Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Patrick,
This past Wednesday evening, May 27, 2020, we had our very first public Mass since we last assembled on March 16 at the parish. On any other day, this would have been a typical weekday liturgy. But, in addition to resuming Mass, this evening’s experience reflected how we will gather in this new norm due to COVID-19.
Entering with masks and sanitized hands, designated pews to ensure appropriate space between members of the assembly, and special procedures to help safeguard those who chose to be present for what would—what should—be an otherwise uneventful experience of celebrating the central Mystery of our faith.
At 5:25pm we rang the bells to announce that Mass would commence in five minutes. Those same bells have faithfully been ringing throughout the suspension of public worship. Whenever I heard them ring since those cold March days I would offer a special prayer for our parishioners. These same bells, however, sounded different on Wednesday evening. Why? Because for the first time in all too many weeks, we were actually assembling for Mass as they rang in the evening air.
It was so good to see some of our “regulars” who gather for evening Mass. With each person donning a mask and many with longer hair since our last encounters, it was truly a graced moment to enter the sacred space with a deep sense that something remarkable was occurring as we began this sacred liturgy. A small but extremely significant event as the bells announced our gathering.
These same bells having announced countless Sunday Masses, weddings, funerals, and other impactful occasions of life’s journey, they remind those who gather that the power of the Eucharist is limitless and eternal, even capable of pouring mercy upon souls of the Dead. These bells, summoning us out of our own worlds, continue to awaken a community to the needs of others which are often varied and many. These bells are ringing for us to know that we are all being summoned to lift up our hearts in praise and thanksgiving, whether physically present or at a distance. They are ringing for everyone to know that this community gathers to do our sacred work on behalf of the world.
As important as it was that we finally were able to physically gather Wednesday evening, I am all too aware that many will not be gathering in person with us in the weeks and months ahead. For as wonderful as it will be to gather with those who do join us I deeply appreciate and honor the decision of those who decide that this is not the proper time to return. For as many who come for the Eucharistic feast, many others will continue their Eucharistic fast.
With this in mind, these same beautiful bells remind those who gather that a sacred and privileged task is entrusted to us on behalf of our sisters and brothers who remain homebound until a vaccine is found and proven to be effective, and for those who may never again enter the doors of our church. Indeed, these bells continue to take on special meaning in these most interesting times. As we celebrate this Solemnity of Pentecost we pray that the Holy Spirit, having guided each generation of disciples since that first Pentecost nearly two thousand years ago, will allow our hearts to continue to ring out with gladness!