This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, the last day of the Easter Season. Pentecost is the third most solemn feast on our calendar, after Easter Sunday and Christmas. There is a tradition that Pentecost Sunday is the “birthday” of the church, as the apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, moved beyond their fear to proclaim the Gospel (“good news”) of Jesus’ triumph over death, God reconciliation with humanity and God’s great mercy and forgiveness. Please God, by our lives as Catholic Christians, we continue this proclamation of God’s love, in all of its manifestations. If you stop and consider this deeply, there is no more important “news” than this.
I misunderstood a part of the diocesan protocols concerning the reopening of our churches. That has since been clarified. There is not to be any congregational singing. Because the virus is transmitted through drops of vapor that we are always exhaling… and because this is even more the case when we project our voices, as when singing, we will not be having any congregational singing. We will have instrumental music and music, sung by a cantor, both with masks and observing social distancing.
Last Sunday we resumed public Sunday Masses here at Saint Agnes. Overall things went fairly smoothly with the restricted seating in the pews, spacing in the aisles and the new configuration of lines for Communion. People were very helpful in putting the kneelers down where they were sitting when they left, so our volunteers knew where to sanitize. Speaking of which, our volunteers did a great job sanitizing pews, door handles and the rest room. It all took place in about fifteen minutes after each Mass. Thank you to everyone for being conscientious about this. A reminder that you can volunteer to help sanitize the church by signing up at: https://bit.ly/MassCleanup
It appears, roughly, that about half to two-thirds of the people attending Mass wore masks. I would like to encourage everyone to wear them, both for the sake of their own health, but also the sake of others.
When everyone wears a mask, there are then two barriers between persons’ respiratory systems and this lessens the chance of any virus spreading. I’ve noticed when wearing my mask how much my glasses steam up. While distracting at times, this steaming up is a good reminder to me about why wearing a mask is important. The steaming up is caused by water droplets that I am exhaling that are condensing on the lenses of my glasses. As I project my voice to say the prayers, particularly at the altar, I breathe more deeply and exhale more forcefully, and more water droplets are exhaled also. Because I am having to project my voice and because the air in the church is not still, those droplets could end up traveling quite a distance toward the congregation, not to mention descending upon the patten of hosts right in front of me. Those are the same water droplets that could contain the virus and be inhaled by others. When exhaled by someone infected with the virus, each of those droplets contains many units of the virus. So while the mask is not a perfect barrier, it does catch many of those droplets, and/or reduces their trajectory so they are less likely to be inhaled by others and spread the virus.
MASKS AND FAITH
There are some who have communicated that they refuse to wear a mask, saying that they “trust in God.” I’m never sure exactly what they mean… Do they trust God that in His providence they will not get the virus to begin with?.. or if they do get the virus, they will not get sick?… or if they do get the virus and get sick, they will not be killed by the virus?… or are they saying that even if it kills them they are fine with that? There are many faith-filled people who have gotten the virus, gotten ill, been hospitalized, put on ventilators and even died. I suppose one could be prepared to accept all of these possibilities equally, but I sense this is not what most people mean. Do these same people not wash their hands or not avoid people who are known to be infectious because they “trust in God” or “have faith in God”?
I don’t believe that God questions our faith when we try to avoid illnesses, particularly illness that could not only cause great suffering in ourselves, but also could be transmitted to others, causing great suffering in them… suffering that could have perhaps been prevented.
Among the reasons why I wear a mask is certainly because I want to resist the chances of me getting the virus… but also because I don’t want to be the agent that carries it to others, including and especially my mother.
So please, if you are not wearing a mask at Mass, I encourage you to please reconsider, for your own sake (we want you around) and for the sake of others.
LIVE STREAMING PROJECT
We have received several very generous donations to help fund the live-streaming project… in fact over $3,400. We estimate the total cost to be around $5,500. The equipment needed has all be ordered and much of it is in. We have begun the installation process. We have asked our website developer to do what needs to be done to make this accessible through our website. We also plan to make it available through our Facebook page. So hopefully soon, we will be able to provide live-streaming of our services. A special thank you to our generous donors!
VIDEO FROM BISHOP FOYS
For a good introduction to things as we begin to resume Masses, I encourage you to view this video from Bishop Foys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxjTeuECXnE&feature=youtu.be
SOCIAL DISTANCING AND RED TAPE: REPEAT FROM LAST WEEK
We have to maintain social distancing for our Masses. The church has been “marked” with red tape, indicating which pews should not be used. Every other pew has tape across the ends to remind people NOT to use them. The pews that are not taped on the ends may be used, however people should not sit in the area marked by the red tape that is on the pew right in front of them. This strip of tape is 6 feet long and observing this will help groups sitting at each end of the pew keep the recommended 6 feet (minimum) separation. Persons from the same households can sit together (closer than 6 feet) and so can sit across an entire pew.
We encourage persons of the same household to attend the same Mass and sit together, so as to maximize the use of the space.
SIT NEAR THE FRONT FIRST
For weekday Masses, we do ask people to fill the pews from the front. That is, to use the pews closed to the front, all the while maintaining the social distancing described above. For weekday Mass, please use only the pews in the main body of the church. This way, our volunteers can be more confident that they are wiping down the pews that were used and won’t have to wipe down all the pews in church, just to be sure.
FOR COMMUNION: A REMINDER
For the distribution of Communion in both the Main Body of Church and the Annex:
I. People should exit their pews from the side-aisle side,
II. Come forward to the front, maintain the 6 feet social distancing (observe the red tape marks on the floor),
III. Walk across the front toward the center aisle,
IV. Receive communion from the Priest or Deacon at the head of the center aisle,
V. Return to their pew down the center aisle observing distance from the person in front of you.
There will be only one minister, a priest or deacon, at the head of the aisle. He will alternate from side to side those he is giving Communion to, so as to allow for spacing as people return to their pews down the middle aisles.
THIS SUNDAY: PENTECOST
There is a set of readings for the “Vigil Mass of Pentecost” with various choices for the first reading. The story of the “Tower of Babel” (Genesis 11:1-9) is the usual choice for the first reading at the Vigil Mass. The Second Reading is always Romans 8:22-27, in which Paul reflects on the “groanings” of all Creation and the groanings of those who “have the first fruits of the Spirit.” He then speaks of the role of the Spirit who “intercedes with inexpressible groanings” and who “intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” The Gospel reading for the Vigil Mass is always John 7:37-39. In this reading Jesus speaks of the Spirit “that those who came to believe in him were to receive.”
For “Pentecost Sunday, Mass during the Day,” there are readings assigned (with some options for the second reading and Gospel) for each Liturgical Year (A, B, or C). Regardless of which Liturgical Year, the First Reading is always Act of the Apostles 2:1-11.
Gospel Reading: (John 20:19-23) This passage is the so-called “Johannine Pentecost” and it describes Jesus as appearing to the disciples on the evening of the day of his resurrection. During this visitation he “breathes” on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” Here, it seems that the Spirit is given for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ claim to have the power to forgive sins is part of what led to His persecution by the religious authorities. Here Jesus is extending this controversial power to his disciples and the Church. Elsewhere in John (chapter 14) Jesus describes an “Advocate” (the Greek word is “Paraclete”) who is the Holy Spirit who will be sent by the Father and who will “teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
First Reading: (Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11) This passage is the story of Pentecost that we are most familiar with. The disciples are “all in one place together.” There is a tradition that holds that it was the same room where they had celebrated the Last Supper with Jesus. Suddenly there is a noise like a “strong, driving wind.” (Reminiscent of the breath of God that blew over the abyss at Creation (Genesis 1:1-2). Then there appear “tongues as of fire” which “parted and came to rest on each one of them.” They are all “filled with the Holy Spirit” and then proceed to proclaim ”the mighty acts of God.” In the Acts of the Apostles this happens 50 days after the Resurrection.
Second Reading: (I Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13) In this reading Paul addresses the divisions in the Christian community at Corinth by reminding them that “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” He goes on to stress that while there are many spiritual gifts, there is only one Spirit who gives them. He uses the human body as an analogy: it has many different parts, and all parts are important and necessary, but they all serve the one body.
CATHOLIC TRADITIONS: Pentecost
The Greek word for Pentecost (Pentekoste) means “fiftieth,” and in early Christianity it referred to the entire Fifty Days of Easter. The roots of Pentecost can be found in the Jewish festival of Weeks (Shavu’ot), the fifty-day celebration following Passover (Exodus 23:16). In the Jewish tradition, the number “seven” was a perfect number, so “seven times seven” or a “week of weeks” would only underline the solemnity of the commemoration. It was a harvest festival in which the first fruits of the harvest were offered to God in gratitude. It eventually became associated with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Early Christians reinterpreted the Jewish festival as a commemoration of the coming of the Holy Spirit, (who precedes and is the successor to The Law in Christian Tradition) to the early Christian Community, since Acts records that the Holy Spirit came to the disciples when the festival of Pentecost was fulfilled (Acts 2:1-11).
The Feast of Pentecost is the third most solemn feast in the Liturgical Year (behind Easter and Christmas). The Easter Candle, which was first lit at our Easter Vigil this year, has been lit during all the Liturgies of Easter Season. After today, it will only be lit at Baptisms and during funerals.
HELP COMMUNICATE: FOR THOSE WHO DON’T USE COMPUTERS OR EMAILS
There are a number of parishioners for whom we do not have an email address. If you are aware of them, (or if you are who is happening to read this) please encourage them to call the parish office and give us their email address so they can receive timely communications regarding their parish. At the very least, please forward parish communications/emails to them.
For some parish households, we do not have an email address because they do not have one and do not use email. If you are aware of someone like this, please print them off a hard copy and give it to them so they can be informed.
SEE YOU IN CHURCH!
And hopefully soon. Let us continue to pray for each other and all in need.
God bless you,
Father Mark Keene, Pastor