Prayers for all of you on this Palm Sunday! After much discussion, I've decided to shift formats a little bit this week. Typically at both Christmas and Easter, our bulletin company sets early holiday deadlines. So under their schedule, I would have to send in my Easter Bulletin last Wednesday. Well, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that no one will be able to actually pick up a bulletin this week, I've decided to shift formats a little bit. For the next few weeks, while we are on stay-at-home order, I'll be posting my weekly article here on the website. I'm aware that not all of our parishioners have internet, but at this point in the situation we're in, I think this is the best we can do for now. If you find yourself reading this. I'd ask that you think of those you know who don't have internet and either print and share this with them, or at least call them to say hello and check on how they're doing.
Some Thoughts on our Situation and Holy Week.
I've been talking to a lot of people over the last few weeks about this situation. I had one person say to me, "Don't get me wrong, I love the live-stream masses, but it's just not the same as coming to mass, I really miss it." Another person said to me, "You know in all my life, I think this is the first time I've ever missed Holy Week, and I'm having a really hard time with that." I know this is hard. Yet, I also think of something one of my brother priests said. "This Lent, really is the Lenti-est Lent of my life." The reality that this Lent has been hard on all of us. We've all had to dramatically change our lives, set aside good things, that we never thought we'd have to set aside, it's really brought into focus our Lenten sacrifices, and imposed some real new ones. I remember a Catholic speaker back when I was in college who talked about a girl who said, "I think this year for Lent, I'm going to give up gossip" To which the speaker said to the room. What time of year are we supposed to give up sin? Just during Lent? No, We're supposed to give up sin all the time!" Lent, is a time when we give up something good for a time, so that when Lent is over, we can realize the goodness God has graced us with and celebrate. During Lent, we omit the Gloria, the Alleluia, we give something good up to be restored at Easter. Well, this year, we've had to give up more that we could have imagined possible. We're not able to celebrate the Eucharist together, so many people are off work, the kids are off school. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. It's true, live-stream mass isn't a replacement for the sacraments....but it's not nothing either. As we walk through this Holy Week and beyond, I'd challenge us all to really reflect on that hunger. As we hear the stories of the passion on Palm Sunday, realizing that in our hearts, we really do have a deep hunger for God, a hunger for the sacraments, and when the day comes that we can finally gather again, oh what a celebration we will have. I've heard of so many people in these last few weeks who have been away from the Church for quite a while, they're listening. It's my hope that when we can return, we'll have trouble fitting all of the people into our masses at Prince of Peace....because we've had the time to really appreciate what we've been missing. So now, as we walk through this Holy Week, please know that you'll be in my prayers, and I hope that as we're not able to meet, we'll feel that deep hunger for our Lord, and know let the hunger we feel drive us even closer to him.
Some Practical Things
This week, we had a videoconference meeting between the priests and deacons in our area and the Bishop. It was quite an interesting experience, but I'm happy to say that for the short term, we've worked out most of the practical concerns. Please join us for the Holy Week Masses via livestream. The schedule is available on our website under current updates/temporary schedule. Just click on the big black button to join our live feed.
Sick Calls - While we cannot make normal sick calls at this time, If you hear of anyone who is in danger of death, please call the Church. We have arrangements in place to make sure anyone at Miner's or another facility will be anointed and receive the last rites.
Palms - Sadly, we are NOT able to distribute Palms this year for Palm Sunday. We will hold onto the palms until the situation is over, at which time, we'll bless and distribute them.
Basket Blessings - While we cannot do our normal basket blessings this year, and many people may not be making them as they won't be gathering for Easter Dinner due to the contagion, we will be putting out a resource, "A home basket blessing" I'd invite you to walk through the ritual. The original basket blessing has been adapted for use by laypeople. Please consider doing it together with your family. The Basket Blessing will be available on our "Livestream resources"
Holy Week Services - We will continue to Livestream the Holy Week Services, Holy Thursday 7pm, Good Friday 1pm, Easter Vigil 8:30PM, and Easter Sunday 9am. Please join us by clicking the livestream link on our homepage. For each service, the feed will begin around :30 minutes before the service. If you have a Chromecast, Android TV, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick, or similar, you can install the facebook app to watch the mass on your regular TV. I was also pleased to see that the diocese just sent a postcard to every Catholic Household in our diocese promoting our daily masses.
Votive Candles - A number of people have asked if votive candles can still be lit. Yes, please send us a separate envelope (put it inside your envelopes when you send off your collection) with $3 per candle and mark on it "votive candle" When the collection is counted on Tuesdays, we will light the votive candle in Church on your behalf.
Collections - Thank you to everyone who has been dropping off or mailing their envelopes in, as well as those who signed up for online giving. Going into Palm Sunday, from what I'm hearing, we might be one of the only parishes in our diocese that has NOT seen a dramatic drop in income. I want to thank every single one of you for helping us to maintain our Church. Due to deadlines with our bulletin company, we couldn't put them in the PDF we normally do under the bulletin sections. So for the time being, we're listing the collection amounts on our giving page Just click on Parish info and online giving. THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY!!!
Finally - I want to thank all of those who assisted in our local fire departments with the recent fire. They did an amazing job and we're very blessed to have them. Our prayers go out to those who lost their homes through the fire.
Please know that you are all in my prayers this Holy Week! God Bless You!
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.