Dear Friends in Christ:
TODAY we celebrate PALM SUNDAY albeit a little different than perhaps we had planned. It will not be the normal but we CAN be together! That, in and of itself, provides some sense of normalcy in a year that has been anything but normal. We continue with the masking and the social distancing but being able to be together to celebrate this most holy of weeks is a true gift, especially since we were not able to be together in church this time last year. Please note that today from 10AM until 12Noon parishioners will be outside the South Entrance to distribute Palms to our Virtual Parishioners. Simply drive into the church lot and around the building, and receive your palm staying in your car and be on your way!
TODAY our celebration reminds us that we cannot get to Easter but by the way of Our Lord’s Passion and Cross. This is the week in which we remember and celebrate the foundations of our faith. These are the days of God’s grace and the days in which we are strengthened by the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This week’s liturgies bring out into the open our hope of resurrection, our entrance into Heaven, which, as Christ so clearly revealed, depends not only on His dying and rising, but also on us taking up our own individual crosses and following Him.
These are the days, above any other day of the year, when we are reminded that:
· if there is no cross, then there is no conquering death;
· if there is no suffering, then there is no rejoicing;
· if there is no faithful following in His path, then there is no spending eternity with Him!
Perhaps more than ever we can appreciate these statements. Perhaps the suffering of this past year has opened our hearts and our minds a little bit more to see the fruits that come from our sharing in the passion of Christ.
This is Holy Week when shouts of triumph and joy as we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem quickly change to shouts of “Crucify him.”
We move today into the most solemn week, Holy Week, and prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. We begin this week’s long journey with Christ, aware that each of us was in His mind and heart as He endured His suffering to be the sacrifice that takes away our sins. Through His wounds we are healed. Through His resurrection each of us has the hope and promise of sharing in that new life of the resurrection. The renewal of our Baptismal Promises on Easter Sunday will remind us of our hope of forgiveness and our hope in the resurrection!
We have many choices in life. The most important of these is our decision to accept Jesus Christ. But accepting the Lord means being united to him both in his glory AND in his passion. Accepting the Lord means being united to him in the joyful times of our lives AND through the challenges of our lives such as this pandemic we are in the midst of this very moment. Come! Follow Jesus! May this truly be a holy week for you and your families, and for our parish family as well.
As we approach the holiest week of the year for us as Christians, we look forward to the Paschal Celebrations of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. But how will these take place this year, and what will be different due to precautions being taken in consideration of the coronavirus pandemic?
First, I want to express how humbled and grateful to God I am that we are even able to gather for these celebrations this year. That we can come together, even with some modifications, is much better than where we were last year.
Yes there will be some differences from our pre-pandemic liturgies of holy week. As you are already aware, we will not be able to gather in large numbers as we have in the past for the Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Despite the loosening of some restrictions last week, we must still maintain proper social distancing which means we continue with the capacity of 200 for this week and on Easter Sunday we move to a capacity of 250 which we truly believe we can accommodate while still respecting the need for social distancing.
Everyone wishing to attend the Triduum and Easter celebrations must make a reservation online in advance on our website www.stbridgetcheshire.org. We likely will not be able to accommodate walk-ins, so please be sure to sign-up early! The Masses have all been added to the registration for Masses link on our website. We will also be opening our Saint Thomas Becket Church for Easter Sunday Masses only! This will allow us to accommodate 100 people in the Church for those two Masses and an additional 30 people in the Father Frisbie Hall. I thank you in advance for your understanding with this.
Some liturgical changes will have to take place too due to the restrictions. On Holy Thursday, we will not be able to celebrate the foot washing ceremony as part of the Mass, and there will be no altar of repose or Eucharistic procession.
On Good Friday, we will have the veneration of the cross, but without touching it or kissing it. We will provide the opportunity for those who wish to venerate the cross to approach as we do during communion in a single file, remaining properly distanced while in line, and then venerating the cross with a profound bow or genuflection.
The Easter Vigil, again to avoid the crowding that can occur with a procession, will begin with everyone seated in church and no outdoor fire or lighting of individual candles during the Service of Light. But we WILL be able to celebrate the Sacraments for those in our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program so it will still be a beautiful, moving, and meaningful service!
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday 10:30AM Mass will all be livestreamed for those still not comfortable attending in person.
SOMETHING NEW! Worth a try! One additional feature of the 10:30AM Mass this year will be the opportunity to join us from your car with the use of your car radio. Tune to station 89.5FM and join us for the celebration of Mass and then, at the time of Holy Communion, two Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion will come outside behind the Church building. Simply leave your car, and approach the Extraordinary Ministers to receive Holy Communion. Please maintain social distancing as you make your way to receive Holy Communion and please keep your mask on! Finally, please be sure to consume the consecrated hosts while near the Extraordinary Ministers. Do not carry the Lord back to your car with you!
Again, I thank you in advance for your cooperation with these procedures. And as we have been doing already, we will refrain from congregational and choir singing until it is determined it is safe to resume, and everyone in attendance is expected to wear a mask. With these necessary concessions, we will be able to celebrate these special liturgies this year in person, contemplating the Lord’s passion and death, and rejoicing together in his resurrection on Easter Sunday!
Another important message of the liturgies this week is our call to proclaim the message of Easter, He is not here, for He has been raised just as He said. This is a message of Hope for the world. This is a message that must be shared! And shared NOW!
THIS is our role in the Hope and Joy of Easter! We are not simply to walk this week with Jesus through His passion, death, and resurrection, nor are we simply to just celebrate these great mysteries of our faith, but we are called to be moved by them, to be motivated, to be empowered to then go out and find ways to proclaim this Good News to all the world.
We are called to find ways to proclaim that Jesus is NOT found among the dead, nor in an empty tomb! No, Jesus is alive: He is living, He has been raised from the dead, He is among you!
He is everywhere His people are, you will find Him where hope fights despair, where love battles injustice, where compassion dries the tears of the suffering.
Jesus is here in our parish family. He is in each of our parishioners who desire to spread His light in the darkness of our world, who desire to be instruments of His love and mercy in the lives of those around them. He is present in each of us who desire to share in the glory of the Resurrection!
Come and join us this Holy Week! Come join us in person or via Livestream!
FINALLY, PLEASE BE SURE TO PRAY! Utilize this time, as individuals and as families, to pray for an end to the spreading of Coronavirus. We will get through this together! Please keep in your prayers those caring for others throughout this pandemic especially healthcare providers, nurses, doctors, firefighters, police personnel, and EMT’s that the Lord will bless them, protect them from harm, and keep them healthy!
Lastly, a word of gratitude to the Knights of Columbus Santa Fe Council 2978 for helping to organize our Confession and Communion afternoon last Sunday. God gave us a beautiful day to celebrate this opportunity, and their assistance made it a very stress-free and smooth experience for all. We are so grateful to the Knights for their willingness to serve our parish in so many ways, such as this, throughout this time of pandemic.
As always, please remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here.Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and Blessed Father Michael J. McGivney, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world.Have a Blessed Holy Week!