As of this morning, two hundred and ten thousand. That’s the official count of the number of COVID deaths in the United States. The actual count is probably higher. Regardless, every death matters, every loss matters, every case matters, every person matters.
Dear ones, we’re not done with the pandemic. I wish we were, but we’re not. We’re heading into a second wave. Even though it hasn’t gotten cold yet, there are already hot spots in New York City. This is not the time to let our guard down.
You may have heard about the goings-on at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Littleton. New church (2009). Pretty church. Nice people. Staffed by priests from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri, or FSSP). The FSSP was formed in 1988 as a Clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right. In case you’re interested, which I’m not really sure why anyone would be, the Society of Jesus is a Religious Institute of Consecrated Life (commonly called a Religious Order and in the case of the Jesuits an Order of Clerics Regular, which has nothing to do with Metamucil®), the members of which are referred to as “religious” and take solemn vows. Which the members of the FSSP do not. Take vows, that is, either simple or solemn. The FSSP came into being at the end of a convoluted, long and frankly exhausting story involving the traditionalist and schismatic French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Schismatic, BTW, was what the earliest automatic transmissions were called. (Not really.) The FSSP’s hallmark has been their devotion to the pre-Vatican II Mass – officially called the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, sometimes called the Tridentine Mass, and essentially unchanged since 1570 – currently using, as every schoolchild knows, the 1962 Missale Romanum. Are you still with me on this? The members of the FSSP, it’s safe to say, live towards the right (as in dexter) end of the Catholic continuum. Also they look pretty sharp in their cassocks and shiny black shoes.
Which has little to do with the topic at hand. Which is that this would NOT be a good time for you to visit Our Lady of Mount Carmel (OLMC). Not because they use the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Far from it. Done well – as at the magnificent Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in St. Louis – the pre-Vatican II Mass can be beautiful and even transcendent. Done poorly, it’s neither – which could be said of any poorly-done liturgy. No, this would not be a good time to visit OLMC because for For Reasons I Do Not Understand (FRIDNU) they have decided not to implement any COVID safety guidelines at all: no masks, no distancing, no sanitizer, no special cleaning. Why, you may ask? FRIDNU.
You may also know that the Archdiocese has come out with revised guidelines for public Mass, effective October 1, 2020. Here’s the link: https://denvercatholic.org/updated-parish-guidelines-for-public-masses/ And here’s what pastors are expected to do: “Pastors are expected to make prudent decisions after reading and understanding Archdiocesan and civic regulations.” Currently Denver is at Safer at Home Level 2, https://covid19.colorado.gov/data/covid-19-dial/covid-19-dial-dashboard which allows, with distancing, a maximum of 50 (or 100 if permitted by the official calculating widget https://covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home/social-distancing-calculator-for-indoor-and-outdoor-events). What makes sense for us right now? Fifty; 50; 40+10; L. We’ll continue to monitor the situation.
And we’ll continue to err on the side of SAFETY. As in your safety. If the news of the past week or so has taught us anything, it’s that COVID spreads rapidly among the careless. So we’re going to be careful. Frankly, you’re too precious to do otherwise. IF the overall situation improves, we’ll make appropriate adjustments.
Remember how “Pastors are expected to make prudent decisions after reading and understanding Archdiocesan and civic regulations?” Yeah, well. With advice from health care professionals and other People Who Know Things, taking into account Archdiocesan and public guidelines, and drawing upon his own training and experience as a nurse and – until recently – a licensed Family Nurse Practitioner, your pastor has decided that it’s steady as she goes for now, which means no changes. With but one possible exception, which is that if there were substantial demand for communion on the tongue, we’d CONSIDER beginning to offer it as structured by the current Archdiocesan guidelines. I WILL SAY, however, that it’s a rare occasion when the communion minister’s hands do not accidentally touch the lips or tongue of at least one communicant in a group of those seeking communion on the tongue. Why? All kinds of reasons: People don’t hold still; they don’t open their mouths wide enough; they don’t extend their tongues in the appropriate manner; they want to receive on the tongue but they’ve been shown how to do so properly; people make mistakes; ministers briefly lose focus. Most of the time – barring something like oh I don’t know a PANDEMIC or something – nothing bad happens as a result. But this is not most of the time. It’s a PANDEMIC.
Which means that despite the bit about lowering masks in the revised Archdiocesan guidelines, we are in fact NOT changing our policy regarding masks. Masks? Wear ‘em, on your way in and inside. Thank you.
If your pastor had a nice desk he’d have a THE BUCK STOPS HERE plaque on it. As it is, he has a virtual THE BUCK STOPS HERE plaque. So please, should you have any gripescomplaints concerns about any of this, blame the pastor, not our faithful and generous volunteers.
Secure in the understanding that we’re all doing our best to be patient, spacious and forgiving in the midst of times that do not always lend themselves to patience, spaciousness or forgiveness, let’s continue to work together for the good of all. And above all, don’t forget that you are beloved. B.E.L.O.V.E.D. Which is, after all, the Good News.