Home » A Letter from Fr Simon Regarding the Bishops’ Conference Decision to Temporarily Suspend Public Worship

A Letter from Fr Simon Regarding the Bishops’ Conference Decision to Temporarily Suspend Public Worship

Dear sister and brother parishioners,

Apologies for this long message, but it is very important that the content be shared as quickly as possible, so do please read it and pass the necessary information on to any other members of St Martin’s Parish.

From this evening, Friday 20th March, in response to the spread of the Coronavirus and in order to protect the elderly and vulnerable in our parishes, the Bishops of England and Wales have asked that all public gatherings in churches, including Sunday Masses, are temporarily suspended. As such, we will no longer have Mass celebrated publicly in St Martin de Porres Church on either weekdays or at weekends until further notice. This applies also to all public times of worship such as Adoration and Stations of the Cross, as well as to all Sacramental Programmes. Similarly, Baptisms won’t take place, unless it’s an emergency, and Funerals will be simple services either at the graveside or in the crematorium, with Masses offered for deceased loved ones once the crisis has passed. Reconciliation will be available, but only by private appointment made with me or another priest, and will be ministered respecting appropriate social distancing. Sadly, as it is not safe these days to keep our churches open all day and unmanned they will need to remain closed in the mean-time. For advice on weddings, Confirmation and First Holy Communion, please have a read of the “Liturgical Advice for the Bishops of England and Wales in the light of the COVID-19 Pandemic” (see https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/39156). Communion visits to the sick and housebound will also need to cease for the time being in order to protect an already vulnerable group, but could I ask those who make Holy Communion visits to please keep in touch with them over the phone.

I would ask that if you can, please forward this message to others for whom I may not have email details, or share the content with those in your street or elsewhere whom you know do not have internet access. Many thanks for your help with this. I’d hate for people to have to find out on Saturday evening or Sunday morning when they may have made a considerable effort to come for Sunday Mass, and find that it’s not happening.

NB: To see Cardinal Vincent Nichols deliver a personal message on the decisions made please go to https://youtu.be/vbZ0_x__Cxc or to read the written statement go to https://www.dioceseofleeds.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020.03.18-PUBLIC-LETTER-FROM-THE-PRESIDENCY-CBCEW.pdf

While this will be a very challenging time for us as a parish community, it is nevertheless an opportunity to grow deeper in our faith in other ways, such as, for example, becoming more familiar with the scriptures. An inspiring definition of L.O.C.K.D.O.W.N. is that it can be a time to:

L-isten to God’s Voice and reflect. Let go and Let God.
O-bey His word and His teachings.
C-all on Jesus’ name and be Calm.
K-now that God is with us and will never abandon us.
D-well in His presence. Do not panic.
O-ffer a prayer for everyone’s safety.
W-ait and be patient. This too, shall pass.
N-urture our personal relationship with Him.

I will continue to celebrate a private Mass for the intentions of the Parish every day (including Saturdays and Sundays) at 10am, and I would invite you at home to join with me in prayer at that time if you can, pondering the readings for the Mass that day if possible, and uniting your personal intentions to the offering of the daily Mass in what is referred to as ‘Spiritual Communion’. These webpages may of use in relation to this:

https://www.cbcew.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2020/03/No-Mass-A4.pdf

https://www.lentinisolation.com/

If it is not possible for you to do this at 10am each day, then you can still unite your prayers to the daily Mass whenever you have a chance to pray (time is not a problem with God who created it and exists outside of it!). By doing this, you will be continuing to exercise your “common priesthood” in which all the baptised share, and through which we are all called to pray for our world, country, parish, family, and for those who may have no one to pray for them as well as for all who have died.

There will also be the opportunity to participate from home in Masses that are live-streamed via the internet from Northampton Cathedral (see https://northamptondiocese.org/live/) or from The National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham (see http://www.walsingham.org.uk/live-stream).

Also of help may be websites such as “Universalis” (see http://universalis.com/), which has the Liturgy of the Hours and Readings for Mass each day, and “Sacred Space” (see https://www.sacredspace.ie/), which takes one prayerfully through the Gospel of the day.

Continuing the theme of prayer, the Presidents of Churches Together in England, which includes Cardinal Vincent Nichols, have issued a call to prayer in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is for all churches and people of prayer to join on Sunday 22nd March, Mothering Sunday. For further information, take a look at the webpage at https://www.cte.org.uk/Publisher/Article.aspx?ID=569010 The following links may also be of use or interest:

As well as the power of prayer, we can look out for others practically through phone calls and acts of practical service, such as contributing to food banks and obtaining necessities for those who cannot get out to obtain them for themselves. This is a time when we need to especially, as a parish family, all keep an eye out for one another!

Let’s keep in mind that the reason for all these temporary changes is to protect those who are most vulnerable, many of whom are in our own parish family. And while these days we are living in at the moment are uncertain and difficult, let’s also in faith see them as a time of great opportunity through which the Lord will be able to do marvellous things in us and through us, and bring many people back to the basics, to what’s most important in this life, indeed, back to Himself!

With every blessing,

Fr Simon

One final thought. Please keep an eye on this website. If I can work out how to do it, I will post helpful information and resources there and any updates that may be released for our benefit.

Fr Simon Penhalagan
Parish Priest
St Martin de Porres Roman Catholic Church, Luton