SIR – Can I point out that our parish priests are going to have to do without their Easter collection this year, which for some of them makes up a substantial part of their annual income?
It would be nice if readers could perhaps organise local collections in their parishes somehow or other, particularly among those that they know – not easy in these troubled times, but, as the saying goes, where there’s a will there’s a way.
David Kirk Crewe, Cheshire
A kneejerk response
SIR – It is with great regret that in this present pandemic, the Government has put places of worship into the same category as pubs, clubs, restaurants, casinos and other places of entertainment and compelled their closure.
I believe that this was a “kneejerk” reaction and one undertaken without careful thought and consideration, especially for the spiritual needs of the population at this time.
My own parish church is in a High Street less than a hundred yards from a supermarket. Despite the best of efforts, shoppers are in close proximity to each other as they move about and pay at the checkout.
It is reasonable to assume that if the church was opened (albeit with no Mass) and the proper social distancing observed, there would be far less danger of the spread of coronavirus. This church incorporates two side aisles and over 30 pews. This is more than adequate for the recommended distance between people, that would, probably, number no more than 10 at a time.
At this particular period, we need our churches open as a reassuring sign of God’s presence among us, either in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance upon the altar. We need our churches open as a place of prayer, devotion and quiet meditation, and especially (following the Rededication of England to Our Lady) as a holy place in which to seek the protection and guidance of Christ through Mary, Our Mother.
One would hope that the Catholic hierarchy would petition the Government at the earliest opportunity, to remove this regulation affecting our places of worship and permit them to open, with sensible and pragmatic restrictions on admissions.
Peter Clarke Ryde, Isle of Wight
SIR – In a parish near me, the priest has been broadcasting the Mass daily on the internet at 10 am (10.30 Sunday). He was told he had 70 viewers last Thursday. On my computer I can hear him loud and clear, without the hearing aids I normally require.
Although the priest cannot give Communion to his listeners, these Masses are a spiritual feast. He even adds a very meaningful little sermon.
Is this a small spiritual defeat of the virus? It is certainly a benefit of it. Many who work cannot get to daily Mass; do these 70 viewers indicate how much they would like to?
Elizabeth Price Maidstone, Kent
The virus, the Mass and the priesthood
SIR – Reflecting on the impact of Covid-19 and rulings from within the Catholic Church, I have come to a surprising conclusion. This virus is taking forward the work and impact of the Protestant Reformers – Luther, Cromwell and Cranmer and Co. This time – Should I say thankfully? – there is no danger of cruel martyrdom, that firm conviction brought upon itself in 16th century and the penal years.
The Mass is now banned as a public act of worship, for fear the laity will congregate, so transmitting harm one to another. This enactment is to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Priests are being permitted a concession. They may celebrate the Eucharist, provided they are “solitarios”. Additionally, they may stream their action, as an e-mass. This arrangement, however, enables another old doctrinal contention (still ongoing) to be set aside. For the question no longer arises: “Is the Lord really present in the consecrated bread?” As we watch Mass on our screens, we can see for ourselves His presence is virtual.
The British government in its dispensations has allowed supermarkets and food shops to remain open, so the population can get its essential daily bread. The People of God has not been granted a comparable provision, I notice.
Tony Meehan Walsall
The lack of Mass is hard to bear
SIR – From the moment I wake until I close my eyes, I have a sinking feeling low down at the bottom of my lungs and a tightness in my throat. My work has lost its impetus and I find myself staring at the floor for long periods, more times each day.
I don’t have any deep thoughts, I don’t want entertainment, the radio is off. I cannot enliven my children; we are all becoming like cold metal between the hammer and the anvil, unbending. I wake up in the night unable to sleep with tears in my eyes. This is not poetry – this is the way it is.
This denial of Mass is not a blip, not a funny thing that happened in 2020. Things like this do not happen to the people of God for no reason.
So, what is this thing, this indefinite period, this isolation? What is this wrench my heart is feeling and my soul is struggling with? It is not a retreat. A retreat is a planned withdrawal, a retrenchment from a good place to a harder but better, safer, stronger one.
This is not a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is where the people of God leave one tabernacle and travel to another. This is not an exodus. We have not raised a tabernacle on a bier and carried Him on our shoulders, God among his people. We have not set Him up on a high hill, set a guard over Him, stayed with Him, journeyed with Him. God is not in the midst of his people.
We are scattered, isolated. The shepherds have been separated from their sheep. New ministers that we take to be greater than our ministers have bidden us to leave our temple and we have complied. A new law we take to be more powerful than the law of God has commanded us to leave our priests alone in our churches and we have complied. A new force we take to be more authoritative than the commands of God has brought down a barrier, locked a gate, raised a drawbridge between the altar and its people.
I am ready to return now. I am sorry about my last Mass; I was not even looking at my bride. I am sorry, my love, for ignoring all your grand gestures in my life; you have been handing me flowers and I have been laying them down without water and picking up my phone. I am grateful for the indelible marks of Baptism and Confirmation, but I long for the priest to place me into your presence in the Mass. I want to come home.