Dear Little Flower Parish Family,
As your pastor it is with a heavy heart that I write this to you. Today our Bishop, in unity with the Bishop’s of Florida and many others around the country and world, has announced the suspension of all public Masses and gatherings, effective noon Friday, March 20, 2020, until further notice. This impacts our parish in the following ways:
- All public Sunday and weekday Masses are hereby suspended. Catholics in the Diocese of Pensacola–Tallahassee are hereby dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass until the suspension is lifted.
- All scheduled meetings, gatherings, and use of church and school facilities are canceled, until further notice.
- For as long as possible/permitted the church will be left unlocked at least Monday–Friday from 9:00am until 3:30pm to allow for private visits to the Blessed Sacrament. We will look at other possibilities with regards to making the church available for prayer as well and I will communicate that with you as soon as possible.
- I will continue to celebrate Mass every day (without a congregation) applying any intentions for each day that have already been scheduled, as well as for the intention of all our parishioners. So be assured, if you requested a Mass intention for a particular future date, the Mass will still be celebrated for that intention even if it is not public.
- Fr. Alberic and I will do our best to still accommodate individual requests for the Sacrament of Confession as well as any requests for Last Rites when there is a danger of death. Not knowing how this will impact our office hours yet, we are in the process of setting up an emergency line phone number that will reach us directly. Please stay tuned for that contact information. Email is always a possibility too.
The heaviness of my heart does not stem from a disagreement with these decisions, or with the circumstances of reality that have necessitated them. The heaviness comes from a concern for you, my parish family whom I know to have a great love for the Sacraments and our Catholic faith, and the test upon which we now embark. In front of a reality like this our values, our ideologies, and even our religious convictions are put to the test. This test, perhaps for the first time in awhile, will challenge us to understand who we are and what makes life worth living. However, I am not without hope. Even as we were reminded by Fr. Michael in these days of our Parish Lenten Mission, I am certain that reality is positive. Whatever circumstances God has us pass through are for our good, our happiness, and our salvation. Even as the Coronavirus upends our lives and daily routines, it challenges us to understand more deeply what it means to be human and what we value most in life. This is a gift––a grace––that spares us from the monotony and banality of day-to-day life that so often causes us to take everything for granted.
Today, my friends, Christ invites us to live a truly historic moment. Today we join a band of Catholics who throughout our history were impeded from approaching the Sacraments. We are united with those Catholics who were separated from the Sacraments due to hardship or persecution. We are united with St. Charles Borromeo and the Catholics of Milan in the 1500s when a plague led to the closing of their churches. We are united with our forebears in this land who went months without Sacraments as priests were in short supply as a new world was being discovered. We are united with the many men and women of our Armed Forces who pass months without Sacraments on the open seas or in combat zones because of a lack of vocations and military Chaplains. Today our reality becomes that of many of our Catholic brothers and sisters throughout history.
So how are we to live this truly historic moment? With faith in the certainty of His Presence. Because the overwhelming evidence of His Presence surrounds us and reminds us that He never leaves us. The Sacraments are one of the most clear and certain ways in which we encounter Him, but even in their absence the evidence is overwhelming. To help us look and to help us see I propose the following:
- To follow Mass on TV or radio. We will be listing resources on our parish website for this soon.
- To have a moment of silence daily in which you can read from the Scriptures (perhaps even the assigned Mass readings of the day), pray the Rosary, and recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Such prayer resources will be listed on our parish website soon.
- Pray for those who suffer and have been impacted by COVID-19.
- Our Patroness, St. Thérèse, in her ‘Little Way’ champions the idea of offering up for some particular person or intention the little or big annoyances, interruptions to your plans, and sufferings of your day. Unable to receive Communion the last few weeks of her life she offered her suffering and sacrifice for the conversion of particular people. Like her let us offer our missed Communions and other sacrifices (both Lenten and ordinary) for some particular person or intention.
As we are able to adjust more to these rapidly changing circumstances I will share with you additional resources and information through our parish website. Finally, I would like to encourage you to still remember your parish financially. Without public Masses, the normal weekly revenue from Sunday offertory will now cease. This alone (even if only for a couple of weeks) will have a tremendous impact on our parish’s ability to continue operations with any semblance of normalcy. I know many lives will be impacted practically and financially by this pandemic, but if you’re in a position to still financially support our parish, I would ask that you please consider signing up for online giving on our website by clicking here.
United in prayer and charity,
* Note, this post is transcribed from the original message from Fr. Matt. For access to the original PDF, please click here.