During these unsettling times, there can be a temptation to focus only on ourselves and our immediate loved ones to get through the current crisis. Depending on our situations, we may not have the ability or resources to do more. But for those of us who do have the ability to support others, especially the most vulnerable people in our neighborhood, parish or broader community, it’s a crucial time to help them. Let’s not write off the vulnerable among us. Let us reach out to them. The National Council on Aging has offered some basic tips for helping more vulnerable people during this time. Below is an excerpt from the Council’s website:
- Health first! The most important first step is to protect yourself. • Stay informed—follow the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your local health departments. • If you are in a high-risk group, if you are feeling sick, if you are self-isolating, or if you have tested positive—there are different steps you must take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Start by talking to your doctor. • Avoid unnecessary public activities, crowds, and public transportation. Postpone non-emergency doctor appointments.
- Practice physical distancing and social connecting Staying at home doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected in other ways. Stewards of Ourselves and Our Neighbors • Maintain a safe distance from other people—at least 3 feet, preferably 6 feet. • Make sure to stay socially connected. Walk around your neighborhood, go out in nature, talk to friends—but keep a safe distance. • Pick up the telephone or use Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. The good news is many people will be home, so it can be easier to reach them. • Use email, texts, and social media to stay connected with friends, family, and your community.
- Reach out and educate Be a source of accurate, trusted information for your family, friends, and neighbors. • Don’t assume that everyone knows what you know about how to protect themselves and others. Make sure they are taking proper precautions. • Urge the younger people in your life to take this seriously. • Reach out especially to isolated older adults you know. Check in on them. Let them know you care. See if they need help and, if they do, help them figure out how to get it.
- Be proactive about your health It’s very important to do what you can to keep your physical health and mental well-being strong. • Boost your immune system with exercise. Go outside in the sunshine, hydrate, eat a balanced and nutritious diet, make sure you have enough medications for at least a month. • Do what you can to reduce stress and anxiety—don’t give into fear. Now is the time to stay calm and live realistically.
- Ask for help if you need it You are not alone. We are all in this together. • If you need help getting food or other essential goods and services, let people know. Don’t be afraid to ask a neighbor, friend, or family member for a helping hand. • If you’re having trouble paying your bills, visit our free BenefitsCheckUp to see if you qualify for public and private benefits programs to help pay for food, medicine, and more. We will get through this if we all support each other.
By Teresa Keogh, Advisor for Stewardship, Archdiocese of Southwark, England
We hold in our hearts the sorrow of those who have lost loved ones to the Coronavirus. May those who have died now rest in the presence of the Lord who suffered with them.
We pray for those who are feeling ill at this time and those who are caring for them. May the Lord show them his healing love and give them peace.
We pray for those who are using their skills in caring for those who are ill and frail. May the Lord strengthen them and give them confidence that they are doing his work in the healing of bodies, souls and spirits.
We place ourselves with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. We will watch and pray, knowing that he is with us in our uncertainty and fear. May we hear in our hearts the words from the Prophet Isaiah: ‘Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you’.
We pray for those whose working lives will change as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. We pray that those who lose their jobs will find work which will fulfill their hopes and enable them to live with dignity. We pray for fairness and justice in the workplace.
We pray for those who lead us in government at this time. We pray for wisdom and discernment that they will do their utmost to serve their people faithfully and without self-interest.
We pray too for the scientists and the medical experts who are leading the response to the present crisis. May they share their knowledge and expertise with humility and integrity.
God of love and mercy, we are living under the cross of your Son in an unexpected and unwelcome way. We feel the gripping power of fear, anxiety, powerlessness and dread. We face the cross with a fearful heart. Send your Spirit down upon us to give us wisdom and courage, to console us and give us peace. One with you and your Son, the Spirit is the giver of life who can guide us through the storms and comfort us in our pain and discouragement. Through your Spirit, transform our weakness into strength and breathe confidence into us, so that our stewardship of the Gospel will give us a new boldness to proclaim the hope of your cross and the joy of Easter morning. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This year the spring season begins on Thursday, March 19, just three weeks before the great Easter Triduum begins. One of the first readings of the spring season gives us hope, for it reminds us of the Lord’s return. Just as the earth shows an early sign of renewal, the prophet Hosea pledges that the Lord will return to heal us, bind our wounds, revive and renew us. “He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain that waters the earth” (Hosea 6:1-6).
For some people, Lent is a gloomy time. Perhaps a childhood memory of deprivation, with no real understanding of the reason for the sacrifice, clouds their memory of Lent. Perhaps for some Catholics, thoughts of the terrible suffering and death of Jesus overshadows and depresses their Lenten observance. For some, after a purposeful march to the altar to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, the discipline of Lent fades. Not so for the Christian steward. Good stewards remain faithful to the discipline of the Lenten season, but they also remain hopeful with a deep sense of joy. After all, what is Lent but a reminder of our salvation? What is Lent but the harbinger of the Life that conquered all death?
It’s not an accident that Lent occurs just as we begin to realize, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, that once again, the light and color of spring are returning. In the midst of our Lenten discipline, the prophet means to comfort us. Just as the spring rains begin to fall, the promise of Easter’s joy will soon be upon us. It is indeed a time of hope as the prophet encourages us to return to the Lord as well (Hos 6:1).
As Lent begins, we may struggle through cold and ice, in our world and in our hearts. But as Easter nears, the delicate leaves of crocuses and daffodils speak of Resurrection. Lent demands discipline, but it also inspires hope. As faithful stewards of the Gospel message, we know how the story ends!
MY DEAR BROTHER PRIEST:
I have no need to tell you of the dislocations, legitimate concerns and misplaced fear that are burdening our parishioners and families in these days concerning COVID19. Being on the ground, you know these realities far more deeply and personally than I do.
The public health response in our society is changing daily, and it is essential that the Church move in tandem with prudent efforts to stop the spread of this pandemic.
Both the governor and San Diego County have issued declarations prohibiting meetings of more than two hundred fifty people, and calling for social distancing even within smaller gatherings.
In light of these government actions, and the public health challenge which underlies them, I consulted with the Presbyteral Council yesterday and again today. As a result, I have concluded that the following actions must be implemented in all of the parishes and schools of the Diocese of San Diego:
- Effective Monday morning March 16th, no public daily or weekend Masses will be held. Parishes are encouraged to keep churches open longer hours for personal visitation, intermittent recitations of the Rosary, and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
- All Catholics in the Diocese of San Diego are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass during the coming weeks.
- All parish and diocesan schools and religious education programs will be suspended effective this Monday. The Diocesan School Office is notifying the schools of this suspension; the Office has in prior days sent to the schools substantive materials for long distance learning for use during the suspension.
- We will be providing video streamed Sunday Masses celebrated by priests and bishops of our diocese in English, Spanish and Vietnamese every week. Your parishioners can access these celebrations be linking to the diocesan website at sdcatholic.orgstarting this Sunday
Attached to this memo is a letter that I have written to be read at all of the Masses this Sunday which speaks to the spiritual dimensions of the challenges confronting us in these days. I would also ask you to email this letter to your parishioners if you have the capacity to do so.
It is vital that we proceed with a blend of prudent concern for public health and the spiritual mission that lies at the heart of the Church and is especially vital in these days. I give thanks once again for all of the service which you render to the Church, especially in moments like this.
Sincerely yours in Christ, Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy
Following the prudent indications of our Bishop and wanting to strengthen our faith during times we are experiencing. Beginning this Monday we have been advised to cancel all Masses and gathering.
The parish office will be closed until further notice. For normal business, please leave a message with the answering service. Your call will be returned as soon as possible. If you need to speak directly with me, you may reach me at 760-828-8982. You are in my prayers.
With all my love , Fr. Gerardo
Saint Patrick, the “apostle to Ireland,” is one of the world’s most famous and celebrated saints. His missionary zeal arguably matched that of Saint Paul, whose missionary activities, though oftentimes a severe struggle, remained in the territories governed by Roman law. Saint Patrick, however, was the first recorded Christian missionary to evangelize beyond the bounds of Roman rule and into the darkness of what was then considered the end of the earth.
“Patricius” was born in Roman Britain around 385. His father was a public official and church deacon. He was kidnapped by Irish slave traders while in his mid-teens and forced into slavery; herding sheep on remote Irish hillsides under harsh conditions. Spending most of his time in solitude, he grew to trust in God and embrace a life of prayer. After six years, he made a dangerous and harrowing escape over land and sea that finally resulted in a return to his parents. They found him, at age 22, a serious visionary who sought holiness and friendship with Christ.
Patrick entered the priesthood, and in time, was sent to evangelize the Irish. He was appointed the bishop of Ireland in 435 and established his see at Armagh in the north. The Irish were known to be wild, unrestrained and corrupt. But Patrick’s success in making converts to Christianity was nothing less than astonishing, even to him. He traveled to most parts of Ireland, winning the hearts of the Celtic people by his deep faith, humility, simplicity and pastoral care. He took great measures to incorporate pagan rituals into his teachings on Christianity.
Since the ancient Celts honored their gods with fire, Patrick used bonfires to celebrate Easter; and he placed the sun, a powerful Celtic symbol, around the Christian cross to create the now familiar Celtic cross.
Patrick’s profound witness to the Gospel eventually brought an end to human sacrifices, trafficking of women, and slavery in general. He is the first person in recorded history to publicly oppose slavery; a protest that would not be taken up again for another millennium. His writings reveal a keen understanding of stewardship as well. He wrote that whatever good he had been able to accomplish on behalf of the Lord, in his “meager, unlearned, and sinful state … has been a gift from God.”
Over the centuries, Irish immigrants would spread their devotion to Saint Patrick as they established the Catholic faith around the world. He is thought to have died on March 17, 461, the date which became his feast day.
During the season of Lent, Catholics traditionally devote special efforts to deepen their relationship with the Lord in three areas: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. Throughout Lent, as we remember the great sacrifice Christ made, Christian stewards examine their own sacrificial giving. We do this to emulate Christ, to gain spiritual maturity, and share with others. Our Lenten efforts are not like short-term New Year’s resolutions, designed as a forty-day weight-loss plan or a self-help project. Instead, they embody the idea of sacrifice in the pursuit of holiness. Here are a few ideas to inspire your own thoughts and to make Lenten sacrifices that might truly be life-changing. (Hint: a Lenten journal may help in noticing and recording your growth.)
PRAYER • Dedicate yourself to an extra 10-15 minutes of daily Scripture reading. Participate in an extra community prayer activity weekly: perhaps a daily Mass, the Stations of the Cross, or an Evening Prayer at a nearby parish. • Find an online prayer source (www. sacredspace.ie is a good example) where you can spend 10-15 minutes of prayer at your computer during each busy day.
FASTING • Fast from negative thoughts of others. Be conscious of mean or petty mental messages. • Perhaps fasting from all screen time would prove impractical. But set yourself a limit. Sacrifice some aspect of Internet browsing, television watching, or texting, and do something constructive with the time saved. • Refraining from food or drink is often a fasting choice. Make sure you’re doing it for the right sacrificial reasons and perhaps donate the money saved to a charity such as Catholic Relief Services. • Fast from the need to always be right. Spend more time listening to or reading the opinions and ideas of those with whom you may not think you agree.
ALMSGIVING • A wise man was asked, “How much should I give?” His reply: “More.” Stretch your charitable giving this Lent. Sacrifice a need or want to give more money to the offertory collection at Mass. • Set aside a few hours of Lent to be with the poor, to accompany them on their journey. Serve at a food kitchen or help out at a food bank. Promise yourself you will enter your “discomfort” level sometime this Lent. • Check out your closet. Resolve not to add to it during Lent, but instead find things to give to a charity. A real challenge: don’t just give away the clothes of which you’ve tired. Part with something you still love!