Further Leicester lockdown
Having at last been able to open some of our Churches in the Leicester Deanery for private prayer for a few hours each week, the ‘local Leicester lockdown’ has required them to be shut again, with the exception (so far as I know) of two Churches which lie well outside the affected area.
- Our Lady of Victories, Market Harborough will be open between 10am and 12 noon on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
- St. Peter’s, Hinckley, may also be open for some time, but I do not have details.
Hopefully more Churches in the Leicester deanery will be able to open for private prayer in a week or so; and we can look forward to some Churches being open for the celebration of Mass (perhaps from this weekend, but I do not have any details), and some other public worship such as weddings, baptisms, and funerals. However, there will still be strict rules on numbers attending inside a Church, and there will probably have to be a system in place so that those who wish to attend Mass or another service of public worship can make a booking. This is something we are certainly not used to, and I don’t know how it can work – but something of the sort will probably be required.
Churches are very important, of course, as ‘sacred space’. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in most Catholic churches, and Mass is celebrated, and people are baptized, confirmed, and married in them; there is opportunity for confession; and at the end of our days in this world we hope to be buried from a Church. Churches are usually where people come together to pray. But it isn’t necessary to go to Church to pray, and Our Lord suggests that it may not even be desirable to do so.
“When you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at street corners for people to see them. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place; and your Father, who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)
Our Lord is not saying that prayer together in public – public worship – is unnecessary, still less that it is bad or wrongful. But he is telling us that public worship is built upon private prayer. God is everywhere, in all the things that God has made; so wherever we are can be a ‘sacred space’. Everything we say and everything we do can (and should) be for the praise of God and the sanctification of human beings. Our public worship, and in particular our celebration of the Mass, is where the praise and the intercession which are happening all the time, in the ‘mysticism of ordinary life’, are made visible.
In order to be able to open for private prayer, and, later, for public worship (including the celebration of Mass), a Church must have at least two volunteers to act as stewards for the whole time of opening. These stewards must be at least 16 years old. The previous upper age limit has been relaxed, but anyone 70 years old or above who wishes to volunteer as a steward must be healthy and aware of the risks. All volunteers must be not at risk themselves nor caring for a person who is at risk due to age or an underlying health condition. There must also be volunteers to clean the Church thoroughly after every day of opening.
I have received packages of instructions and forms to complete, including risk assessments: 30 pages before a Church can be opened for private prayer, and 49 pages before a Church can be open for public worship. There are instructions for stewards, for cleaners, for signs which must be put at the entrance, in the Church, on the floor, on the benches to show where people may sit (and where they are not allowed to sit); areas in the Church must be taped off. Forms have to be completed for volunteer stewards and cleaners, and a complicated ‘risk assessment’; and photographs must be sent to the diocesan office to show that we are complying with the regulations.
Looking forward to when it may be possible to open St. Pius X Narborough or Our Lady of Victories and St. Alphonsus, Lutterworth, and in particular for when we may have services of public worship again, it will be necessary for us to have volunteers to act as stewards and as cleaners.
I am very grateful to those who have already volunteered, and would ask for more volunteers if possible please, so that we can consider opening at some time for private prayer, and eventually to be able to hold public worship (including Mass).
So I am again asking for volunteers! Please let me know whether you would be willing to act as a steward or as a cleaner (or both!); and whether you are 70 or over, or under 70. I will probably need to be ready with lists of volunteers for when we are permitted to start celebrating Mass again in public, and it would be wonderful to think that we were ready to go on the first day possible.
I think we can accommodate 40 people at St. Pius X, Narborough, keeping a 2 metre distance. I think we may be able to accommodate 30 people at Our Lady of Victories and St. Alphonsus, Lutterworth. The little group who measured up on Sunday in Lutterworth thought the best option would be to have open air Mass in the car park. There are even special regulations covering celebrations of Mass outside Church. I hope that, by next weekend, I will be able to put forward more specific ideas.
I will need a lot of assistance – as well as the stewards and the cleaners, I will need help obtaining and putting up the appropriate signage and the sanitizers, obtaining face masks and gloves, and no doubt other items will be necessary as well; completing the risk assessment; and then, of course, taking the photographs and sending them by email to the diocese.
When we are permitted to celebrate Mass in Church again, there will be no holy water at the entrance of the Church. Readers will have to wear gloves. There will be no altar servers or offertory procession. The collection cannot be taken during Mass, but it will be permitted for there to be a box at the door to receive offerings. Holy Communion can only be received as the host, and must be received in the hand – and the priest or deacon must not touch the hand of the recipient. There are complicated rules governing Holy Communion. The priest must not greet the people at the Church door before or after Mass.
The ‘Sunday Obligation’ has been suspended since mid-March, and will continue to be suspended for some weeks (probably for many weeks) after public celebration of Mass is permitted. When there is a ‘Sunday Obligation’ again, I anticipate that it will not affect people over 70, nor those with an underlying health condition. The way our celebrations are organized will be very different from our previous usual practice. Apart from the need to book ahead for the celebration you wish to attend, I would like those who wish to attend Mass to be able to come on a weekday rather than on a Sunday, and I would like that to continue even when the ‘Sunday Obligation’ is again in force.
I mentioned last week that there was provision for hearing confessions in the open air. I think that there will be a need for some form of ‘general absolution’, but at present I have no reason to think that that will be granted.
As I mentioned last week, I have received a directive from the diocese that all parishioners must be encouraged to make their contribution to the Church collection by standing order or electronic means if possible. I can provide the parish Bank details to anyone who would like to donate in that manner – many of you already do so (and I am very grateful indeed). I can provide standing order mandates for anyone who wishes – please just ask.
This week I will celebrate Mass at approximately 9am each day for the following intentions:
Sunday People of the Parishes; Monday Kathleen Smith RIP; Tuesday the people of the parish (Mass in time of pandemic); Wednesday Dennis & Teresa Taylor RIP; Thursday Mary Smith RIP; Friday Intentions of K Wilson; Saturday Father Michael Teacher RIP; next Sunday People of the Parishes.
Please pray for Carol Johnson, Michael Maloney, Teresa Maugham, Debbie Bourke, Elaine Smith, Sheila Knight, Elizabeth Fullerton, Mary Dunne, Ranjit Mann, Juanita Zaman, (all parishioners or relatives of parishioners), Sister Philippa (of the convent in Derby) and Father Michael Horrax (retired priest of this Diocese) who are seriously ill; and for Mary Smith, Sister Rita Winn, Kathleen Pearcey, Anne Kemp, Sheila Dunn, Joan Lamyman, Sister Breege Leddy, Steven Moger, Anne Foong, Michael Ginnerty, and all who have died recently. Please let me know of any others who have died, or anyone who is ill and wishes to ask for prayers, so that I can add them to the list.
The funeral of Mary Smith will take place on Friday 31st July. We hope that by then it will be possible to celebrate a Requiem Mass for her.
While we have been unable to meet together to celebrate Mass, I know that many of you have been able to access Mass ‘on the internet’. Some, I know, have been ‘attending’ Mass in many different churches in countries across the whole world – a wonderful reminder that we are a Universal Church and that Our Lord came to save everyone. While doing so (and also for those unable to do so) we have been encouraged to remember that we can all make a ‘spiritual communion’ while being unable to receive Holy Communion physically. Last week I wrote about the Sacrifice of the Mass, and this week about private prayer; next week I intend to write about ‘spiritual communion’.
I am still thinking of you all and looking forward to meeting you again in person. I pray for you, and ask that you pray for me and for all members of our two communities. I hope you are all keeping well and virus free, and keeping as active as possible and in good spirits. If there is any way that I can help, please do let me know.
I am very grateful to all of you who have been distributing my thoughts and messages to those who may not have been receiving them directly. Do please think of those members of our community who may not be ‘computer-savvy’ or do not have email, or perhaps may not have given me their email address. You are welcome to share these thoughts with anyone else who you feel may benefit from them or would like to read them. Please also continue to pass on to me any messages from them – including email addresses. I would very much like to reach as many members of our communities as possible, and if my thoughts are of any benefit to those who are not in our community, I would be delighted.
With best wishes to you all, and assuring you all of my prayers.