Updated September 28, 2020
You are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God. Ephesians 2:19
As we build the household of God for His people, we pray that within the shroud of the pandemic, we may become a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Compassionate Care for each other as We Celebrate Mass
Masks must be worn when participating in the celebration of Mass, as we compassionately care for the body of Christ. Social distancing is also a sign of our compassionate care.
Attendance at Mass
The obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and holy days is lifted until further notice. Christ suffers with those who cannot come to Mass during the pandemic. However, as Jesus taught us, suffering can lead to redemption. While the dispensation is in effect, participating in daily Mass is also recommended.
Locked Doors of the Church
We will be called to make certain sacrifices when we return to the assembly of the Church. When you arrive to enter the Church, only the main doors of the Church will be open. Any side or back entrances will be locked. It is out of great care for you that we limit the number of entrances so as to prevent the spread of germs. If you are handicapped or disabled in any way, park as close as possible to the main entrance or have someone drop you off at the main entrance.
Empty Holy Water Stoups
Holy Water stoups will be empty. Upon entering the Church we have been used to approaching the baptismal font or holy water stoup, dipping our fingers into the water and blessing ourselves as a remembrance of our Baptism. Health safety restrictions will not allow us to use the Sacramental of Holy Water in this way; however, it is most appropriate to continue the gesture of making the sign of the Cross when entering the church remembering that we are God’s adopted sons and daughters baptized in Christ Jesus in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
The procession with the gifts is a powerful expression of the participation of all present in the Eucharist and in the social mission of the Church. It is an expression of the humble and contrite heart, the emptying of self that is necessary for making the true offering, which the Lord Jesus gave his people to make with him. During this period there will be no collection by way of passing a basket and no procession with the gifts. Parishes may consider placing large baskets at the entrances of the Church. Offerings may be made electronically or through the mail.
We must be mindful of those who will be absent during this time of limited capacity to gather, social distancing and high-risk health conditions. Our solidarity with those who cannot be physically present is essential during this time. Those who are unable to come to worship and experience the Sacrament offer their experience as a type of fast. “Such fasting, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes, could help people toward a deepening of their personal relation to the Lord in the Sacrament; it could be an act of solidarity with all those who have a yearning for the Sacrament but cannot receive it…Spiritual hunger, like bodily hunger can be a vehicle of love.”
Sign of Peace
The exchange of Peace before the reception of Holy Communion acknowledges that Christ whom we receive in the Sacrament is already present in our neighbor. This gesture expresses the Gospel truth that communion with God in Christ is enjoyed in communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ—we are members, one with another, in the Body of Christ. When the deacon or priest invites us to offer each other a Sign of Peace it will be appropriate to offer a reverent bow and or verbal greeting “the Peace of Christ be with you.”
Make of our hands a throne to hold the Bread of Heaven
During this time of pandemic it is most reasonable and prudent for the safety of all that Holy Communion be distributed to the congregation in the form of the Sacred Host – the bread that is consecrated and becomes the Body of Christ. The Church teaches that Christ, whole and entire, is received in each of the consecrated elements. We receive Christ the Lord himself, His Body and Blood, sacrificed on Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins and raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father. If you have concerns about receiving on the hand, make arrangements with the presiding priest in advance of the celebration of Mass.
Worship Aids: How to Actively Participate in the Celebration of Mass
As “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), we are led to full, conscious and active participation in the celebration of Mass. Worship aids to assist us to fully participate in the Mass are provided in many forms such as hymnals, printed song sheets with the Order of Mass, projection of the worship aid on video screens. Some of these aids will not be available because of restrictions and will need to be accessed electronically. Bishop Noonan will allow the use of smart phones to access online worship aids provided by your parish.
Sing to the Lord Joyfully
Music is important to the celebration of Mass, particularly on Sundays. It is important for everyone to praise the Lord with song, even if the parish choir has not yet returned.
Sacrament of Penance: Call to Conversion
The Sacrament of Penance will be offered according to your parish capabilities. Individual sessions are to be kept to a maximum of five minutes to allow as many as possible to participate in the Sacrament of Penance as well as to observe social distancing and health protocols. Confessionals are not to be used. Rooms or offices will be prepared to accommodate an appropriate distance between the confessor and the penitent. Celebrating the Sacrament of Penance is different from what is known as “spiritual direction.” A spiritual director might be called a kind of coach who offers advice and counsel to an individual in a non-sacramental setting. The celebration of the Sacrament of Penance is not where this type of interaction is observed. However, it is a celebration of God’s mercy and forgiveness that sacramentally restores us to right relationship with God and one another in Christ Jesus.
A Network Not of Wires, But People
While we are experiencing the pandemic, parishes will not be printing bulletins for distribution at Church and will offer them online at your parish websites so they are easily available to you. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said “Without fear we must set sail on the digital sea facing into the deep with the same passion that has governed the ship of the Church for two thousand years.”
For the Eucharist we long to receive, let us act as the Eucharist we are. Let us flourish the Eucharistic personality of the Church by living our identity with concrete acts of love in the world. Yes, this will require prayer-filled sacrifice. May our goodness be a grace before God.
Most Reverend John Noonan Bishop of the Diocese of Orlando