From Friday evening public liturgies in the Catholic Church ceased. This decision was made by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in consultation with the Ordinaries of the Dioceses. The reason for this decision is to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19 pandemic and to limit its spread.

As many of you are aware, priests are called to celebrate daily Mass. We will continue to do this albeit without you, the faithful. This is not ideal and not how we would wish it to be but we find ourselves – at least in recent history – in unprecedented times, where we need to protect the health and wellbeing of all those in our care, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, the President and Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference have stated the following: Knowing that the Mass is being celebrated; joining in spiritually in that celebration; watching the live-streaming; following the prayers at home; making an act of spiritual communion: this is how we share in the sacrifice of Christ in these days. These are the ways in which we will sanctify Sunday, and indeed every day. We want everyone to understand that in these emergency circumstances, and for as long as they last, the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy days is removed. This is without doubt the teaching of the Catholic Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181).

I know some parishioners will see the decision to temporarily stop the Mass and other public liturgies as defeatist and lacking in faith. However, I would urge these people to see it rather as an opportunity for us to grow in prayer, deepen our faith and to become stronger and more united as a community.

Already, a few people have come forward with ideas on how we can best reach out and support those who have decided it is in their best interest to stay at home. Thank you to parishioners Tim and Margretta for your initiatives, and to Adam offering to deliver shopping to anyone who needed it. I was greatly encouraged by your positive response. I know there are many more like you.

Recently the wife of a deacon sent me this beautiful message from Pope Francis:

“Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is….life is good when you are happy, but much better when others are happy because of you.”

Another recent message that compliments the above, this time from Our Lady of Medjugorje:

“My children, you can-not be happy if you do not love one another, if you do not love in every situation and in every moment of your life”.

Our Lady goes on to urge us, especially in times of turmoil and renunciation to seek the face of her Son, to live his words without fear, to pray and love with honesty and good deeds. This will help to change the world and draw us closer to the heart of Mary. Finally, she repeats the message of her Son: without love there is no salvation.

I hope these words will not only encourage you but inspire you as we set out on uncharted waters.

Finally, two more things, 1) Don’t forget to read about God’s protection in Psalm 91 and 2) This Wednesday is the Feast of the Annunciation, so pray the Angelus whenever you can.

God bless, Fr Steve