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Fr. Ron's Blog

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Fr. Ron's Blog

Dear Friends,

Now that Easter is over, we look forward to spring, and all those celebrations which are part of the rites of spring, first communions, confirmations, graduations. None of them will be normal, with social distancing requirements, masks and capacity limitations in place just about everywhere. But at least they will be happening in person, in most cases. That's a far cry from last year when they were either postponed, as in the sacrament celebrations or held virtually, as in most graduations. The world is a brighter place this year.

I thought I would share with you the numbers of worshipers who came from Palm Sunday through Easter. The total attendance for Palm Sunday was 1,070. For Holy Thursday it was 197. For Good Friday it was 233 and for Easter Sunday, the total attendance, in both the church and auditorium was 1,227. In comparison to last year, during the lock down, when it is 10 and 10 and 10 and 10, we've come a long way. Last weekend, the first weekend after Easter was 887 which compares to 726, the weekend of March 20/21, the weekend before Palm Sunday. The world is a brighter place this year.

Dear Friends,

I can finally do something traditional. It would have been traditional to spend most of this column on "thanking" the various people involved in the preparation for and celebration of the "rites" of Easter. Last year, with the lockdown, or should I say the "lockout," that would have been a very small list. This year, with all the protocols, the list is even longer.

First, I want to thank all those who helped with the liturgical celebrations. These include the musicians, the choirs, adults, children and bell choir, even in the limited numbers which they had to abide by. Also the readers, the Eucharistic ministers and the servers. We have been blessed by those who are willing to come out for these ministries, even in the face of the uncertainty of "community spread." I'm especially grateful to the servers who offered without my even asking. Frankly it would not have dawned on me to ask for servers but as I look back on all the services I don't know how we could have celebrated without them.

Dear Friends,

In Paul's 1st Letter to the Thessalonians, he writes, "We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope." (1 Thess. 4:13). In the face of death and in the face of all the lesser deaths we experience in life, where do we find that hope. TODAY IS THE FEAST OF HOPE. TODAY IS THE RESURRECTION FEAST. ALL HOPE COMES FROM TODAY'S FEAST. To accept and to believe that life is eternal, that God has created us to live forever in that eternal kingdom is to know that everything else we experience in life is passing, temporary, even the time separated from loved ones who have gone before us. It is passing. Pandemics are passing. What remains is life with God-forever. Thanks to the Resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.

Dear Friends,

As we enter Holy Week, it will certainly be better than the Holy Week we experienced last year, but once again it will be a Holy Week out of the norm from the ones we are most accustomed to. Even given that, I repeat some of a column I have used now for a few years. I have explained some of the changes in the individual celebrations last week. In this week's column I just want to remind us what Holy Week should mean to us as Christians. The circumstances in which we celebrate may change, but the meaning does not.

With Palm Sunday, the Church begins the remembrance of Jesus' last days on earth. Of special importance are the days of the Easter Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday/the Easter Vigil. On these days, the Church looks at the events which have become the center of our salvation.

Dear Friends,

Before I get into this week's scripture readings, I want to say a few things about Holy Week and the Holy Week schedule, which appears elsewhere in this bulletin. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. It is during Holy Week that we celebrate the most sacred days in our faith life. Last year, Holy Week was a virtual experience as the church was closed, actually "locked down," by civil authorities. This year, the church is open for services, but still constrained by government restrictions. These restrictions will have a major impact on the way we celebrate Holy Week and I have tried to highlight those in the schedule itself. But I want to expand on them a little. In the past, you picked up palm as you entered the church which was then blessed by the celebrant as he walked through the church, sprinkling them with holy water, a special "Palm gospel" was read and there was a procession to the altar. This year, the palm will already be blessed, without the use of holy water and you may pick it up as you enter or leave the church. There will be no special rituals at the beginning of Mass. Mass will begin as normal. You may remember that for many years there was a procession from Vet's Field to the church for the 12:30 Mass. This will not occur this year.

Dear Friends,

On Thursday of this week, March 18, 2021, the day after St. Patrick's Day, we will mark (not celebrate) the 1st anniversary of that first day when no public masses were to be celebrated in the church, a fast from the Eucharist that would last until June 15, 2020. There were other firsts, both before and after that date. The first known case of Covid 19, the first death, etc., etc. We mark all those dates with a sense of sadness, for those we lost, for those who suffered to stay alive, for those who lost livelihoods, and with a prayer for all those who still feel all those losses so deeply. I wrote in the bulletin at the time, "I pray the Lord fills you with a peace that comes from a faith in his presence in your lives and you draw strength from that to face every day, every challenge, every burden with renewed confidence."

Dear Friends,

I am continuing these extended reflections on the Sunday's readings.

For the past two Sundays, the Scripture readings have focused on sin, repentance and change of heart. On the 1 Sunday of Lent we were challenged to come to grips with our personal sins, to understand life as a battle between the power of God in our lives and the power of the Evil One, marked by sin, doubts about God's love and care for us and His presence in our lives. Following Jesus' example in the desert, we were called to take on this war against that power in our lives, knowing that God is there to walk with us.

Last week, Scripture assured us that the victory could be ours and strengthened us with the image of the Transfigured Lord, beloved of the Father to Whom we should listen so as to find our way through the distractions and temptations of life. For those who are transformed by faith, a final and complete transformation awaits them in the Kingdom.

Dear Friends,

Before we continue with our Lenten journey, two unrelated (at least to today's liturgy) happenings. As I am sure you have heard/read, the limitation on religious services (Mass attendance) has been raised from 35%, with a max of 150 to 50% of capacity, without any max. Since the seating capacity of the church is somewhere around 860, you, might be thinking we could now have 430 people at each mass. But it doesn't work that way. It's 50% of capacity while still observing social distancing, which requires us to rope off every other pew. This then reduces available seating to around 220. As of this writing, we are still working out more exact numbers but we will still stick to the registration method for attendance. I remind everyone again the reason for this is contact tracing. In the event of someone coming who later tests positive, we will be able to directly notify those who were in attendance at that mass of that fact, as we did when Msgr. Sheeran tested positive. I am aware that some parishes are not following these protocols, but here at OLMC we think it's the best way to protect your safety. Could it be time to begin giving some thought to the possibility of returning to in-person worship and the opportunity to be strengthened by receiving the BODY OF CHRIST AS FOOD FOR THIS LONG JOURNEY WE ARE STILL ON?

Dear Friends,

Last weekend, Ridgewood schools celebrated February Recess, a brief break in the not-so-routine experience of hybrid education. I doubt that many had the chance to get away, considering the protocols surrounding travel. So it was not much of a chance for renewal, in body or mind. But, on this 1st Sunday of Lent, the Church celebrates a time of renewal, at least as it regards our spiritual life. It is a time to renew our commitment to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, if it's gone a little cold through all the struggles of living in the Covid world. On these next few Sundays, I want to spend a little more time on the Sunday scriptures, especially the Gospels, as each week we take this Lenten journey together. You know that I do the last page of the bulletin, the brief explanation of the weekly scripture and the reflections for the week. For the next several weeks, I just want to expand that a little. That exegesis of the readings, and the reflection questions that follow, will appear on the livestream and the worship aid, offering the possibility for those who join for that Mass that they might spend a few extra moments trying to see what God, through the Sacred Word, is speaking to us in these days.

Dear Friends,

As I mentioned in last week's column, I would repeat the entire column about Ash Wednesday in the event some did not get a chance to read it. I did, however delete the attempts at humor found in the first paragraph, although I was tempted to say something about the Sunday storm which drastically reduced the already-reduced in person congregants. Maybe sunshine and warmth will return one day soon.

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