May 2, 2020 Column Father De Celles

Coronavirus and Priests. Perhaps you have heard that at least 2 priests of the Diocese of Arlington have contracted the Coronavirus. Thanks be to God, they both have survived the worst and are recovering. Unfortunately, this also means that the priests of their parishes, the Basilica of St. Mary’s in Alexandria and Holy Trinity Parish in Gainesville, have also been temporarily quarantined. Please pray for these priests, and for their parishes.

          And please pray for all priests. Because of our unique role in the life the parish we are sort of like the hub of the wheel, where lots of different spokes come together—we have contact with many people. This means we have a somewhat higher risk of 1) catching the virus, and 2) passing the virus along. If you think of it, 2 priests are/is about 1% of all the priests in the Diocese, which is about 10 times the contagion rate for the rest of Virginians. This is one important reason the Bishop has imposed such strict restrictions on us: to protect you, and us.

          My biggest fear in all of this has not been catching the virus myself, but in unknowingly passing it on to you. So far, thanks be to God, this hasn’t seemed to be the case. Pray that it stays that way!

          And make sure all of you stay safe. Especially those of you who are most at risk—the older folks, and folks with underlying medical conditions.

          Finally, please let me know if anyone has the virus, or if anyone needs financial assistance in these hard times.

First Holy Communions—Postponed. The first Saturday of May is usually the day our parish celebrates the First Holy Communion Mass for our 2nd graders. But not this year, for obvious reasons. And the absence only adds to the pain of the COVID19 crisis for all of us.

          My little Children, my heart goes out to all of you who had so fervently desired to join us in receiving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. But don’t worry, you will receive very soon, I promise. Just as soon as we are allowed to gather in groups again, one of the first things we will do is make sure you receive your First Holy Communion.

          Parents, I anticipate that when we once again allowed to have public Masses, it will be a gradual process. For example, following the example of some states, perhaps at first Mass attendance will be limited to 20% of the capacity of the church. Given this, and my very strong desire that your children receive First Holy Communion as soon as possible, I’m thinking I will probably not have one special Mass for this, but rather ask them to receive at any Mass they/you choose. Of course, they would wear their special outfits, and be recognized at Mass by the priest.

          Parents, I think this is best, but let me know if you have any objection to this. Just to let you know, this is how my parish did First Communion when I was a little boy, and I have very strong and fond memories of receiving First Communion with the rest of my family.

Eight Grade Confirmation—Postponed. This week the Vicar General (the Bishop’s no. 2) informed the pastors that: All Parish Confirmations scheduled through May with Bishop Burbidge, Archbishop Broglio and Bishop Loverde (or another Bishop) have been canceled.  Additionally, Adult Confirmations scheduled for Pentecost (May 31, 2020) for Bishop Burbidge are cancelled….Since it is nearly impossible to reschedule these Confirmations, the Bishop will provide general delegation to pastors to Confirm through December 31, 2020.” 

          What this means is that the 8th Grade confirmation scheduled for May 19 is cancelled and we will reschedule it as soon as possible after we are allowed to have public Masses. As I noted above, I think the allowance of public Masses will be limited to smaller gatherings at first. If that is the case, then we may have to schedule multiple confirmation ceremonies.

          Also, rather than Bishop Burbidge coming to the parish, he will give me permission to exercise my power to confirm, and I will confirm all the children. I hope this isn’t too great of a disappointment to the kids. But to be honest, it will be a real privilege and delight for me.

Mary’s Month. The whole month of May is Mary’s Month, dedicated in a special way to renewing our devotion to Our Blessed Mother. Usually we would recognize this in a particular way by crowning the statue of the Blessed Virgin after today’s 12:15 Mass, i.e., the “May Crowning.” Of course, this year we can’t gather together for this, but rest assured, the statue of Our Lady in the church will be crowned throughout the month of May.

          On Friday of this last week (recall, I am writing this on the Wednesday before) Archbishop Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined remotely by the other US bishops and the faithful, re-consecrated our nation to Our Lady’s care. I hope you were able to join in virtually.

          I also invite you to join me virtually (via livestreaming) today, Sunday, May 3, after the 11am Mass (join me for that too, via livestreaming), as I will consecrate our parish to Our Lady. I pray that through her intercession and our devotion to her we may all be drawn nearer to her and, through her, to her son, Jesus. And that she may intervene to end the current Coronavirus crisis, and restore public worship, especially public Holy Mass and Communion, to our state and parish.

          Finally, I encourage all of you to make special efforts this month to nurture this devotion to Mary in yourselves, and in your families. Perhaps you can set a goal to pray the Rosary, or at least a decade of the Rosary, every day in May. Maybe you can say it as a family, or maybe young couples can pray it together to strengthen their chaste love and mutual respect.

If you already do that, maybe you could make it your May project to learn a new prayer or hymn to the Blessed Mother. You could also place a statue or a picture of the Blessed Mother in a prominent place in your house, or read a good devotional book on Our Lady, or maybe tell some friends about this great gift that Christ has given us in our Mother. Let May be a time that will truly bring you closer to your Mother, and through her to her Son.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles