As you recall, Bishop Thomas issued a statement recently in which he established that next weekend, June 5 and 6, will be the first weekend during which the Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted for parish functions, including liturgies. Below is a summary of the Bishop’s memo; the information will help us to know what to expect when we come for Mass next weekend.
Firstly, the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days returns next weekend. However, those who are physically unable to attend Mass due to health reasons are still dispensed from the obligation as they were before Covid. As the Bishop says in his memo, “Those who have a serious reason, the sick and infirmed as well as those with pre-existing conditions, those who are incapable of physically attending Mass, and those who care for someone who is immuno-compromised are exempt from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.”
As I announced already, starting next weekend, masks/facial coverings will no longer be required in our churches and other facilities. However, anyone is certainly welcome to continue wearing a mask if they choose to.
I also already announced that social distancing will no longer be required and therefore all of the ropes will be off the pews. Please feel free to sit in any of the pews.
Regarding particular liturgical matters, the servers, deacons, and I will once again be processing into Mass down the center aisle at the beginning of Mass and back up the center aisle at the end of Mass.
We will once again be doing the collections as we did before Covid. This will be a boost for our second collections, which struggled during the restrictions.
Perhaps the most difficult liturgical item for us to get accustomed to, starting next weekend, pertains to the Our Father. In his memo, Bishop Thomas states: “The faithful should be reminded to refrain from physical contact (handholding) during the Lord’s Prayer, a gesture that is not prescribed in the Roman Missal.” He explains further that, “Extending hands during the Lord’s Prayer is reserved to the Priest Celebrant and concelebrating Priests only who pray together with the people (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 237).” Therefore, “such a practice should be permanently discontinued.” In other words, the practice of holding hands during the Our Father was never something that the Church asked us to do. This practice is something that came about quite separately and independently from the rubrics of the Mass. As mentioned above, the rubrics of the Mass require the priest to extend his hands during the Lord’s Prayer. This is the case because it is the priest who is lifting up the entire congregation’s prayers as he prays it with them. The faithful, for their part, remain attentive at prayer with hands folded.
Although the practice of holding hands during the Our Father is commonly said to be done so as to draw the focus of the faithful to the unity of the congregation, this actually contradicts, albeit unintentionally, the very reason we come to Mass in the first place. At Mass, we always seek to keep our focus on Christ rather than direct our attention to ourselves. Keeping our hands folded during this moment of the Mass helps us to stay focused on what has happened/is happening on the altar- Christ Himself physically present before us in the Eucharist.
I know this last item will be an adjustment for many of us. If you have any questions, concerns, or frustration with this, please feel free to contact me and we can discuss it further.
Hoping you all have a safe and blessed summer!