Dear Fellow Parishioners,
We begin our New Year again with COVID-19 and its variants in the headlines. Fortunately, the new restrictions on indoor gatherings do not apply to houses of worship. Based on our experience of the past many months, I believe our precautions here at SV have been effective in both preventing the transmission of COVID and in reassuring those who still feel vulnerable. We can continue our current practices – masks, sitting in every other pew, distancing – without making any changes.
The big difference this time around is that vaccines and boosters are available to those who wish to receive them, and the vast majority of Sonoma County residents have done so. Regardless of vaccination status, I would ask that all parishioners continue to mask-up when in the church, both to prevent the spread of the virus, and as a matter of charity for those who attend Mass despite renewed and understandable concern about contracting COVID-19.
Weathering through COVID has been a wearying, and at times frustrating, ordeal for all of us. The experience of tried patience, collective sacrifice and the need to cooperate for the common good at a national level is new to many, if not most, of us. Up until a few decades ago, Americans simply took it for granted that there would be times of shared trials.
Polio scares – which closed many public places much as COVID has done – continued on and off for decades and ended only with the introduction of the injected and oral forms of the vaccine in the late 1950’s into the 1960’s. The US was not declared “polio-free” until 1979.
Even further back, strict wartime rationing of everything from gasoline and groceries to shoes, typewriters, and firewood, continued for up to six long years. (For over two years, coffee was rationed at 1 lb. every five weeks. Talk about a nationwide caffeine fit!) This was in addition to tens of millions of households worried sick about loved ones in harm’s way around the world. Our current situation, while trying, pales in comparison.
Some sources in the information industry now seem more interested in keeping us riled up and addicted to cortisol (the stress hormone) than in informing and reassuring us. While it may not be possible literally to worry oneself to death, it is possible to be dominated by anxiety and fear. There is almost always something we can do to manage our environment to reduce stress, if only a bit, while still being as fully informed as we need to be.
At the beginning of this New Year, we would do well to recognize that we are in God’s hands and not destined to be carried along by events like people who have no faith. “Be ready to give to anyone an account of the reason for your hope.” (1 Peter 3:15) Each of us is free to create or re-create a personal devotional life from the endless resources the Church puts at our disposal. The Eucharist is not only the Body and Blood of Christ, it is also, along with the Church herself, the sacrament of the world’s salvation.
Fr. Bill Donahue