* Moving Back to More Normal Safety Precautions
You might notice this weekend that we have removed the ropes on the Lincoln-side section of pews. Because the church seating is so large in comparison to the number of people attending, there will naturally be pockets of seats available throughout the church which are not very crowded. For those who need to be cautious about their health situation, please wear masks as needed and sit in such pockets. There will no longer be a designated section blocking out every other pew.
Secondly, we are informing the Extraordinary Ministers of Communion at each Mass that it will now be their choice whether to wear a mask or not while distributing Communion. They are the ones who come into contact with multiple numbers of people as they distribute, and so they are encouraged to wear them, if they feel their health situation warrants it, but it is no longer required. Again, for those receiving Communion, it is quite all right to wear a mask at any time. We do ask all ministers of Communion to sanitize their hands as they come up to the altar in preparation for Communion.
Thirdly, what about opening up the offering of the cup at Masses? I have noticed that a number of parishes have re-instituted this practice, and I believe we should re-open that possibility for St. Regis. The offering of the cup, though not essential, is one of the ways the Church, guided by the Second Vatican Council, recognized how narrow the active participation of all the faithful had become in the centuries following the Counter-Reformation. It would be a shame to once again lose this practice. So, after a lot of discussion and consideration, we will begin offering the cup at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper and then at all Sunday 10 a.m. Masses thereafter. This will give us a chance to see how many people will want to participate in Communion under both forms. One reason we are starting with just one Mass a weekend is the number of active ministers of Communion. At many Masses we do not have enough to re-institute this practice easily, so we will start slowly and build from there. Mary Von Koss is in the process of creating a video guideline for all the Communion ministers, reminding them of the proper way to offer the cup, letting it go completely, wiping the rim, using a different portion of the purificator for each wipe, and what to do at the end. We will send the link, when available, to all Communion ministers.
* Blessing of Health Care and Medical Workers
Here is the blessing we used at all Masses, this Fourth Sunday of Lent, “Rose Sunday,” which has become connected to praying for people who are in the health care and medical fields.
Father, Creator and Giver of All Life,
We know that you desire the human family to flourish and to be whole—mind, body, and soul. We cannot do that without the aid of the many men and women who have said “yes” to the vocations of health care, medicine, hospital work, nursing and senior care, home health aides, emergency techs, assistants in medical labs and offices, counselors, social workers, medical researchers, pharmacists, hospice care, hospital chaplains, and all the many people who make our health a priority. We thank you for these men and women and ask that you bless them this day.
Keep them in good health even as they focus on our health. Give them a deep and profound sense of being instruments, true gifts, of your divine and healing love. In the midst of their daily challenges, give them the wisdom they need to bring healing to others, the ability to persevere in the face of adversity, and the grace to focus on the human dignity of all the people they serve. Make them an example of care, who inspire others to pursue a vocation in the health care field.
We ask this blessing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
* Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A
Today we encounter the second of three powerful scenes from the Gospel of John, which are used for the three “Scrutiny Sundays,” leading up to Palm (Passion) Sunday. Last week, we saw Jesus, through his encounter with the Samaritan woman, elicit from her a desire to know and be transformed by her faith in him as the Messiah. This allowed her to see deeper than the physical water of the well and recognize the living water that Jesus was offering her: “I am he.” Today’s Gospel does something similar. It is focused less on the encounter between the man born blind and Jesus and more on the encounter between that man—now healed and able to see—and some of the authorities. In the end, though, the man is confronted by Jesus who asks whether the man believes in “the Son of Man.” The man asks who that is and Jesus says, “I am he.”
Earlier, Jesus had said to the disciples, “I am the light of the world.” Yet another “I am” passage, which very directly would be understood as saying that when one encounters Jesus, the Word made flesh, one (continued on page 4)encounters the living God, YHWH (the Hebrew sacred name for God). And when one encounters the living God, we thirst no longer for those things which cannot truly satisfy us, but for faith in the Lord (woman at the well). We see no longer with eyes blinded by our sinfulness or preoccupations (like the religious authorities questioning the man born blind), but we see as Jesus sees, and like the man born blind, that changes everything we do and everything we are.
* South Oakland Shelter
For many years St. Regis has taken on the responsibility of housing and caring for a group of people who are homeless, and who are sponsored through the South Oakland Shelter program. We have hosted a week in June, providing housing, food, laundry, transportation and other support. During the pandemic S.O.S. had to shift to an “in place” care for the homeless, with very little contact from outside groups, and so with very little ability for volunteers to help in the previous ways. In essence, they asked us to provide the financial equivalent of what it cost them to house the group for a week. Moving forward, South Oakland Shelter has found the “in place” model to be the one that serves the clients the best. Churches, synagogues, and other religious groups will be able to take on a few volunteer tasks in a specific week—for example, preparing lunches or hosting some evening entertainment, but mostly the groups will help through raising the funds necessary to care for the clients at the shelter for a given week. St. Regis has committed to sponsoring the shelter for the week of June 11-18 with the help of the other members of the West Maple Family of Parishes (St. Owen, Holy Name, and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs). I want to thank those who have already contributed a portion of the money needed via a Lenten Acts of Charity tag. Some of you who have supported S.O.S. over the past three years will also be getting a personal invite this week or next from the St. Regis S.O.S. Committee to help again this year. We are hoping to raise several thousand dollars by the end of March, so that the funding can be in place ahead of time. Then, the S.O.S. Committee can focus on getting any volunteers who will be needed to visit and help at the shelter that week in June. Thank you.
* Talk on Catholic Social Teaching and Lent
I have been asked to give a talk on connecting Catholic Social Teaching and Lenten spirituality this week at a parish in the Saginaw diocese. As usual, if I am going to take time to do that elsewhere, I believe I should share some of it with you as well. At the end of the talk, I will suggest four ways to embrace a spirituality rooted in Catholic Social Teaching.
1) Consciously and intentionally work at respecting the dignity of every human person in every setting. This is not easy. Watch our language; our epithets; our criticizing negativity; our tendency to lump people into broad categories. Even the person with an ideology that one finds abhorrent, still has a basic human dignity.
2) Think through choices from the perspective of the common good and not just individual, family, local or immediate good. The common good is the sum total of conditions—social, economic, political—that allows the human dignity of every person in my group, community or world to flourish. Always ask: how does this decision affect not just my good, but the good of others? Those who have been harmed or marginalized by the current situation, especially those who are poor, who are vulnerable, who are young?
3) Respect finitude. By that I mean we need to accept the fact that we live in the world as it is, limited, incomplete, imperfect. We do not become discouraged because everything is not exactly as we would wish. This leads us to do something rather than nothing, but not fall into the temptation of thinking we are falling short because we cannot do everything. Instead, name and change one thing about how you live, eat, drink, and pray. Not everything, but do something.
4) Finally, embrace a renewed and appropriate asceticism. Delving into Catholic Social Teaching makes one more aware of the reality that we are all in this together; we are interconnected. Pope Francis reminds us, we have a responsibility for the care of all creation and for the care of every human community. Our ability to nearly instantaneously get any information we want, watch whatever we want, eat whatever we want, and at times do whatever we want is unhealthy and leads to a spiritual lethargy. Want to become spiritually sharper, more in tune with the rhythm of God’s Spirit in this world? Think in terms of simplifying one’s lifestyle, of sacrificing a portion of one’s comfort for the good of others. We do not need to go back to hair shirts or focus only on disciplining our bodies. We all have things and ways of acting to which we are too attached that would be good to fast from on a regular basis.