Dear Sisters and Brothers –
Just last week, San Francisco County clarified its directives for indoor religious services. Their months-long use of the term “public services” led us to believe that we were prohibited from indoor Sunday Masses, but that private baptisms, weddings and funerals with a maximum of 12 socially-distanced and masked people, including any ministers, were permissible. Consequently, we had been celebrating [and carefully monitoring] these events since the spring. The clarification that came was that the only indoor religious services allowed are those for purposes of live streaming.
Because of the lack of clarity, we had two baptisms and six weddings on our church calendar through the end of September. These are families and couples who had already set aside long-held dreams for such significant milestones, so I called a friend who works in the Mayor’s Office to see if we could “grandparent” [:)] in these events, our having scheduled them in good faith. My friend contacted the city attorney to ask, and the answer came back as "no". So, Don Crean went to work, contacting Pat Steacy to see if he could and would be willing to live stream from the lawn outside the church (he can and he will), and to talk with the couples and families to discuss the options.
I tell you all this because the reaction of some of these couples and families inspire me. The first came from Halle’s mother, who sent photos of her daughter’s baptism. Rosalie wrote, “We had always imagined we would baptize Halle in the sanctuary surrounded by family and friends. But baptizing her outside on a sunny day felt very fitting given the state of the world and the pandemic; it was like God wanted to surround us with his warmth and glory on this special occasion."
Jenny and Brian’s wedding is scheduled for next weekend. Denied the presence of even their parents because of health concerns, they were nonetheless excited to be married in the church where he has been a member for nearly a decade and in which she was baptized just over a year ago. When I checked in with them earlier this week to see how they were doing with the new plans for their wedding on the lawn, they admitted to a bit of sadness, but their focus was spot on. Brian captured their shared assessment of the circumstance when he said, "Jenny and God will be there. That's all that matters."
I think that Saint Ignatius Loyola would say that Rosalie and Dustin, and Jenny and Brian are “finding God in all things.” They offer me and us small-but-significant examples of how God’s abundant grace is coming through the cracks in our lives that have appeared as a result of the pandemic and sheltering in place. I certainly do not intend to minimize or spiritualize the significant challenges that many of you are facing during and as a result of the pandemic. I simply offer them to remind us that God “labors” for our good, in things large and small, always. Let us hold fast to that truth, that it may give us hope.
Please keep these and all the couples and families with whom we continue to work in your prayers. I know that it will be a great consolation for them to know that while their families and friends cannot be with them to celebrate this Sacrament, their parish family is holding them up to God in our prayers. And, as always,
oremus pro invicem,