By Father Federico Lombardi, S.J.
I was recently reading the words of a Russian thinker: “The simple relationship between people is the most important thing in the world!” It reminded me of a beautiful song full of joy from a few decades ago, launched by an amiable movement of young people that promoted friendship and fraternity among peoples: “Up with people!” Someone certainly remembers it. It spoke of the many people we meet every morning on our way to work; and said among other things: “If more people were for all people — all people everywhere — there’d be a lot less people to worry about and a lot more people who care!” It inspired many wise and positive sentiments. I have thought about it many times in the last few years while walking down the street, meeting many people busy about their own affairs, almost closed in on themselves; and many others with wires coming out of their ears, who were completely focused on their cell phone screen or talking out loud into space with who knows whom, completely oblivious to the people standing just a few inches away from them on the bus.
It seems to me that the instinct of looking at others kindly and attentively is becoming more rare. At the same time, the increasingly pervasive intrusion of new forms of communication into everyday life seems to have made others almost strangers to us. After several [months] indoors, I feel a great desire to meet different faces on the street again. I hope that sooner or later, in due course, this can happen without masks or plexiglass dividers, and I hope I can exchange a friendly word, or even just a sincere smile, with other people. In recent months, many of us have been pleasantly surprised with the possibilities offered by digital communications; and we hope to continue to make use of them in the future. But we have realized that it is not enough.
How will we come back on the day after measures relax to greet one another on the street? Will we be able to repopulate the common spaces of our communities with serenity? Or will we be conditioned by fear and suspicion? With the help of the hoped-for wisdom of scientists and world leaders, will we be able to balance reasonable prudence with the desire to rediscover and renew that quality of daily living that is the most important thing in the world, the very fabric of human life? Will we realize — more or less than before — that we are one hu- man family walking together in the common home that is our one and only Planet Earth? The pandemic has allowed us to experience a problematic aspect of globalization that we will all have to take into account in the future. Will we be able to rediscover the desire of fraternity among peoples beyond borders, the benevolent and curious welcome of diversity, the hope of living together in a peaceful world?
How will we experience our own bodies and how will we see each other’s bodies? As possi- ble contagious vectors, a risk to be guarded against at all costs? Or the expression of the soul of a sister or a brother? Because after all, that is what the human body is: the physical manifestation of a soul — unique, worthy, precious, a creature of God, the image of God. How wonderful is the timbre of the voice, the rhythm of the steps, especially the smile of those we love! Beyond that, shouldn’t this apply to all the people we meet?
Will recovering freedom from the coronavirus help us to free ourselves from the other viruses of body and soul that prevent us from seeing and meeting the treasure that is in the soul of the other person or will we have become even more individualistic? Digital technology can usefully mediate and accompany our relationships, but the mutual physical presence of persons, of their bodies as the transparency of their souls, their proximity in being in contact, remain the original starting and reference point of our experience and our journey.
Jesus was not a virtual manifestation of God, but his incarnation, precisely so that we could meet him. And Jesus told us that he is present and awaits us in the other, in the poor — and who is not poor in some way, whether they realize it or not? And Jesus tells us that in the face of the other person, we can and must know how to recognize him. What will our eyes be like, what will our hearts be like, what will our smiles be like when we return to walk the streets and cross the paths of so many people, who even though seemingly unknown to us, have been missing us after all of these months; and who, like us, have felt the desire to meet again on the daily crossroads of their lives, of our common world?
Father Federico Lombardi, S.J. has been an ordained priest with the Society of Jesus since 1972. He also served as the Director of the Holy See Press Office from 2006 until 2016. He continues to collaborate with Pope Francis on communications projects and he writes regularly for the Vatican News Service. The preceding reflection was published in late May by the Vatican News Service and remains relevant and timely as our parishes prepare for the resumption of public Masses; and our country continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic. Father Lombardi offers us much food for thought and prayer about preparing our hearts, minds, and spirits for what comes next — a new normal that is unlike anything we have experienced before. As another challenging week ends and another begins, let us continue to pray for God’s mercy, healing, and protection from the coronavirus. Let us continue to pray for each other. And let us continue to trust in God, believe in science, and pray without ceasing. Ever together in prayer! Finally, this week’s banner art (see above) is a detail from a hand painted icon of Jesus Christ by Roman Selivachov, who lives in Kiev, Ukraine. For more information about Roman’s beautiful iconography, please click here. Peace and blessings to all! — Father Jim
Pastor’s Note: Even though we cannot gather together right now for praise and worship, we can still pray together. Using the links below, all are invited and encouraged to sanctify the various times of the day with these prayers for God’s mercy, healing, and protection from all illness. Let’s pray together! Ever together in prayer! — Father Jim
Our Pastor’s Message
By Father Jim
As you know by now, Cardinal Sean has asked every pastor in the Archdiocese of Boston to develop a plan for a prudent and limited re-opening of our churches. Each plan must be approved by our regional bishop. During the past month, I have been working with fellow parishioners and members of our pastoral team to develop a plan to resume the celebration of public Masses beginning on Sunday, July 26th. Although every member of this working group longs for the day when we can join together in common prayer, we remain united in our deep concern for the health, safety, and well-being of our friends, families, and fellow parishioners in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport.
Among our challenges is seating capacity. Both the Archdiocese of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts strictly limit seating to 40% of overall capacity in each church. At the same time, these regulations also require at least six feet of social distance at all times. In order to comply with these requirements, we can seat only 28 parishioners in Saint Joachim Church, 28 parishioners in Saint Anthony Chapel, 36 parishioners in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church, and 56 parishioners in Saint Ann Church. Needless to say, this could make it very difficult to accommodate everyone who may wish to join us for Mass.
In order to attend any public celebration of the Holy Eucharist, all parishioners will be required to reserve an assigned seat via an easy-to-use online reservation system. For parishioners who do not have access to a computer or the internet, some seats will be reserved for registration by telephone. Every parishioner who successfully registers will receive a confirmation message via e-mail or telephone. It is important to remember that we cannot welcome anyone into our churches unless they participate in this registration process. This system has already been tested and will be tested again both this weekend and next weekend.
Another challenge is cleaning and disinfection. Each of our churches must be thoroughly cleaned after every moment of public worship: funeral services, baptism and wedding cere- monies, and all celebrations of the Holy Eucharist. This includes professional cleaning of bathrooms, entrances, worship spaces, sacristies, sanctuaries, and every surface that someone might touch. Under these circumstances, we feel compelled to modify our weekend worship schedule so that all of our churches can be properly cleaned before each use. In addition, all parish programs, meetings, and ministries (including Daily Mass) remain suspended until further notice. Our parish office will also remain closed for the time being, but pastoral assistance is available by e-mail or telephone.
I fully appreciate that some parishes have opened more quickly than us. It is not my place to second guess the decisions of other pastors and parishes. But as your pastor, my focus must remain doing whatever is possible with limited resources to keep our people safe and well; and to provide some form of spiritual nourishment. This remains a time for patience, prayer, and prudence. The coming weeks and months will continue to test our bonds of prayer, fellowship, and service. These times will challenge us to consider new ways to live the Gospel, share God’s love, and rebuild the Church in Gloucester and Rockport. But working together as humble servants in the Lord’s vineyard, we can do anything! Ever together! Peace, blessings, and sincere thanks to all for your ongoing prayers and support!
The Assisi Project
New Podcast Series
Founded by Father Jim and Cliff, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit that is dedicated to helping believers of all ages to more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare. In response to the pandemic, Father Jim asked Cliff to look back on nearly two decades of ministry as a catechist, spiritual director, and leader of retreats and pilgrimages; and to create a regular series of podcasts (audio recordings) as a way of continuing his adult faith formation ministry. As of this weekend, Cliff has already created nine podcasts with more on the way! These podcasts are free and always available! Just click on the links below:
- New! The Buoy in the Road
- Choose Love
- Mad As Hell?
- Mary, Mother of All Peoples (Parts 1 & 2)
- Saint Damien of Molokai: Martyr for Charity
- The School of Mary: Praying with Our Lady of Lourdes
- Our Daily Prayers
- Our Mission: Becoming Franciscans in Spirit
Members of the Assisi Project range in age from 12 to 94 and live in Holy Family Parish, Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish, throughout the Archdiocese of Boston, all across the United States, Canada, Brazil, Italy, Spain, and Angola. Part of our work together is our prayer together. So we pray each day for all who ask for our prayers all around the world. If you would like the Assisi Project to pray for you, your family, your special intention, or the soul of a deceased friend or loved one, please contact Cliff at email@example.com.
During this time of pandemic, when we are encouraged to remain at home, all are invited to pray and reflect on the Gospel Life by making use of the many resources on our website (click link below). These resources include our Daily Prayers, Franciscan Rosary, Way of the Cross, our new podcasts, and more than fifty reflections and stories about Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. Come and pray with us online! May the Lord give you peace — now and always!
Balancing Our Budgets
Our fiscal year ended on June 30th! We need your help now more than ever! Your weekly gifts are essential to the financial health and well-being of both Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Our parishes depend solely on the generosity of our fellow parishioners to pay bills, make ends meet, and help to ensure the financial stability of our parishes communities. All friends, neighbors, and fellow parishioners of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport are encouraged to mail their offering or to give electronically. Our mailing address is 74 Prospect Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930. In addition, our We Share program is a safe and easy way to make donations to your home parish using a credit card, debit card, or electronic check. Put simply, we need your help now more than ever! For more information about how to support our parishes during these challenging times, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your generous support! May God bless you and your family! Peace and blessings to all! — Father Jim
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Working together as a Roman Catholic community united in prayer, fellowship, and service, we are committed to living the Gospel of Christ, sharing God’s love and mercy with all people, and rebuilding the Church in Gloucester & Rockport. All are invited! All are welcome! Always!
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