Dear Fellow Parishioners,
This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King, the 34th and final Sunday in Ordinary Time before the First Sunday of Advent, which is also the beginning of the new liturgical year. This transition point is a good time to cover a few matters regarding the liturgy and related matters, some of it COVID-related.
Nearly every COVID-related issue seems dogged by controversy and disagreement. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and feelings, but not to their own facts, and sometimes even settled fact is hard to determine and agree on. Except for what is necessary for the administration of this parish, I have no intention of dipping even one pinkie toe into that consuming vortex of irresolvable conflict. Some parishioners have communicated to me their own views on vaccines, participation at liturgy, seating patterns in the church, you name it. Some people believe that the dangers of COVID have largely passed, or were exaggerated from the start. Others are still not quite ready to return to in-person worship because, for them, the risk is still too great.
My approach has been one of reasonable caution for the parish as a whole, so as to make in-person worship possible for the largest number of people with varying medical and ethical considerations. A parish is a voluntary community of believers and, to paraphrase the great philosopher Yogi Berra, “if people don’t want to return to Mass, you can’t stop them.” We will continue to maintain every reasonable precaution (including masks, regardless of vaccination status, as required by law) so as to enable as many of our fellow parishioners as possible to join us in person and with confidence. I am not aware of a single transmission of the virus traceable to any parish activity. You, the people of SV, are to be commended for your charity and concern for one another.
Voluntary mask compliance is less invasive than requiring proof of a person’s vaccination status. Current state and county directives still require (with a very few exceptions) those attending indoor eventsto wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, and require the hosting venue to enforce the requirement. (I do not want to be an enforcer against fellow believers and citizens, and I do not want to plaster our church with signs that shout,“Masks Required.”)
Presumably, COVID-19 will be deemed to be endemic, and these restrictions will gradually go away. In the meantime, the patience of our society as a whole has grown very thin. Assertions of personal rights have become more and more personalized and aggressive, while quiet concern for the common good is increasingly rare. While the pandemic has been a serious threat, so is a generalized collapse of public civility and order. Some people, not content even with that, have created a parallel cyberworld of even greater generalized hostility and mendacity. By contrast, Jesus calls us to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Yes. “Keep Calm, and Love Thy Neighbor.”
The experience of the past many months seems to show that COVID is transmitted by droplets exhaled, rather than by exposed surfaces. This belief informs two small changes:
- Missalettes: A new cycle of missalettes becomes available at Advent. After some hesitation on my part, I asked that they be placed in the pews for use during Mass. Those who wish to use them may do so; those who prefer not to use them need not do so.
- Congregational singing: According to what I have been able to determine, congregational singing is still deemed to be a higher-risk activity, due to exhalation of droplets. Since our vocalists and choirs at Mass stand a safe distance from the congregation, I have left it to them to decide the manner and amount of singing they do during their particular Mass. (There is no Gloria during Advent, anyway.) So long as people in the pews are wearing masks and are seated every other pew, I will neither encourage or discourage soft congregational singing. (Full-blown operatics will have to wait awhile longer…)
I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving and beginning of the Advent season.
Fr. Bill Donahue