My dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
I am pleased to be able to connect with you following this past weekend of Sunday mass and building closure. I missed you and your encouraging presence. These past few days, our Chief Shepherd, Bishop Fabbro, in consultation with his senior advisors and with local health authorities, has issued very challenging directives for us to follow up until April 30, if not beyond. We will not be able to gather for Sunday celebrations, including the great feast of Easter. We will not be able to gather for weddings, funerals, baptisms and for all of the many processes that have enriched our lives so much. They include, Alpha, Bible studies, Connect groups, prayer groups, social events, devotional prayer, faith formation, disciple-making processes, and just the simple pleasure of greeting one another as friends in the Lord. We are even locked out of senior residences and nursing homes, the people we have grown to love and to support. These are terrible losses for all of us.
It is reported that Pope Francis this past Sunday, as he was walking through the deserted streets of Rome, prayed this, “I asked the Lord to stop the epidemic… Lord, stop it with your hand.” And while he invited us to pray this prayer with him, he also encouraged the world, now in lockdown and isolated, “not to waste these difficult days, instead ‘rediscover’ the importance of small, concrete gestures expressing closeness to us, a caress for our grandparents, a kiss for our children, for the people we love.” All of this is challenging indeed. And as followers of the God, Jesus, who overcame death and offers us abundant life right where we are, we know that even during these times of self-isolation, the Lord of Life walks with us, and is within us! We do not have to despair or give in to the cloud of anxiety which swirls around us, encouraged on by each piece of bad news and forecasts of doom that we hear.
This is truly a time for us to trust in the Lord’s promise to always be with us, especially as we hear in the words of the 23rd Psalm, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me (vs.4)”. The Lord does not promise to remove us from the ‘darkest valley’ but he does assure us that he will be right there next to us in that place, on our journey. The Spirit of God dwells in us. Count on his inspiration and consolation and courage in the days and weeks to come.
I am pleased to share with you that the staff of Holy Family Parish will be working full time to serve you, whether in the parish office (now closed to the public) or at home in self-isolation. We will soon be offering mass online to our parishioners, so that we can be present to one another in the Eucharist. I invite you to consider joining your hearts with us at mass united in a ‘spiritual Communion’, a communion of prayer in which hearts are bound together intimately by Christ, who unites us all. Here is the prayer that St. Alphonsus Liguori prayed in such situations: “My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire you with all my heart. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were already in my heart and unite myself to you completely. Please do not let me be ever separated from you. Amen.”
Beginning next week, we will be offering ministry and support online. Please stay tuned as we open up our hearts to each other more than through electronic means. Our common prayer in spirit will carry us through this COVID-19 desert of isolation and pain, to the dawning of new life in abundance when we will once again join together at the Eucharistic Table of the Lord, face to face, heart to heart.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Fr. Bob Remark,