Pastor’s Desk – November 5, 2021

Dear Fellow Parishioners,
The change of seasons, plus the long-awaited return of rain, is nature’s way of preparing us once again for the beginning of Advent which is three weeks away. One of the graces of celebrating the various liturgical seasons, plus family memories and traditions associated with them, is that these annual events contain elements which are both familiar and new. I hope that the coming holidays contain some of both for all of us, however we plan to celebrate them. November is the month for remembering the faithful departed with our devotions and prayers. Our parish Book of Intentions is back in its place next to the votive candle rack on the “Mary side” of the sanctuary. The book will be available for most of the rest of this month, to enlist the names of your loved ones. Traditionally, there were only three days of the year on which a priest was permitted to offer as many as three Masses: Christmas, Easter and All Souls. (You will notice that our church is built to accommodate that custom, as there are three altars and three tabernacles: the main altar plus the two side altars.) On November 2nd of this year, I offered the 8 am parish Mass, the All Souls’ Mass at Calvary Cemetery (for the first time in two years) and an evening All Souls’ Mass in Spanish — making my traditional three Masses. Informally, a priest would offer one Mass for the announced intention of the parish Mass for All Souls, one private Mass for the priest’s own family and friends, and one Mass for any other intentions the priest may have accepted. A high-water mark for All Souls’ Mass intentions was World War II. (A contributing factor was Armistice Day – now Veterans’ Day – which comes two weeks later.) Years ago, a priest from San Francisco told me that on one All Souls’ Day during that war, his parish received about 20,000 requests for Mass intentions. Even though there were 6 priests in that parish (!), that meant nearly 10 Mass intentions per day, per priest, for one solid year – in addition to the regular Mass schedule. Needless to say, all intentions had to be combined under the title of “All Souls,” and priests prayed for all combined intentions for the month of November. What is most striking is the intensely felt need among the people to pray – for departed loved ones, for peace, for a brighter future.   In addition to the graces asked and received, the real genius of All Souls Day is that it provides for at least three deeply felt human needs: the need for a degree of “closure” once a loved one’s earthly life is complete, the hope of meeting again in the presence of God and, perhaps most importantly, an experience of closeness to our loved ones in the present even after they have departed. Our parish plans for Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas are well underway, and schedules of liturgies will be included on the parish website, the weekly bulletin and the Christmas letter. Lay readers will be re-introduced in Advent, both in English and Spanish. Because we are now offering Holy Communion only under the sign of bread, the return of lay communion ministers within Mass will be limited for the foreseeable future. Finally, during the month of October, we did the annual October Mass Count to count the number of people attending Mass. Because of COVID, this has not been done for two years. Unsurprisingly, Mass attendance is down from pre-COVID levels. Some of our “regulars” are not back yet, others are still watching the video version of the Mass, and still others of our regulars have changed Masses. With the end of Daylight Savings Time this weekend, there will be a few more people who move from the 5:00 pm Saturday evening Mass to the 7:30 am Mass on Sunday, so as to be able to attend Mass and return home during daylight hours. I wish you the best for a blessed November and lead-up to the great feasts to come.
Fr. Bill Donahue

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