A Reflection on Scripture Readings
On 20th July 2020, the Vatican issued a document on conversion of parish communities. The full title is long:
“The Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community in the service of the Evangelising Mission of the Church.”
This could make a starting point for the next Parish Conversation. Our 5th in this series was held on 1st March. Since then it has not been possible to continue our dialogue and we are not sure when we can resume.
There are some interesting points in this Vatican document. It is not strong on building the parish community from the people upwards. That said, it could begin a programme for Saint Joseph’s for the coming decade. This would enthuse me but as I am ending 12 years at St Joseph’s, it will be the one who comes after me to lead this.
The blessing for St Joseph’s is that the Passionist leader is not the one who alone prepares such a programme. This is a blessing on us and indeed other parishes, who have heard the call of the Spirit to start with our Baptism as incorporation into Christ and the door into the church.
One of the lessons learnt during COVID-19 lockdown is that the Church is not the building or simply an institution. Of course, it is both, but a building is called a ‘church’ by association with the church as a community gathered inside. With the sudden lockdown in mid-March, the building could no longer safely be opened for worship, CCD, RCIA, Baptisms & Preparation, Confessions, Bible Study, Rosary, YAM, ACWO, Women’s Spirituality or Men’s Spirituality gatherings and so much else that make up our lives as church.
Mass, Pastoral Council meetings, CCD classes, Men’s Spirituality, RCIA, YAM and other groups went online. It seemed strange to me at the start, but bit by bit, I could see the hand of God at work and continues daily.
In other situations, the Family as Church was rediscovered, and the Domestic Church made a comeback. No public Masses could be attended, 1st Communions and Confirmations and Sacraments of Initiation for Adults were deferred. Heart-breaking it was for parishioners being unable to celebrate at St Joseph’s funerals of loved ones. Pastoral visits to the sick, blessings of homes, etc. had to end.
This was totally new to me after many years as a priest. A cartoon depicts God talking to the Devil. The Devil is saying, “With Covid-19 I’ve closed your churches.”; while God is answering, “On the contrary, I have opened a church in each house.”
There has been a discovery again of the family as the Domestic church. Whole families followed Mass together online and talked about what they had seen and heard. People prayed the Rosary together online from different parts of the world. This was poignant when a loved one was seriously ill, and nobody able to visit and hold their hand. Jesus and Mary did it for them in prayer.
We do value our church buildings, but prayer can happen around a table, or sitting together or privately on our own. Some families set up their own sacred space in their homes. God is right, the virus did not close our churches but led us in new ways. Buildings must close to keep us safe and healthy. When that is necessary, we rejoice in our domestic church.