I have had the opportunity to reflect on comments I have received from you over the past few weeks on a range of topics. I would like to share some of my thoughts with all of you.
Let me begin by saying how seriously we here at Holy Family are dedicated to being Pro-Life. This means many things, but recently it has focused on caring for the precious gift of life that God has given each of us in the midst of a serious pandemic virus that is showing a resurgence in some areas of our country. I am not a doctor, but it appears painfully obvious that this resurgence is because many are not practicing three simple disciplines: washing hands frequently, keeping social distance from one another, and wearing face masks.
In order to comply with State and Archdiocesan directives we are restricted significantly in the celebration of the Eucharist. Believe me, I share your belief in the power of the Eucharist and its sanctity. The Eucharist is THE most important thing in my life. It is the reason I am Christian and the reason I am a priest. I bear great responsibility for how the Eucharist is celebrated here at Holy Family.
One concern that has been addressed is the number of Masses that we are offering. Having one on Saturday and one on Sunday is a direct result of the number of trained volunteers that we have to ensure that our gatherings are safe and clean and protective of ALL. You may not be aware of the number of volunteers that it takes to do so, but there are many.
You may also not be aware that volunteers are needed for Adoration twice a week, Reconciliation, Baptisms, Weddings and the growing number of Funerals. The demand for Memorial Masses for people who passed away over the past three months and were not able to have a funeral is adding to the regular amount of funerals that we host. This past week alone we had four funerals, two weddings and three baptisms.
ALL of these gatherings require trained volunteers to ensure safety and, quite frankly, the number of current volunteers are growing weary with the demand of these events.
Our Re-Opening Team is very dedicated, but the work required is substantial. We will offer more Masses when we have enough trained volunteers to safely conduct them. If you would be interested in volunteering to help, please contact Sue Geegan at Sgeegan@holyfamilyparish.org or 847-907-3443.
I cannot speak for the readiness of other parishes and the number of Masses they offer. I only hope they are doing so while also complying strictly with current health directives. Consequently, we also must limit the number of registrations for Mass to be fair in giving ALL an opportunity to celebrate and not simply those who sign up first.
Another concern I have heard is regarding the actual reception of Communion, a concern I share as well. I only hope that medical science will offer a vaccine or other initiatives to abate this horrible virus, but for now we have unprecedented restrictions for some of our most sacred rituals – the Eucharist being first and foremost. Because it is such an intimate experience, so tctile and personal, extra care must be taken in its distribution and reception.
If I may offer a couple of additional insights, take them for what they are worth to you. First, all of these restrictions have actually deepened my appreciation for how sacred the Eucharist is. It reaffirms the primary belief that Christ is present in it in a REAL way. Can I invite you to do some of your own reflection on how the sacredness of Christ’s REAL presence continues, despite such restrictions?
Secondly, when we first started offering live Mass, as I prayed during it and presided, I felt like the dog was all of the regulations and the tail was the Eucharist, if you understand my analogy. The first overtook the second. So I simply offer this suggestion to you. We all are asked to pray and reflect in a different way because of unprecedented restrictions. None of these restrictions should interfere with the heart of our belief in Christ’s REAL presence in the Eucharist. Gradually I have been challenged to pray in a different way. Perhaps your ritual of reflection after receiving Communion can be altered.
As you may imagine, brides and grooms are particularly disappointed in the restrictions that are placed on their wedding Masses. I have been heartened by almost all of them understanding that NO ONE is celebrating the Eucharist right now like we used to. Let’s find new ways to experience its sacredness.
I hope some of the above clarifies some of your concerns. If you have additional concerns, please address them to me, Gene Garcia or Dennis Brown.