Message July 11

Dear friends,


The ‘local Leicester lockdown’ is, so far as I know, still in place, and at present I do not know how long it will last. Part of St. Pius X parish is affected, though the Church itself is just outside the affected area. The whole of Our Lady of Victories parish is outside the lockdown limits.


The Catholic Church in Market Harborough (also dedicated to Our Lady of Victories) is open for the celebration of Mass on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. However, it is now essential to make a booking before you can attend Mass – if you would like to attend, please visit the parish website for information about making a booking. I am told that Mass is also to be celebrated in public at the Rosmini Centre, but I have not been able to confirm that. Prior booking will be essential there as well.


While restrictions remain in place, due to the pandemic, the capacity of all Catholic Churches will be much reduced, and to minimize the risk of spreading the disease, it will be necessary to pre-book attendance at Mass in any of our Churches. I hope that both St. Pius X and Our Lady of Victories and St. Alphonsus will be open for public celebration of Mass by the end of this month, but it will not be possible just to arrive and expect to be able to enter: booking ahead will be necessary for some time.


As I mentioned last time, the ‘Sunday Obligation’ has been suspended since the middle of March, and there are no plans to lift the suspension. Even when it is lifted, it will not affect those who are over 70, or have an underlying health condition. At present, priests who are over 70 have been told that they may celebrate Mass in public, but should not feel compelled to do so. Similarly, no parishioner over 70 should feel obliged to attend Mass until they are sure that they will be safe from infection.


I am very grateful to the ‘gang’ who have done great work at Our Lady of Victories and St. Alphonsus, putting up notices, showing where you may sit and which way you have to enter and leave. A complicated set of risk assessments has to be completed. When all is in place, we have to send photographs and the completed risk assessments to the Diocesan office, and if they approve we will be permitted to open for worship. I am also very grateful to the helpers who will do the same at St. Pius X this weekend.


When the work has been completed in the Churches, I will also ask those who have volunteered as stewards or cleaners (or both) to come for a meeting. I will need to go through all the instructions with them, and arrange for rotas. The Churches have to be cleaned after every occasion they are open for Mass (or for private prayer); and there must always be at least two stewards on duty whenever the Church is open. I think that we would aim to open St. Pius X for Mass on two weekdays and on Sunday morning, and Our Lady of Victories on two weekdays and on Saturday (morning or evening) and Sunday morning. Much will depend on the availability of volunteers, and, of course, on the availability of a priest to celebrate Mass!


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 for public celebration of Mass as soon as possible.


So I am again asking for more 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.   


When we are permitted to celebrate Mass in Church again, our practice will have to be very different from what we were used to before the onset of the pandemic. There will be no holy water at the entrance of the Church, and the priest will not be allowed to stand at the door to greet people arriving. Readers will have to wear gloves. There will be no ‘bidding prayers’ (or if there are any, the priest will read them). 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. There are complicated rules governing Holy Communion, which can only be received in the form of the host, and must be received in the hand. The priest or deacon must not touch the hand of the recipient.  The priest must not greet the people at the Church door as they leave Church after Mass, and we cannot invite people to stay behind for refreshments.


While it has been impossible for so many to receive Holy Communion ‘in person’, we have been encouraged to make a ‘spiritual communion’. This sounds very nice, I’m sure, but what does it really mean, and what does it really involve? After all, those who are unable to eat or drink can think about how nice it would be to eat a meal, but such a ‘pious wish’ does not really do anything for them, and might even make them feel worse than if they had been able to forget that they were hungry.


Our Lord gives himself to us as our nourishment, and we receive him as our Lord and Saviour who always desires to give himself to us, as the tangible presence of our salvation. In receiving Him, we look back to his death and resurrection for us, and indeed for the whole world. In receiving Holy Communion, therefore, we are not merely united with Our Lord in such a close, intimate, way, but with everyone who is united with Him, that is, with the whole Church throughout the world. Nobody can receive Holy Communion as an individual alone, and nobody can adore Our Blessed Lord in the Blessed Sacrament as an individual alone. All such reception and adoration must always be as a member of the Church, as part of the prayer of the Church for the whole Church.


In ‘spiritual communion’, as a member of the world-wide Church, we experience a real and active communication with Our Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual communion will find fulfilment in physical, sacramental, communion to which we look forward in hope. We experience ourselves as part of the Body of Christ as we look forward to receive once again the sacramental Body of Christ.


This week I will celebrate Mass at approximately 9am each day for the following intentions:


Sunday People of the Parishes; Monday Father Simon Nolan RIP; Tuesday the people of the parish (Mass in time of pandemic); Wednesday Intentions of Mr & Mrs Jackson; Thursday Jean Keogh RIP; Friday Intentions of A&M Bunyan; Saturday Jane Toon RIP; next Sunday Kitty Corr RIP.


Please pray for Carol Johnson, Michael Maloney, Teresa Maugham, Debbie Bourke, Sheila Knight, Elizabeth Fullerton, Mary Dunne, Ranjit Mann, Juanita Zaman, (all parishioners or relatives of parishioners), and Father Michael Horrax (retired priest of this Diocese) who are seriously ill; and for Elaine Smith, Mary Smith, Sister Philippa, 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.


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.


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. Father John