March 16, 2020
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
These are, indeed, strange times in which we find ourselves! Our patience, understanding, collaboration and good common sense are being pushed to the limits unlike any other time in our history. My heart goes out to you, our diocese, our country and our world in the grip of this Coronavirus pandemic. Our faith awareness should prevail in keeping all of us from a mindless state of panic regarding everyday living in the “new normal” in this temporary period of social distancing, self-isolation and lockdowns. To that end, pastors of souls are being asked to communicate regularly and carefully, in sharing the “why” to so many questions, concerns and objectives being put into place in society in general, our communities, and yes, even our places of worship. The common denominator in all these unusual and temporary practices, suspensions and postponements is the health, wellness and protection of ALL in society. Our medical professionals are telling us we simply do not know the extent of suffering the COVID-19 will cause but we have the moral obligation to do our part in limiting the spread by best practices recommended.
The Church Universal is leading us in being a good example to the world and thereby promoting life and health. Social awareness, especially in appreciating the necessary precautions put into place by medical and government officials is now evidenced around the globe. The suspension of public cultic celebrations is unprecedented for us in modern times! I hope to shed some light on an appropriate understanding of measures being implemented. First off, such directives are NOT punitive in nature. (All of us realize this is a painful exercise we are asked to endure in order to secure life and wellness for those around us.) Our Catholic faith reminds us the grace that God bestows on us as a Church, a parish, a family and as individuals does NOT cease. In fact, His grace is not even diminished in these “new normal” times! The Eucharist is still offered daily and the entire world reaps the benefits! God’s grace is still being communicated to us through the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, even though we cannot actively participate in a public celebration due to precautionary measures asked of us. In this time of a “fast” from actively receiving the Eucharist, we are all called to make “Spiritual Communion”. (I hope to share more on this topic in later communications.)
As I understand it, the other Sacraments, too, that are regularly celebrated by all now have health directives attached but sacramental and pastoral care to the dying remains absolutely intact. The celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (Confession) can still take place, though precautionary measures are now
stipulated. No scheduled times for Confessions are being kept in this temporary suspension mode but appointments can still be made and arrangements will be taken to accommodate. Holy Communion to the homebound, hospitalized and to those in other healthcare institutions is being temporarily suspended and limited only to emergency circumstances and to the dying. The rationale is to limit the spread of Coronavirus. Our elderly and homebound are already at risk due to the advancement of their years and their compromised health. All of us need to do our part to keep them out of harm’s way. This is why we should be checking on our elderly relatives and neighbors by phone calls but limiting their exposure in person to person contact in the hope of keeping them safe.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us the family (a household) remains the most basic expression of the Church, in fact, the family is called the ecclesia domestica / the domestic Church. Now is the time to join in prayer and unite our minds and hearts with one another and with those around the globe. More prayer, not less prayer, by all our families is needed at this time! The Church as the household of God unites all our prayers as one in the Eucharist that remains life-giving and life-sustaining for all of us. We are a Church made by the Eucharist even in these times of temporary suspension of public celebrations!
This temporary and highly inconvenient way of living is demanded of all of us for the health and wellness of everyone. These sanctions are not coming from a changed understanding of the faith, rather they are measures that promote life and wellness for everyone.
I will make a point of sharing with you my humble thoughts by writing a couple times each week and I pray my words will bring you consolation, steadfastness, and peace. In the meantime, please know you are remembered daily in the Mass I offer. May God bless us in this time of unknowing, calm our fears, and keep us safe and healthy!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Msgr. Anthony Cincinnati