Light at the end of the Tunnel
This week saw the first tentative steps towards a return to normality in our lives. The long period of incarceration has been somewhat alleviated and we find ourselves able to do some of the old familiar things once again. Who would have thought that the simple pleasure of sharing a cuppa with a neighbour or friend could be such a source of sheer joy?
The news that our churches can re-open on June 29th is a particular cause for rejoicing. The experience of celebrating the Sacrament of unity in an empty church has been - at least for me - a disquieting and strange affair. I long for the day when a real live congregation replaces the virtual congregation out there in cyberspace. Having said that, the internet has been a real lifeline for the parishes these past few months, providing a point of contact, albeit a remote point of contact between us.
When we do open our doors for public Masses things will not simply return to an 'as-you-were' scenario. Social distancing, respecting the 2-metre rule, will impose severe restrictions on the numbers that can be in attendance and will impact on the nature and duration of our celebrations. In St. Mary's we have a group planning the measures that will need to be taken to be fully in compliance with all public health directives. It appears that the 2-metre rule will mean that St. Mary's will only be able to accommodate about 80 people at Mass, and this in a church with a seating capacity of almost 600. How we regulate this, and enforce it, is all a matter for discussion during these days.
How we distribute Holy Communion is also a matter to be decided. We need to ensure that nobody is put at risk by careless practice of any kind. We are grateful to the volunteers who have come forward to assist with the logistics of re-opening.
A reminder that the Sunday obligation to attend Mass is suspended at present and one suggestion that has been made is that people could attend a 10.00 am morning weekday Mass during the week instead. There is also the question of First Holy Communion days and Confirmations, not to mention a backlog of Baptisms - all these issues will be addressed in the coming weeks, and a roadmap forward will be prepared.
The ease of restrictions shouldn't mean that we throw caution to the wind, the experts are warning of a possible resurgence of Covid-19 - a prospect that none of us would relish. We need to remain vigilant.
St. Mary's, Lucan