communion? St. Thomas Aquinas described it as “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the most holy sacrament and lovingly embrace him” at a time or in circumstances when we cannot receive him in sacramental Communion. Interestingly, the Catechism of the Council of Trent committed a special section to describing and encouraging spiritual communion. John Paul II recommended in Ecclesia de Eucharistia. How to do it? Reverent quiet disposition of moment, and recite this prayer of St. Alphonsus de Liguori: “My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.” St. Francis de Sales resolved to make a spiritual communion every 15 minutes each day, to unite the Eucharist to every activity.
Let’s especially invoke the many saints who dealt with horrible disease outbreaks with great courage, prayer and fasting and penance: Pope St. Gregory the Great who led penitential processions in Rome to end the plague in 590 AD; St. Francis of Assisi himself who devoutly embraced a leper, St. Catherine of Siena who tended many plague victims, St. Charles Borromeo who died tending many sick, St. Damien of Molokai who gave up everything to live among the lepers, and also St. Francisco and St. Jacinta, who died shortly after the Fatima apparitions during the horrific Spanish flu epidemic that killed tens of millions after WWI. May their prayers and holy examples enflame us with courage and love of Christ. Holy Saints of God, pray for us!
Stay tuned for continual updates. Updates will be posted to the website and announced on Social media platforms.
God love you,
Fr. Brian Gannon