|Letter from Fr Mark McManus (24th March)|
|Dear Parishioners of St Joseph's & St Charles,|
|Following last night's Prime Ministerial Broadcast I write to inform you that our beloved churches will be temporarily closed
so that we might, as one people, work to supress the effects of the coronavirus amongst us.
Last night Cardinal Nichols wrote to priests, 'One practical point that follows very clearly from the Prime Minister's statement is that all churches must be closed, and remain closed. It is essential that we all follow this instruction, painful and difficult though it is. Please do continue celebrating Mass daily, remembering in your prayers your parishioners and all the people of this country. You should not ask anyone to travel to the church to be with you or to assist you.'
These are indeed dark and difficult times. The romantic, libertarian, idealistic side of my nature wants to keep the church open. I want to affirm God's presence and the power of our faith in Him and I also want to show the world that He will keep us safe. I want you to be able to come to church! However, I also want for you to be safe and the safest thing we can do at the moment for ourselves but, more importantly, for others too, is that we stay at home as much as possible. In short, we are being asked to deny ourselves, to inconvenience ourselves and, be it Lent or not, this is something we Christians can and should always be willing to do.
We have a duty as Catholics to do all we can to comply with the legitimate demands of the government and civil authorities to protect the lives and well-being of the faithful and all citizens - most especially when it serves the Common Good and upholds the weak and vulnerable.
We can of course still pray at home and, by raising our hearts and minds in prayer, we can always enter more fully into God's presence by heightening our awareness of his all-enfolding love. 'Your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you,' Matthew 6:4.
Next weekend sees us enter into Passiontide and normally, when you came into the church, you would have seen the crucifix and statues and images veiled. Why not try this at home? You could perhaps remove rather than cover such items and then on Good Friday, perhaps after some prayers or reading the Passion of The Lord from St. John's Gospel you could unveil or bring out your crucifix and kiss the cross before hanging it back on the wall. The following Holy Saturday night or on Easter Sunday morning you could put back your statues or religious pictures and, again with prayers and perhaps reading of The Resurrection of the Lord from St John's Gospel, place a candle or some flowers near or in front of them?
As before, I ask you to please pass word around to those whom you think might not hear it.
Be assured of my prayers,
Fr Mark McManus, Parish Priest