My Dear Friends:
Last week I wrote my bulletin column two days before Ash Wednesday. Nothing could have prepared my brother priests and I for the overwhelming number of people that attended Mass that day. Almost every Mass was full to capacity, and the 5:30pm Spanish Mass looked like Easter Sunday Mass. Yes, after two years of COVID restrictions, we are thankful that the Archbishop lifted the ones that apply to the faithful before Lent started so we can begin welcoming our entire community back home. As I mentioned last week, this will take some time to get used to again, but after two years of socially distant seating, we need to start working towards and start getting used to people sitting next to us, in front of us, and behind us. I said this long ago when COVID began: the sacraments, the Mass, and our Catholic faith were not made for social distance. We must re-engage each other. Last weekend, we began giving the Sign of Peace again. Now I understand if some of you may be a bit reticent to shake hands. That’s fine. No one is forcing you to. Just acknowledge your brother or sister near you with a simple head nod or bow. We must do everything we can to reestablish the unity of community that has been missing during this pandemic. It takes all of us. I constantly repeat this mantra: we do not come to Mass by ourselves. We gather as a Body of Christ, and we need to discard the socially distant mentality of the last two years that made us grow apart, and start embracing and engaging the people that sit around us. Again, this will take getting used to, but as I said last week at Mass: we have all of Lent to prepare our church for a packed house on Easter Sunday when we welcome back so many of brothers and sisters who have been away.
Part of the easing of the restrictions was the permission to bring back the Presentation of the Gifts. This weekend, the gifts will be brought up at all Masses (except 7:30am), and we will begin the Children’s Collection once again at the 9:00am, 10:30am, and 12:30pm Masses. Last week we tried it out at the 10:30am Mass, and it was so uplifting to see the children approaching the altar again to bring their offering. A beautiful Little Flower tradition that was sorely missed. Also, since we have no need to social distance anymore, we are restoring the Holy Communion lines to the middle aisle again. There will be two ministers in the middle aisle in front of the sanctuary and two ministers in the middle aisle by the baptistry. At larger Masses, ministers will continue to go up the balcony. A minister will also continue to be positioned in the aisle by the altar of the Blessed Mother. In short, you can flow into the middle for Holy Communion again, only I ask you to please wait until the ushers instruct your row to go up for Communion.
Finally, in some non-COVID related news, but news that we can deliver as we look past the pandemic: we are planning our first pilgrimage as a parish to the sanctuary in Lourdes, France this June! Father Omar will be leading a pilgrimage from June 24th – July 4th. There will be an informational meeting with the tour company and Father Omar this coming Tuesday, March 15 at 7:00pm in Comber Hall. This is more than a pilgrimage. It is a mission of mercy, as all pilgrims will be serving the sick who flock to Lourdes for healing. For those who cannot go in the summer, there will be another pilgrimage led by this company from September 17th – 27th. God willing, more information for other pilgrimages for 2023 will be published later this summer. So, there’s a lot to be thankful for this Sunday as we gaze up at the Transfigured Christ. May He bring peace to our world, bring a definitive end to the pandemic, and continue to unite us as his Mystical Body.
God bless you all,