My dear friends in Christ,
In the 1st Reading this weekend from the book of Exodus, instructions are given as to how the Israelites should treat, with kindness, those who are vulnerable; this requirement was an important part of their covenant agreement/relationship with God. Perhaps it was the same then as it is now, where poor and vulnerable people get exploited, often being used to make a quick buck – human trafficking, refugees, asylum seekers are just a couple of examples.
The same responsibility of care falls upon all Christians today; it is part of what it means to belong to and be ‘church’. I think it is also the meaning of the Holy Communion which we receive, in that our concern and action for others is an expression of being ‘holy Communion’. I smiled at the opening line of the gospel - “When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees…”: in other words, when Jesus had put them in their place – ouch!
The Pharisees retaliate with some trickery by asking Jesus to choose the “greatest commandment”. This may sound harmless to us, but when you have over 600 laws which were all weighted with equal importance, to choose one would be saying that the others are not important. What was Jesus to do?
Like last week’s gospel, he leads the questioners from the minutia of the various laws to the bigger picture – “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind…and your neighbour as yourself”.
Jesus could see that a myriad of laws had obscured the most important which was to love God and our neighbour with everything you have got. For Jesus, love of God is expressed in loving our neighbour, and not just those within our own family or community, but all people.
Love is not merely a warm feeling towards others; it is not an action where we hope to get something back; and is not something we do to give ourselves an ‘I’m a good person’ label (that becomes more about us than the other). Love is a profound respect for the rights and dignity of all people, acknowledging that we are all beloved children of God. In 2nd Reading, Paul praises the Christians of Thessalonica for their good example of Christian living.
May we be good examples of Christian love, a love that goes beyond the boundaries of family and friends, to touch the lives of all people, especially those in need.
Have a good week!
Dear friends,Dear friends,
Sorry for this long email, but there is a lot to cover. The information provided here is supplementary to my previous email, so it is important that you are aware of its content.
I would like to take you through some significant points about our opening for Mass – please read carefully.
As I mentioned before, because of the reduced capacity, you will need to book your seat(s) for Mass beforehand and well in advance. Turning up on the ‘off chance’ would most likely result in you not being able to attend Mass because the church could be full.
As we have to provide a ’Track & Trace’ audit trail, the easiest and most helpful way to book is online (please see our Parish website - www.saintgeorgeschurch.co.uk.)
If you are unable to do this, try to find someone else who can. But remember, for ‘Track & Trace’ purposes, they must use your details and not their own. When you book online an email will automatically be sent to Sharon who will allocate your seats and email you back with the details. If it is out of her office hours, she will not be able to get back to you immediately. Please be patient and please be content with the seats allocated for you; we are not able to chop and change. It is an administrative challenge as it is.
If you are unable to do any of the above two options, then please telephone Sharon during her office hours to book it for you.
If you do come along on the ‘off chance’ and there happens to be space, then one of the stewards will need to take a few details from you for ‘Track & Trace’ purposes.
The online booking system will be going live on a Monday and will close at 12 noon on Friday's. This will give you the opportunity to book for Masses on the following week.
Face-coverings in church are currently mandatory. Please arrive in good time before Mass starts.
On reopening our churches for Mass, Cardinal Vincent Nichols offers these cautionary words: - ‘Please be aware that there will be a limit on the number of people who can attend Mass in our churches. We therefore need to reflect carefully on how and when we might be able to attend Mass. We cannot return immediately to our customary practices. This next step is not, in any sense, a moment when we are going ‘back to normal’.
We ask every Catholic to think carefully about how and when they will return to Mass. Given there is no Sunday obligation, we ask you to consider the possibility of attending Mass on a weekday. This will ease the pressure of numbers for Sunday celebrations and allow a gradual return to the Eucharist for more people.'
Arriving at the church
On entering the church, please sanitise your hands and then wait to be assisted by a steward. You should already know your place in the church from when you booked it online or by telephone. However, there will be a ‘seat map’ displayed in the outer porch with your name on it. Pews are identified by letters and numbers, i.e. L1 = Left hand side of church, pew 1.
Please note that the UK Government has stated that Services should be conducted in, ‘the shortest possible time’.
Mass will unfold in the usual way except there will be no singing. We cannot provide Mass cards because of the risk of transmission of the virus. If you have a Missal, please bring it with you. To start off with, the readings will be done by the duty Altar Server.
Procedure for Holy Communion
The Communion Rite has been ‘reworked’ and is quite different! I will explain at each Mass the procedure that needs to be followed, however, here are the highlights: -
• At the place where communion is to be given to the congregation, a physical barrier (prie-dieu) will be there to socially distance the priest from the communicant.
• You must remain seated until you are invited to come forward by the steward.
• When you approach the priest, you should put out your arms at “full stretch” so that there is a good distance between you and him. Your hands, palms upwards, one on top of the other, should be extended as flatly as possible. Communion will then be given silently and in the hand.
• Having consumed the host, you may return to your seat to say a brief prayer of thanksgiving, after which you must leave the church (the Blessing and dismissal has already taken place).
• As you leave the church, please sanitise your hands.
• There will be baskets for you to place your offering in. If there is a 2nd Collection, there will be a basket marked as such.
• Please be aware of others and the social distancing regulations as you leave.
• Please do not congregate in the porch or outside the church.
• After you have left church it will be cleaned.
A note about Holy Communion
If you feel uncomfortable and would rather not receive Holy Communion, that is perfectly ok. Instead, you can simply make a spiritual communion. Here is a prayer to help you: -
My Jesus, I believe that You are truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as being already there and unite myself wholly to you. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.
It will take some time for us to adapt to these changes and we may have to make little adjustments along the way, so please be patient and understanding.
I am extremely grateful to Sharon, David and Frank, who have worked very hard – and continue to do so – to make all this happen.
With every blessing,