Letter from the Pastor.
Sixth Week of Easter—May 17—23, 2020
Part One: Scripture
Fifty years ago, I remember seeing the broadcast of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. He said: “one small step for man—one giant leap for mankind.” July 2020 will be the 51st anniversary of that event.
When it happened, I leap from my seat saying: “they did it!” That joyful bound personified what the psalmist imagined as he penned psalms 148, and 149, and 150. “Praise the Lord” or “praise Him” are all hallelu in Hebrew. Psalm 148 (Wednesday) begins with hallelu (in English “praise him”). The root “hallel” appears thirteen times in this psalm of fourteen verses. The alleluia announcement is really a leap of praise. The alleluia is not only a reminder to stand up for the gospel, but joyful praise that our human nature was carried up in Christ above all the hosts of heaven to the very throne of God the Father (St. Leo the Great). On Sunday, 24 May, we celebrate the Ascension of Lord.
Who and what will join us in this breathtaking praise? In Psalm 148 we begin at the top with angels and “hosts” (perhaps archangels). Then creation is summoned to join the song: sun, moon, and stars. In the twenty-first century we might consider the highest heavens to include the planets, the supernovae, all the galaxies. As Sister Irene says: “We are only beginning to recognize these phenomena, and it seems that more and more are beyond our recognition.”
At the end of this first half of Psalm 148, perhaps we need to stop and simply revel in this expanse of God’s creation, however, the psalmist is not finished. From the heavens we come to the good earth. Even here we are awestruck. The psalmist invites us to consider the amazing creatures of the deep sea that stagger our imaginations.
Who has not been awed or even terrified by the weather? We stand on the beauty and inspiration of our earth—the land and the animals. We are still discovering living creatures unknown to our forebears. All these creatures are called to help us praise God’s Name.
For the psalmist, human beings are the most amazing creation of God. Some are powerful, but all are important: men, women, young, and old. The greatest wonder is the psalmist’s insight that God cares for all people, great and small. God tenderly watches of the people created. No wonder we end as we began: Hallelujah.
Adapted from the writing of Sister Irene Nowell, OSB, author of
Pleading, Cursing, Praising: Conversing with God through the Psalms and Wisdom—The Good Life.
Part Two: Re-Opening Churches
The Archdiocese of Newark values the need to be gradual in reopening churches. It will occur in three phases. “Each phase will be rolled out with specific dates and directives determined by the Archdiocese of Newark.” Cardinal Tobin will, however, continue to dispense the faithful from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days. Those who are at risk because of an underlying health issue or who are 60 or older are strongly encouraged to avoid the risks posed by attendance at public celebrations of Mass.
Phase 1—Churches will first be opened for personal prayer only. Individuals and families may come to church for quiet prayer. Sacrament of Reconciliation may be celebrated, if social distancing can be maintained and masks are worn. The Archdiocese of Newark set the date for the commencement of Phase One on Sunday, 17 May 2020. Individuals and families who come for personal prayer should limit their time in the church to 15 minutes, so that we may maintain “social distancing.” The requirement of “social distancing” is impossible in the restricted space of the adoration chapel, and therefore, it will remain closed.
As Pastor, I have decided that the church will remain closed until Sunday, 7 June 2020. As mentioned last week in my letter (May 4-10, 2020) the parish staff began working hard inside the empty church. All woodwork in the church has received a new coat of varnish; the terrazzo floors are being deep cleaned, as well as the marble steps. This work is in process. Currently pews are out of place, and cleaning equipment rests here and there. For this reason the church will remain closed until Sunday, 7 June 2020.
Regarding the observance of the Ascension of the Lord, Cardinal Joseph Tobin has approved the transfer of this obligatory feast from Thursday (May 21) to Sunday (May 24). As usual, the Sunday Mass in Spanish will be live-streamed at 9:00 a.m. and in English at 11:00 a.m.
Phase 2—Churches will be permitted to celebrate public weekday Masses and funerals with very specific restrictions, such as the strict practice of social distancing, use of masks and limited number of people present (Date to be determined).
Phrase 3—Churches will be permitted to celebrate Sunday Mass publically with the obligatory practices of social distancing, use of masks and limited number of people present. All other sacraments will resume according to directives (Date to be determined).
In phase 3, to participate in the Mass, I request that people pre-register online or by phone on Thursday and Friday between the hours of 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. When we take into account “social distancing,” the capacity of the church is 92 persons. Also, on entering the church, participants will have their temperature checked. Those found to have a temperature will be asked to remain outside in the parking lot. The door on Amity Place and the side door opening to the garages and Rectory parking lot are designated as the ENTRANCE doors to church. The EXIT door will be the door of the St. Gerard Shrine leading through the Ruggiero garden to the plaza. Leaving the church, participants will have to practice social distancing and to wear facial masks.