My dear friends in Christ,
Dear brothers and sisters,
In the gospel this weekend it says that “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness”. It was around a year ago, during Lent, that we all entered a sort of wilderness as the Covid pandemic, with all it’s consequences, began to take its grip on and change our way of life. Things which we took for granted – handshakes, hugs and kisses, gatherings with friends and family around the dinner table, socialising, parish gatherings – came to a grinding halt. To a degree, technology came to the rescue in helping us to see family and loved ones, whether it was via Zoom, FaceTime or some other medium. Many of us were already heavily reliant on our devices, but the new situation made us even more so, and for good reason. But, as we all know, technology does not come without its problems; they do not always work as they should. We may have a dodgy Wi-Fi connection, we may need a software update or we may even need to restore the device to it’s original factory settings and start again (a somewhat radical and rare intervention).
What is this got to do with Lent? Well, the issues associated with problematic devices could serve as a usual metaphor for the problematic spiritual life. Our connection with the God mystery maybe somewhat intermittent, not flowing as well as it could. A ‘software update’ could equate to some much-needed spiritual reading and reflection. A restore to ‘original factory settings’ might equate to some contemplative prayer time, where we encounter God and our true self, experiencing real enlightenment. What is contemplative prayer about and how does it work?
Contemplative Prayer is simply sitting in silence, being open to God's love and your love for God. This prayer is beyond thoughts, emotions, or sensations. Like being with a very close friend or lover, where words are not required, Contemplative Prayer brings your relationship with God to a level deeper than conversation, to pure communion. Because our minds are so preoccupied with plans, ideas and thoughts, sometimes choosing a sacred word or phrase to focus on is helpful. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, silently introduce your sacred word/phrase. When you become aware of thoughts, do not latch onto them, but let them go without judgement or assessment and return ever -so-gently to your sacred word. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
Two sessions of 20-30 minutes of Contemplative prayer are recommended each day, but if that is too much for you, begin with five or ten minutes. Let go of all expectations or goals during this time. It is not about achieving anything, whether emptying your mind or finding peace or achieving a spiritual experience. There is no way to succeed at Prayer, except to return again and again to love.
Wishing you well for a fruitful Lent,
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,