We are living in unprecedented times where we are being told to isolate ourselves from other people and discouraged from having any social contact. The schools are also closing for an unspecified period. These measures are important to help contain the spread of the Coronavirus as it is possible to have the virus for several days without knowing it, and so if we are going out and about as normal, we could unwittingly infect others. Hence the need to only have necessary contact. In the parish we are seeking to ensure that the vulnerable and needy are being looked after. I know some of you are doing shopping and collecting medication for others. The Social Action Group are also seeking to help the needy.
Regarding public worship at St Mary’s, due to the extraordinary nature of the times we have to take extraordinary measures. So the situation is as follows:
1 Sunday and Daily Mass
The Bishops of England and Wales have decreed that from this Friday evening 20th March, there will be no public Masses until further notice. Therefore, for the time being, everyone is dispensed from the obligation of attending Mass on Sundays and Holydays of Obligation, but you should observe the Lord’s Day at home in other ways. The priests will continue to offer daily Mass in private, so if you have any intentions for Mass, please let us know in the normal way by putting an envelope through the door of the house. The church, in so far as is possible, will remain open throughout the day for private prayer and Eucharistic Adoration. It is also possible to watch Mass on TV or the internet. See the parish website for details.
Confessions will continue as normal at the scheduled times and on request. ALL confessions will be in the Confessional with the curtain kept drawn.
3 Anointing of the Sick and Extreme Unction
This Sacrament will be available on request.
4 First Holy Communion and Confirmation
These are postponed for the time being until public worship has been resumed and it is safe for people to congregate together again.
Since the public celebration of Mass is not possible for the time being, please do pray at home, and I would recommend making a Spiritual Communion which I wrote about in last week’s newsletter. I also strongly encourage you to say the Rosary which Our Lady always requests at her many apparitions throughout the world and beg God to end this epidemic. The Rosary is a very powerful prayer. The Readings and Prayers for Sunday Mass will be posted each week on the parish website for you to read through and meditate on.
Holy Water is a powerful sacramental of the Church. You can sprinkle it in your homes and bless yourselves with it. As you know we’ve had to remove it from the stoups, but you may still take some home with you. Bring a bottle and fill it up from the urn by the statue of St Padre Pio on the right hand aisle of the church. Consider some of the words of the prayers of blessing of Holy Water:
May this, your creature [water], become an agent of divine grace in the service of your mysteries, to drive away evil spirits and dispel sickness, so that everything in the homes and other buildings of the faithful that is sprinkled with this water, may be rid of all uncleanness and freed from every harm. Let no breath of infection and no disease-bearing air remain in these places.
And it continues: Let whatever might menace the safety and peace of those who live here be put to flight by the sprinkling of this water, so that the health obtained by calling upon your holy name, may be made secure against all attack.
At present we are awaiting more information from the Bishops on Holy Week and I will let you know as soon as I hear anything. Please keep an eye on the parish website. No doubt many of you are anxious. This crisis will come to an end and normal services will eventually resume at St Mary’s. In the meantime, pray and try not to panic. On this Solemnity of St Joseph, the Guardian of the Holy Family, let us ask him, together with Our Lord and Our Lady, to protect us and keep us safe just as he did the Holy Family.
May God bless you all.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC
Solemnity of St Joseph, 2020