Dear Sisters and Brothers –
Since we’ve been sheltering in place, I’ve done a few video messages, but this is the first pastoral letter I’ve written in this time of COVID-19. It feels different somehow, knowing that I won’t see you on Sunday. But it also feels different in a good way. As I’ve read your emails and cards the last few weeks, it seems to me that gathering together for Mass via technology is changing us somehow. Our inability to come together seems to be awakening the realization to the gift it is to be able to gather at the Table of the Lord. You speak of (and I feel, too) a longing to be together as a faith community to celebrate “the fact” of the resurrection, as Fr. Travis put it at the Easter Vigil. That fact puts our circumstances in their proper perspective: in the midst of the pandemic, we hold onto the promise that this tomb, too, will also one day be empty, that the world around us will one day know new life. We pray and hope fervently that that day comes soon.
I have a few practical things to share. First, even though our staff members are sheltering in place, that doesn’t mean we are closed for business. The main phone (415.422.2188) is being answered each day, and staff members are checking their office numbers, which can be found on our website. If you have any needs, pastoral or otherwise, please reach out to us, and we will respond.
As you know, for the time being, we are not having confessions. However, so much of what occurs in confession is pastoral counseling, some of which is confessional matter. Often, however, it is not and can take place outside of the Sacrament. Please know that all of us, priests and lay staff members, are available for such counseling, and the same standards of confidentiality will be maintained. Again, our phone numbers are on our website.
I mentioned in video a few weeks ago, that I am personally ensuring that a candle is lit at each of the shrines in our church. I carry in my heart vivid images of so many of you lighting candles and praying for the intercession of some of the heroes of our faith, and every time I light a new candle, I ask that particular saint to commend you and your intentions to God. The other day, while at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I noticed the book in which we write our intentions; it has not been written in for more than a month now. I want to offer that if you have an intention you want in the book, email it to me (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will make sure that it gets written there.
And if you haven’t sent us a selfie or family photo for our pews, it’s not too late – I think we’re going to be worshipping this way for a while. Send it to me, and I’ll put you with the 600+ photos and 1600+ people already there!
Finally, I miss you. I miss wandering the aisles before Mass greeting you and chatting. I miss the hustle and bustle in the sacristy as we get ready for Mass. I miss seeing your faces and outstretched hands as you come for Communion. I miss the always-too-brief hellos and check-ins at the door at the end of Mass. And I know that you miss it, too. But beneath the longing is love and a sense of belonging to one another in ways that feed us and ways that matter, to us and to the world beyond. We are indeed blessed by that gift from God.
Let us fervently pray for increased testing for COVID-19 and for a vaccine. Let us fervently pray for those who are sick, for those who have died and for their families. Let us fervently pray for those who are most vulnerable to this disease because of injustice and poverty. Let us fervently pray for all those who risk their own health each day to care for victims. Let us fervently pray for our civic and religious leaders, for scientists and for health care administrators. And, fervently,
oremus pro invicem.