Newsletter, March 19, 2020
F E A R
On summer nights, family, friends, and neighbors would all be outside sitting around on porches while the kids played and ran around. The evenings moved toward darkness too quickly and my Mother would call me over telling me, as the youngest in the family, it was time for bed. That meant going into the big, empty, old dark house, climbing the stairs and finding my way along to our rooms. It was very dark and I was scared. “Are you afraid to go in by
yourself?” I was asked. I couldn’t say yes for that meant an older brother or
sister would be called to take me up to bed … unthinkable!
Everyone, at some point in life, is scared of the dark, literally or metaphorically. The dark means the unknown; what is ahead is unclear; one has no plan, no control. Fear grips easily and we can become paralyzed by it. To a greater or lesser degree, we all know what this experience is like. The fear, which is in the family of anxiety, could be for oneself or for others; it could be remote or proximate; it could be reasonable or not. Yet, in all cases, it is very real.
As I write these thoughts, our world is growing increasingly anxious about the corona virus (COVID-19). Every day the news amazes as we learn of the implications of the growth in the number of those infected. The situation in Italy seems dire and the city of Rome cancelled all Masses for the weeks ahead. Concerts, sports events, and assemblies of all kinds are being analyzed for safety concerns. No one knows where this is going and how it will all play out.
“Are you afraid?” I heard someone ask a friend down at the CVS yesterday. “Terrified” came the instant response. I glanced at the person and, indeed, I saw a person who looked terrified. Fear can be crippling. It can close us in on ourselves and cause us to look suspiciously at everything around us. Of course, on the one hand, fear is a very natural and healthy response, a defense against threats, needed to prepare us to respond in a way that protects and often saves us.
But there is another response to fear: to approach our realities in faith. Our faith brings us to another place, outside of ourselves. Faith embraces our relationship with God, listens to our story with God, recalls times past of God’s faithful support and mercy. Our faith can draw us to see, sense, and become aware of the larger reality. It can free us into relationships easily overlooked and bypassed through fear. Our faith can lead us to trust.
Though I’ve never counted myself, it is said that the phrase “fear not, or similarly, “do not be afraid”, is written in the Bible 365 times – one for each day. Jesus, himself, responding to the frightened father of a dying child said, “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust” (Mt. 5:36).
The crises of our time, of this moment in time, are undeniable. All reasonable precautions and care are called for, of course. At the same time, if we so choose, this is also a moment that invites us to embrace our faith in the goodness and omnipotence of God. A faith that opens us to the intimacy and care of Jesus. A faith that comforts and guides us as we lean into the genuine trust our faith offers.
My Mom whispered to me, “Don’t be afraid Jim, you will be fine — go to bed”. I went into the dark house, up the stairs, and to bed. I trusted my Mom, and she was right. Trust God.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
― Plato“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s
First Inaugural Address
Archdiocesan directive re Masses and gatherings.
Following Governor Baker’s Emergency Order concerning the Commonwealth’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak Cardinal O’Malley has established the following policies for the Archdiocese of Boston effective immediately:
- All Masses and religious services in all Archdiocesan parishes, missions, and campus ministries are suspended until further notice. This begins at 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon, March 14. To be clear there are to be no vigil masses. Baptism, Confirmations, weddings and funerals may proceed but attendance should be limited to only immediate family.
- The Cardinal has issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass during this time to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston.
- Archdiocese of Boston parish schools and Archdiocesan elementary and high schools will be closed for two weeks from Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 27. Going forward we will consider whether this period needs to be extended.
Cardinal O’Malley encourages Catholics, and all people who would find it helpful, to participate in the daily and Sunday Mass by way of CatholicTV. Schedules and access to the televised Mass and rebroadcasts are available at www.WatchtheMass.com or www.catholictv.org and by consulting local cable providers or network listings.
During this time of extraordinary challenges Cardinal O’Malley holds as among the highest priorities the safety and well-being of all people in the communities served by the Archdiocese. The Cardinal asks all to join in prayer for the health care professionals and civic officials who are striving to respond to the needs of those who are ill and as best possible prevent further transmission of the virus.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Archdiocese’s emergency policies related to the Coronavirus please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of the Archdiocese communications regarding the response to the Coronavirus outbreak can be found on our risk management website: www.rcabrisk.org.
There will be additional related information forthcoming from our Risk Management Office.
Following is today’s announcement from the Archdiocese.
CARDINAL O’MALLEY AUTHORIZES TEMPORARY SUSPENSION OF DAILY AND SUNDAY MASS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 OUTBREAK
PROVIDES DISPENSATION TO THE FAITHFUL
ENCOURAGES PARTICIPATION IN THE MASS THROUGH CATHOLIC TV
In response to growing public concern and following Governor Baker’s Emergency Order prohibiting most gatherings of 250 or more people, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston, has made the decision effective immediately to temporarily suspend all daily and Sunday Masses and religious services in the Archdiocese of Boston until further notice. This begins at 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon, March 14. In announcing this decision, the Cardinal has also issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass during this time to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Cardinal Seán said “We live in times when many people are confused, hurt, and fearful, for many different reasons. In the midst of these challenges Jesus seeks to meet us in the same way He met the disciples on the road to Emmaus, accompanying us on the journey, calming our fears and anxieties and assuring us that He will be with us always in the gift of the Eucharist. This decision to temporarily suspend the daily and Sunday Mass is motivated by an abundance of caution and concern for those most vulnerable and the need to do our part to help limit and mitigate the spread of the illness.”
The directive to temporarily suspend the celebration of Mass applies to all Archdiocesan parishes, missions, and campus ministries until further notice. Baptism, Confirmations, weddings and funerals may proceed but attendance should be limited to only immediate family.
CATHOLIC TV DAILY AND SUNDAY MASS
Cardinal Seán encourages Catholics to participate in the daily and Sunday Masses broadcast from the CatholicTV chapel.
- Daily Mass airs live at 9:30am and is rebroadcast at 7pm and 11:30pm.
- Sunday Masses air throughout the day at 10am, 4pm, 7pm, and 11:30pm.
- The Sunday Spanish Mass airs live at 8am and is rebroadcast at 5:30pm and 10pm.
Earlier today after conferring with Cardinal Seán, Thomas W. Carroll, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, announced that Archdiocese of Boston parish schools and Archdiocesan elementary and high schools will be closed for two weeks from Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 27. On an ongoing basis, the Catholic Schools Office will consider whether this period needs to be extended further.
The Archdiocese will provide ongoing updates to parishes, schools and ministries during this period of response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Cardinal Seán said, “Though these are challenging times for our parishes and all members of our communities it is important that we not forget the importance of care and concern for those who are most vulnerable, including the poor, our senior citizens and people who are medically compromised. I urge those who can do so to maintain the support for their parish during these difficult days in order to sustain the ministries and outreach services for parishioners and those most in need. We entrust the Church to the intercession of our Blessed Mother as we pray for the return to full celebration of the sacraments and community prayer as soon as possible.”
What Can I Do?
Every hour the news offers up new information about how our world and our neighborhoods are responding to the corona virus. The very best information is both frightening and made more so because it is inconclusive. There is so much unknown and there is no end in sight.
As I walk around Town with Lily, it is a real pleasure to stop and chat with folks. Everyone seems eager to share a thought or some word about his or her life and perception of what is happening. Of course, underlying all of our communications, there is a restless anxiety about what may occur. We all want to “DO” something that makes things better and makes us feel better too.
Sailing is a favorite pastime of mine. Years ago, I came across a priceless little book, “First
You Have to Learn to Row a Little Boat”. The author, Richard Bode, tells a story of his childhood dream of sailing on Long Island Sound. As the boy’s experience unfolds, he draws profound life lessons from his time on the water. For example, he describes the time he was becalmed (there was no wind).
At first, he moved the tiller every which way, pulled on the lines, jerked the sail all around but nothing happened. There was no wind. He was going nowhere. As the afternoon passed into early evening, he learned to let go, stretch out on deck, and wait for the wind. Once he did that, he began to sense many things: the sounds of the sea birds and the tide against the hull; the smells from the sea and from the distant land; the gentle movements of the current and sights of the setting sun. And as the air cooled from the sun’s setting, a light westerly breeze arose and he set a course for his safe harbor.
Perhaps like myself, you can identify with the lad who felt so helpless and agitated, fearful and lost, becalmed at sea. If so, look around and look inside as well. There is so much to see and sense; so much that is good and precious to recall and savor. This becalmed time can be a gift, in some ways, helping us go deeper into ourselves and our world without the winds and often gales of everyday life.
Yet, there is another critical piece to carry the metaphor forward. In that sailboat, becalmed or shrouded in an unexpected fog bank, the sailor has to throw out an anchor to avoid unwanted drift from tides and currents. The anchor means safety, the security of not drifting into danger.
What is your anchor? What keeps you safe and out of danger in this most turbulent time? The corona virus finds a number of us without an anchor at a time when we really need one. For many others, the anchor is our faith. Our belief in an ever-present omnipotent God who will never abandon us, even though our world is so deeply shaken.
This moment in our lives, in our community, has no point of reference to guide us. Yet, we are not alone. The God, who created each one of us in love, continues profoundly close, waiting for us to secure ourselves in God, the one, true, Anchor we so greatly need.