May 9, 2020 Column Father De Celles

Mother’s Day. Of course, today is Mother’s Day. All human beings have a natural inclination toward a deep affection for their own mothers. But in spite of this, western culture has gradually been subtly degrading the dignity of motherhood and mothers, discouraging motherhood by pushing contraception, sterilization and, of course, abortion, and stressing “careers” over maternity. And now we have the new efforts of gay and transgender activists challenging the very notion and dignity of womanhood, and therefore motherhood.

Against all this stands the Catholic Church, which recognizes motherhood as a holy vocation, and mothers as the heart of the family. We recognize this dignity in all women, even before their first tiny baby rests in their wombs—women are created with this great gift written into their nature, with this tremendous capacity and potentiality to give life and love not only to their children and families, but to the world itself.

Furthermore, the Church sees in motherhood the model for her own relationship with God’s children: “she” is the bride of Christ, and so also “Holy Mother Church.” From motherhood the Church takes its lead in giving eternal life and love to the baptized, and with a mother’s heart she looks on the unbaptized throughout the world, longing to take them into her embrace and bring them to Christ.

            And finally, the Church recognizes that one of the greatest gifts Our Lord Jesus has given to us is His own Blessed Mother, Mary, to be our Mother: “Son behold your Mother!” Who is dearer to us than her, who tenderly comforts her children in their times of sadness, fear, and loneliness?

“God Did Not Do That.” Two Sundays ago, I preached about how no one is talking about God during this pandemic. While we hear slogans like “we’re all in this together” or “together we can do this,” and we hear praise for the healthcare workers and first responders—all of which are fine and good—no one talks about the ONE person who is more powerful than all of us together and deserves our praise above all others: God. I wrote: “No one is talking about God. No one seems to think God matters. Instead it’s as if human “togetherness” or generosity or intelligence are the new supreme forces in the world—mankind is the new god.

            I gave as an example of the exception that proves the rule, President Trump’s statement weeks ago about his hope we could re-open by Easter: “Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full?….You’re going to have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time.”

And he was roundly ridiculed and dismissed.

Since then, another leading political figure has spoken about God in a very powerful way—but in the opposite direction. The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, announced at one of his daily briefings, discussing how the number of new COVID-19 cases is dropping: “The number is down because we brought the number down…God did not do that. Faith did not do that….”

            So, according him, God does not matter. We are the ones that matter. If we can’t do it, God certainly can’t. We, collectively, are the new god.

            Of course, he’s wrong: God does matter. And you and I know He does. So keep praying and praising Him, and beg God to forgive people who blaspheme against Him.

Adoration. Just a short note to thank all the folks who have been coming to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We were having some trouble filling up our commitments last weekend, so I sent out an email asking for volunteers—and within minutes we had 25 new people signed up. You are so generous. God bless you.

            Remember, we have Exposition and Adoration from 9am to 9pm Monday through Friday, and from 9:30am to 6pm on Saturday, and noon to 6pm on Sunday. The Bishop says we need to have at least 2 people committed to every hour to keep Exposition going, so we need people to sign up at If you don’t sign up, you can, of course, still come to adoration (observing the 10 person limitation).

When Will Public Masses Return? Good question, but I don’t have an answer. Governor Northam says that on May 14 he will announce whether or not he will loosen his restrictions, including on churches. But as far as I can tell, he was not clear as to what exactly that would entail.

            In any case, I’m pretty confident (and I have no inside information) that the Bishop will probably follow the Governor’s guidance/rules, whatever and whenever it is.

            So, thinking ahead, I’m anticipating that we will be required to go through a phase-in period that will probably limit the number of people we can have at Mass. I’m thinking/hoping that would begin with a 25% of capacity limit, meaning for us about 210 people per Mass. Typically we get about 2,350 people at the Sunday and Saturday Vigil Masses. I would also anticipate that there will probably still be strong encouragement for those who are particularly at risk (over 60, etc.) to stay home, and that the Sunday Mass obligation would still be suspended by the Bishop. Given that, I’m guessing that we can expect only 80% of the 2,350 to attend at first, or about 1,900. That means we would need at least 9 Masses (1900 ÷ 210 = 9). Normally we have 6 Masses per Sunday, so we’d have to add 3 more.

            How would we add 3 more Masses? I’d love to do this by adding an extra Mass downstairs in the Parish Hall, but capacity there is only 340, so we’d be limited to 85 people, which won’t work. So I’d probably just add 2 Masses in the afternoon, and add 1 Mass on Saturday evening. This might involve changing the regular Mass times (e.g., 8:30 Mass rather than 8:45 Mass)

            How would we limit/control attendance to 210? I think/hope we can use SignUpGenius to do this—a different page for each Mass, with 210 slots. You’d print out your email receipt from SUG and bring that to Mass as a sort of “ticket.” Volunteers at the door would briefly confirm that you’re at the right Mass. You’d have to be on time to Mass, because once Mass started we’d allow any folks who show up without a ticket to come in, up to the 210 limit (they’d have to wait in line outside until then).

            Once inside, we’d require social distancing (not among families), and we’d close off every other pew. We might also have to ask you to wear masks. For Communion, again social distancing would be required…. and we might be required by the Bishop to receive only in the hand. We would not employ Extraordinary Ministers. We would also ask for a staggered exiting after Mass, so that you won’t all be crowded together in the aisles.

            These are my preliminary thoughts. If you have some good ideas, alternatives, or improvements to propose, please send them my way (

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles