Celebrating Together

Dear Parish Family….

What a joy it was to get to celebrate Mass together last week!

Several people told me some version of:

“I really do like having the chance to watch Mass on the livestream, but being here proved to me that there is NOTHING like being together in person.

And my experience was the same – celebrating Mass with a church full of people is so much better than presiding alone in front of a camera! Having the Body of Christ with the Body of Christ present – there truly is nothing like it.

Having our first weekend under our belt is also a big relief because we worried about making sure that we had planned enough, thought through enough “what ifs,” were prepared enough for the unexpected. I am happy to say that it turns out that we were. One parishioner told me that she had decided ahead of time not to receive communion as a precaution, but when she saw how safe she felt, she changed her mind and received, and felt a huge infusion of grace when she did. I love hearing stories like that.

Our attendance was not very big. We had 36 people present at the 4:30 Mass at St. Mary’s on Saturday. And we had 46 in the pews at St. Patrick’s on Sunday. With social distancing, we’re able to fit between 60-70 into the churches for Mass, so we have some room to grow. Other parishes I’ve spoken with in other parts of our area and of the diocese have reported similar attendance in proportion to their seating capacity, but we honestly expected to be different because we called parishioners at home and made our invitation to families with last names A-C
accordingly. I’m not sure what changed things between the calls and Masses, but it’s true that the news about the virus has worsened in the last two weeks in states like Florida, Arizona and Texas, which reopened before we did. That may have caused people to want to redouble their efforts to stay safe and practice an abundance of caution.

It’s for reasons just like this that the bishops have suspended the obligation to attend Mass during this pandemic. Some people have been surprised by this decision, but if you think about it, we shouldn’t be. This policy totally fits with the “Consistent Ethic of Life” teachings that our church is famous for – that human life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death, or as many like to sum up, “from the womb to the tomb.”

The reason the Church has temporarily suspended the Mass obligation is for the same reason the Church teaches about the moral danger of abortion, unnatural family planning, euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Church always speaks in protection of life, because as the Haitian proverb says, “Life is God’s best gift. Everything else is gravy.” Because this virus has infected 10.5 million worldwide and killed 512,000, a quarter of whom are American, the Church’s decision again demonstrates a consistent value of life being paramount.

I saw this joke recently and I think it makes the point better than I ever could:

People keep asking, “Is this all that serious?”
Listen y’all. The casinos and the churches are both closed.
When heaven and hell agree on the same thing, it’s probably pretty serious. 🙂

This weekend we’re inviting families whose last names begin with letters D-L… and unless we get overwhelmed by the numbers, next week we’ll invite letters M-Z. We’ll keep looking closely at all the data and work to make the best and most reasonable decisions to make it as simple and safe for everyone who feels comfortable to attend Mass able to do so as often as possible. Perhaps the alphabet guideline will soon be a thing of the past. Masks, however… pesky as they are… are here to stay for now. We promise to keep following the guidance of the Diocese
and the State Department of Health and to keep you updated.

As a sign that there is reason for us who live in New York to be optimistic about our progress in flattening the curve, our volunteer mask makers have decided to suspend their efforts for now. It seems that everyone who needs a mask now has one and many have a selection of masks that even allow them to coordinate their mask with their outfit for a “killer look.” Good for you all!

We thank Maria Mintz at St. Mary’s and Diane Hoffman at St. Patrick’s for coordinating the mask making efforts. Along with the team of sewers they led, our parishes made literally THOUSANDS OF MASKS in three months and supplied even small businesses and veterans groups with homemade PPE. Talk about the Church finding practical ways to protect life during a critical time! I am so proud to be your pastor. It’s a great gift to shepherd these two parishes and I’m grateful to God for it everyday.

Happy Independence Day!

Father Scott