December 12, 2020 Column Father De Celles

Sign-Up for Christmas Mass. If you haven’t already done so, please sign up (you and your family) for the Christmas Mass you are planning to attend. As I wrote in my previous email to the parish, I’m a little nervous since we usually have huge crowds on Christmas, but with COVID I have no idea what will happen this year. So the requirement to sign-up is my effort to make sure parishioners who want to come have a place in church (considering capacity limit of about 225+/-). Better safe than sorry, especially on this most Holy Day.

Masks at Mass. There are many parishioners concerned/afraid about coming to Sunday Mass because not everyone wears masks. There are many good reasons for not wearing masks, reasons that make it practically impossible for us to actively “enforce” the expectation (not a “mandate”) of the Bishop.

However, I want everyone to return to Mass as soon as possible. So, in an effort to help folks who are particularly anxious about COVID to return and relax at Mass, I’ve decided to REQUIRE MASKS at all 1pm Sunday Masses. This will mainly be “enforced” by the “honor system,” but please attend this Mass only if you agree to wear a mask for the duration of the Mass, except at Communion. The priests at the Mass will also wear a mask during Communion.

Remember, everyone, the rule here is: CHARITY.

GAUDETE SUNDAY. Today is “Gaudete Sunday,” or “Rejoice Sunday” (from the first words of the entrance antiphon, “Gaudéte in Dómino semper”— “Rejoice in the Lord always”). This reminds us that Advent is a season of “expectant joy” as our anticipation of the great joy of Christmas builds every day as we draw closer to it. This is symbolized in the “rose” colored vestments the priests may wear today, “rose” being a shade of advent violet that is brighter than the normal violets of Advent, as if the brightness of Christmas joy is shining through the subdued preparation of Advent.

I hope we all experience this building joy during Advent, especially with all the “difficulties” surrounding us. First and foremost, we should experience this spiritually, in our prayers and meditation on the mystery of Christmas, and in reception of the sacraments. In this regard, I encourage you to go to Confession this week—we rejoice because Christ was born to save us from our sins, and he pours out this salvation in this holy sacrament—there’s nothing like the joy experienced in having our sins forgiven. Remember, we have will have 2 priests hearing confessions every evening this week, Monday through Friday. For those of you who are very concerned about COVID, you should know that we are not using the standard confessionals during COVID, but are hearing Confessions in the “Flower Room” and (for the next 2 weeks) in the “Family Room,” which have better circulation and allow us to “social distance.”

I also encourage you to attend daily Mass, as well as Wednesday and Friday Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. And don’t forget the Extraordinary Form Mass this Friday at 7pm.

Advent and Christmas Giving. Still another practical way we experience this progressive joy is through acts of generosity. I’m sure all of you have been showing special charity to those around you, through ordinary acts of kindness revealing the joy of Christ in your hearts. But we also experience this in a special way through gift-giving. We need to be careful, though, to make the Christmas gifts we buy in some way a genuine reflection of our Christian joy. Perhaps we can do this by giving religious gifts, (you might want to visit our Gift Shop off the narthex) or just being careful to give wholesome gifts that are consistent with Christian values.

This is also a time to make donations to worthy Catholic groups who will receive them with the joy of Christ. A few of the groups that I would recommend, are Divine Mercy Care, Project Rachel, Gabriel Project, House of Mercy, Angelus Academy, and, my personal favorite, St. Dominic Monastery in Linden.

And, as much as I understand it, this year, to date, St. Raymond’s offertory collections and other donations are down from last year by about 19%. So I would very much appreciate it if as you plan your Christmas and year-end giving to consider making an extra donation to St. Raymond’s. Thanks to those of you who have already done so.  God bless.

Follow the Science. This is an excerpt of a recent article entitled, “A Sensible and Compassionate Anti-COVID Strategy,” by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, M.D. and Ph.D. (economics). He is a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, and the co-author of the “Great Barrington Declaration,” which 50,708 scientists and medical doctors have signed to date.

“Deadliness of the Lockdowns. The widespread lockdowns that have been adopted in response to COVID are unprecedented—lockdowns have never before been tried as a method of disease control. Nor were these lockdowns part of the original plan. The initial rationale for lockdowns was that slowing the spread of the disease would prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. It became clear before long that this was not a worry: in the U.S. and in most of the world, hospitals were never at risk of being overwhelmed. Yet the lockdowns were kept in place, and this is turning out to have deadly effects.

“Those who dare to talk about the tremendous economic harms that have followed from the lockdowns are accused of heartlessness. …So I’m …going to talk about the deadly effects on health, beginning with the fact that the U.N. has estimated that 130 million additional people will starve this year as a result of the economic damage resulting from the lockdowns….

“Another result of the lockdowns is that people stopped bringing their children in for immunizations against diseases like diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and polio, because they had been led to fear COVID more than they feared these more deadly diseases. This wasn’t only true in the U.S. Eighty million children worldwide are now at risk of these diseases. We had made substantial progress in slowing them down, but now they are going to come back.

“Large numbers of Americans, even though they had cancer and needed chemotherapy, didn’t come in for treatment because they were more afraid of COVID than cancer. Others have skipped recommended cancer screenings. We’re going to see a rise in cancer and cancer death rates as a consequence. Indeed, this is already starting to show up in the data. We’re also going to see a higher number of deaths from diabetes due to people missing their diabetic monitoring.

Mental health problems are in a way the most shocking thing. In June of this year, a CDC survey found that one in four young adults between 18 and 24 had seriously considered suicide. Human beings are not, after all, designed to live alone. We’re meant to be in company with one another. It is unsurprising that the lockdowns have had the psychological effects that they’ve had, especially among young adults and children, who have been denied much-needed socialization.

“In effect, what we’ve been doing is requiring young people to bear the burden of controlling a disease from which they face little to no risk. This is entirely backward from the right approach.”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles