Pastor’s Piece – July 4

Please see below for a letter from Bishop Burbidge concerning the 2020 Census.

Just a reminder that there will be no afternoon Confessions on July 4.

Also, please look for a survey that I have sent in regard to Mass at St. Katharine Drexel. Please check your spam folder if it doesn’t appear in your inbox. The survey will be open until next Saturday, June 11, 2020.

Letter from Bishop Burbidge – 2020 Census

Fr. Christopher Murphy

Pastor’s Piece – June 20

Father Christopher Murphy – St. Katharine Drexel Mission

Pastors Piece – June 20, 2020

 

Celebrate Mass at St. Stephen the Martyr Church

With St. Katharine Drexel Mission Masses currently suspended due to COVID-19 closures, SKD parishioners are invited to attend Sunday Mass at St. Stephen the Martyr Church located at 23331 Sam Fred Road in Middleburg, VA.

Mass Schedule – St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church

Sunday Mass:
8:00AM, 10:00AM, 12:30 PM (Spanish)

Daily Mass (Monday-Saturday):
8:30 AM

St. Stephen the Martyr Church

Pastor’s Piece – June 13

I apologize for any confusion earlier this week for information found on the webpages and or parish bulletin regarding the schedule. It’s tough getting back into the swing of things. Please, note well. Mass times for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, June 14 are 8:00 & 10:00am in English and 12:30pm in Spanish. There is no Saturday evening Mass of anticipation for Sunday. Daily Mass is 8:30am Monday – Saturday. Also, we have Spanish Mass, Wednesday evenings at 6:30 in Spanish before the Eucharistic Holy Hour starting at 7:00. The Sacrament of Penance is available in that hour.

Some things worth reviewing for the participation in Mass at SSM:

  • Those attending Mass in the church nave, narthex, front porch and parking lot are to come to Communion at the altar rail.
  • Please, make a single-file line in the main aisle.
  • Follow the tape markers on the floor for social distancing.
  • Where the aisle widens there are two tape markers abreast.
  • The side you choose directs you to which side of the altar rail from which to communicate.
  • Regarding the altar rail:
    • There are six Communion stations (three on each side of the main aisle).
    • Each Communion station is properly spaced from social distancing and has a pad for kneeling.
    • One may receive Communion standing or kneeling but the pad is the location from which to communicate.
    • One may receive on the hand or on the tongue regardless of posture.
    • Wearing a mask for Holy Communion will require extra time that the altar rail provides, such as:
      • The removal and reapplying of masks.
      • A moment extra to recollect oneself for the great unique privilege of sacramentally receiving Our Lord.
      • I ask that the mask be lowered from one’s mouth when I present the Eucharist.
    • Those in the parish hall, please, wait for me to bring Communion to you at your place.

With a video feed to the parish hall, a speaker system to the hall and exterior of the church, and a video of the 8am Mass on the inter-net, I was relieved last week not to have transmitted the Mass via FM radio. This particular medium has been waning in popularity since public Masses are now available in our area. Therefore I’m discontinuing its use. I can easily enough enable it for a need. Just let me know beforehand.

 

Regarding the video feed of the 8:00am Mass. I am sorry that it didn’t arrive in cyberspace until about 10:30am. We are having difficulty uploading it quickly. We shall try some new ideas this Sunday, and hope for better outcome. This recorded version of the 8:00am Mass will be available on YouTube and Facebook hopefully from 9:30am-ish until Monday. You may find the link on our webpages: https://www.saint-stephen.org, https://www.katharinedrexelcc.org, or https://www.facebook.com/katharinedrexelcc

 

In preparation for Mass this Sunday, as you walk into church, look for a QR code posted on the columns of the church and on our webpage. This will provide your smartphone with the lyrics to the hymns that we’ll be using. In addition we have limited disposable copies of these hymns printed for your use. You have permission to look at your cellphone during Mass. I know that you’re not following the ball game. There are none.

Volunteers to wipe down pews, chairs and door handles after Mass to prepare for the next one are welcome.

For all of you at SKD who are concerned about getting back to our routine at Bull Run Middle School, my third apology this Pastor’s Piece but things aren’t any clearer to me this week than last week. I think that we can comfortably bet that July isn’t available. Interestingly it is a different story in Loudoun County and so I do not believe this to be a State issue. If anyone has an influence with Prince William County, please, apply some pressure. In the mean time come and be with the members of your parochial family in Middleburg. You’ll find familiar faces and some neighbors. Once again we should have some very pleasant weather for attending Mass with the windows open or sitting on our front patio.

The big news for SKD this week is that we now own the Mission Office, 4100 Mill Creek. Finally we can get to work on repairing the deck and hopefully have an event or two while the weather is still nice. The diocesan offices are beginning to open up this week, so I expect to have group meetings at the Mission Office by the end of June.

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

St. Katharine Drexel Altar

SSM Sunday Mass Now Available on Facebook

Fr. Murphy has added a video feed to the St. Stephen the Martyr Church parish hall and now will be offering a recording of the Mass available on the St. Katharine Drexel Mission Facebook page.

Here are the details. It won’t be a live-stream. It will be a recorded version of the 8:00 AM Mass that will be available on YouTube and Facebook from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM. You may find the link on our webpages: https://www.saint-stephen.org, https://www.katharinedrexelcc.org, or https://www.facebook.com/katharinedrexelcc

Pastor’s Piece – June 6

It is time to gear up for another challenging Sunday in America. I just noticed that today marks the 76th anniversary of D-day. That should help us see that we are not unique in having challenges. And also help us see that our challenges pale in comparison. After all what’s a little riot gear and a N95 respirator mask to wear on the way to Sunday Mass in comparison to landing on a beach and scaling cliffs under the barrage of Nazi artillery, mortars and gun fire. We got this.

Nothing has changed regarding guidelines for Mass attendance. Nevertheless there are some things worth reviewing. I invite those attending Mass in the church nave, narthex, front porch and parking lot to come to Communion at the altar rail. Please, queue up single-file in the main aisle. Follow the tape markers on the floor for the spot to wait.

Regarding the altar rail:

  • There are six Communion stations.
  • They provide proper spacing, time for preparation and recollection, and speed.
  • Each properly spaced Communion station at the rail has a pad for kneeling.
  • One has the option to receive standing or kneeling but the pad is the location from which to communicate.
  • One may receive on the hand or on the tongue regardless of posture.
  • Look for tape on the floor for guidance as to where to stand while waiting for the communicant ahead to receive.
  • Wearing a mask for Holy Communion will require extra time that the altar rail provides, such as:
    – The removal and reapplying of masks.
    – A moment extra to recollect oneself for the great unique privilege of sacramentally receiving Our Lord.
    – I ask that the mask be lowered from one’s mouth when I present the Eucharist.
    – Counter-intuitively the altar rail will be faster because I am the one moving and therefore the whole congregation doesn’t depend on the speed of one individual communicant.
  • Those in the parish hall, please, wait for me to bring Communion to you at your place.

Last week I added a video feed to the parish hall, this Sunday there will be one more thing done differently. I’ve hesitated offering the televised Mass because of all the various other ways that I was making Mass available. Last Sunday went well and my new IT engineer, Kendall Parker is ready and willing to attempt to bring the Mass that I offer to cyber-space this Sunday.

Here are the details. It won’t be a live-stream. It will be a recorded version of the 8:00 AM Mass that will be available on YouTube and Facebook from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM. You may find the link on our webpages: https://www.saint-stephen.org, https://www.katharinedrexelcc.org, or https://www.facebook.com/katharinedrexelcc

This may be the nearest thing to a Mass at SKD that I can offer for a while. I don’t know when we can return to Bull Run Middle School. The next hoped for date is July 12. That is a date arrived at by hope and assumption, not any concrete information. Until then, please, feel free to make SSM your home. Additionally, I’ll not be sending my homily out in the e-mail. I think me through speakers, television, radio and computer is enough of me.

We are in need of some help. I need somebody who can arrive at Mass fifteen minutes early, park his vehicle near the front door of the church, and be willing to give me his cellphone number in order to man the FM Transmitter in the car during Mass.

We still need volunteers to wipe down pews, chairs and door handles after Mass to prepare for the next one.

In preparation for Mass this Sunday, look for a QR code posted outside of the church and on our webpage. This will provide your smartphone with the lyrics to the hymns that we’ll be using. In addition we have limited disposable copies of these hymns printed for your use.

Mass times for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 7 is 8:00 & 10:00am in English and 12:30pm in Spanish. There is no Saturday evening Mass of anticipation for Sunday. Daily Mass is 8:30am Monday – Saturday. Also, we have Spanish Mass, Wednesday evenings at 6:30 in Spanish before the Eucharistic Holy Hour starting at 7:00. The Sacrament of Penance is available in that hour.

Christ’s Peace,
Fr. Murphy

Homily – The Solemnity of Pentecost

A little background as to what makes the Pentecost event remarkable. “Then they returned to Jerusalem … Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1:12-14) Following the Lord’s instructions they went to Jerusalem and waited in prayer at the foot of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The most qualified person on earth who had the greatest expertise on the Holy Spirit and the Son of God.

They didn’t sit idle. They went about the work of Church ministry. “‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.’ Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 24-26)

That is the prologue to today’s events in SS. Everything that they were doing, praying with Mary, teaching SS, and ordaining a successor to the Apostles was ratified today as we read, And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. It was approved. Everything they had done was in accord with God’s will and endorsed by the Holy Spirit. We have now a new entity in the world, the Church. Jesus sent the Paraclete, Counselor, Advocate, His Spirit, on this day 1,987 years ago. Our Lord promises that it is to be here till His return.

Most clearly the power of this entity is manifests itself in the institutional Church. The hierarchical structure designed to draw the world together and lead the world to heaven. Christ prayed that we might all be one. We mustn’t think that such a prayer is pie-in-the-sky. He gave us the means to accomplish His desire at Pentecost.

According to the Annuario Pontificio, the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, Between 2013 and 2018, there was an increase of about 6% of Catholics worldwide. We now number at 1,329,000,000, an increase of 75 million people. (https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2020/03/25/0180/00411.html) Some estimate that we are nearly 18% of the world population. That seems to be an increase from 2010 whereby it was estimated that we were 16%. (https://www.livescience.com/27244-the-world-s-catholic-population-infographic.html)

What accounts for this?

This growth should remind us of the power of the Holy Spirit that is still active. We’ve had some rough times as of recent. And quite literally the Church wasn’t there for us. Historically there are times of crisis where the institutional Church isn’t available. (interdict, war, pestilence) Nevertheless this doesn’t mean that Christ has reneged on His promise to be with us always. St. Paul explained what the Holy Spirit is to the Romans, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26) Hopefully without the Church to help you keep holy the Lord’s Day in the usual manner you engaged in some of your own formal prayers. The Holy Spirit is available to help you form the domestic church too.

God needs to return to a prominent place in our lives. When I say God, I speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet on this day I explicitly remember that God the Holy Spirit, as promised by God the Son and sent by the Father, has birthed the Church. We must avoid considering the Holy Spirit, Christ, and the Church as separate powers going in different directions. The Holy Trinity is three persons yet one, similarly, the Church is one with Christ.

Through the Church we are more able to give God His due and build our lives in a Christian manner. A life of faith, hope and charity that is infused with supernatural grace from regularly participating in the sacraments.

Recently, I was asked by a diocesan bureaucrat, how might we repackage the church? You know the jive: mission statement, corporate logo, branding, marketing, blah, blah, blah. The idea is that we need to reinvent ourselves to conform to something formed by the corporate world or the market. I stated clearly that we needed the model established by Christ: a parish.

The Apostles today, get the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. They also got His special charismatic gifts to speak to the multinational group in their own languages. But this isn’t the model that sticks. With that commencement, they established churches in all parts of the world. They didn’t just preach inspirationally to a large group in a variety of languages. They baptized, confirmed, offered Mass, forgave sins, anointed the sick, sanctified marriages and ordained local men in these various locations to keep the believers in contact with the Spirit and His power, not just His inspiring stories.

This is the basic model of our Catholic Church: diocesan and parochial. It is a physical place, where people can come hear the Word of God, be sanctified by the sacraments and take solidarity in follow believers, those who are members of this Mystical Body of Christ. We might do well to nuance it a bit for each different community, but that is the basics that we need to start with. We need that for our SKD community and we at SSM need to get back to that model a.s.a.p.

In the midst of this disruption and anxiety we need the Holy Spirit’s consolation that comes through His gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. You say to yourself that you remember a vague lesson in catechism class that spoke of those. How to we get them? Or rather, better said, how do we activate them?

Don’t overlook the great gift that the Apostles had and treasured, the Blessed Virgin Mary. On the first day of the Month of Mary our nation’s bishops invoked her intercession when they re-consecrated the US to the BVM and her protection. Here we are gathered for a our first Public Mass on the last day of May, a day that providentially has the double significance this year of being not only the day that we traditionally celebrate Our Lady’s Visitation, May 31, but also the day that marks the birth of the Church, a day that she helped midwife, Pentecost.

Pray the Rosary. It is the prescription for our age. Live-stream Masses are great, but don’t be a passive couch potato in prayer. Pick up the beads and get involved in the Mysteries of the Rosary, the mystery of our faith, the fruit, the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in our world. Let her help you bring Him into your home.

Pastor’s Piece – SSM Open for Public Masses

Pastor’s Piece – May 30, 2020

In accord with the Governor Northam’s and Bishop Burbidge’s permission, we are going public this Sunday at St. Stephen the Martyr Church. As you know this is not back to normal. There are many new instructions. Due to the constant barrage of information these past two months there are many who suffer from anxiety. As a consequence they may regard certain present instructions as a matter of life and death and falsely think that to depart from such guidelines is to actually place one’s wellbeing in mortal danger. The following graph I find helpful for perspective.

Such information does not give license to ignore prudent guidelines, yet those who equate such guidelines with the gravity we should have toward mortal sin are not welcome to make a fuss. If you or those for whom you care are vulnerable to infection or the serious effects of coronavirus, please, stay at home. Those who are “vulnerable” are over the age of sixty five (once more, no i.d. needed), those who have existing heart or lung conditions, have diabetes, and or are otherwise immune-compromised. Others who should consider staying home are those who simply feel sick.

Bishop Burbidge expects facemasks to be worn and Governor Northam’s rules regarding such practice are clear about their use at church. Nevertheless those not wearing mask should not receive our reproach. The following are from the governor’s Executive Order 63:

  • A – 6 “Face coverings may be removed to participate in a religious ritual.”
  • D 6 – “Nothing in this Order shall require the use of a face covering by any person for whom doing so would be contrary to his or her health or safety because of a medical condition. Any person who declines to wear a face covering because of a medical condition shall not be required to produce or carry medical documentation verifying the stated condition nor shall the person be required to identify the precise underlying medical condition.”

While the facemask maybe de rigueur, the bishop gives me permission to not wear mine. Nevertheless I shall don one for the distribution of Holy Communion.

In compliance with Executive Order 63 and the integration of Phase 1, we have permission to fill our church to 50% capacity. The reality is that we will no where near approach 140 persons seated (maybe if you count the guardian angels who attend to us). Once we calculate social distancing measures as currently recommended, we can expect a minimum of 20 people in the nave. If persons arrive from the same household or vehicle we could have up to 48 people in church. So, we must sit six feet apart from individuals, unless from the same house or car, and sit six feet from the aisles. Look for the dark blue tape on the floor to of the pews. Sit between them.

The nave is not the only venue. We can seat minimally 4 and possibly 16 in the narthex. In the parish hall I’ve placed 30 seats and two pews where we could possibly have 38 people. Along with the speaker in the parish hall, I’ll be broadcasting the Mass on FaceTime. I don’t think that there is a county code that regulates how many can sit outdoors. Social distancing and one’s ability to hear the outdoor speaker system may be the only factors that determine the number that gathers there. There will be 30 chairs available and weather permitting the front doors of the church will be open. Or feel free to sit in your car and tune into 89.5 FM “The Martyr”. Please note, the procedure has changed for those attending Mass via vehicle. At the time for Holy Communion, I invite you to approach the altar rail.

We are expected to disinfect our hands for things like Holy Communion. I’ll have some hand sanitizing stations available. You are welcome to BYOB. If you wish you may bring an empty bottle for some home brew, small batch Holy Water. This newly controlled substance is in the usher’s closet. Help yourself. Remember that the password is “Wuhan”.

Besides the fact that there is no longer an obligation to attend Mass (until further notice), there are some changes to the Mass:

  • No holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer.
  • No exchange of peace.
  • No distribution of the Precious Blood.
  • Only Priests & Deacons distribute Communion.
  • Only those in a state of grace may receive Communion, but those who have health concerns are not obliged.
  • One is encouraged to disinfect his hands immediately before receiving Communion.
  • Please maintain social distancing in the Communion line.
  • One retains the right to decide how to receive, whether on the tongue or in the hand.
  • Holy Communion cannot be received in the hand with gloves.
  • I am to disinfect my hand immediately if accidental contact is made with a communicant.

Procedures at SSM to be aware of:

  • Ushers will maintain roughly the 140 person number and social distancing in the church. Please, follow their instructions.
  • All this social distancing allows for extra people to enter the church to receive Holy Communion. I invite those attending in the church nave, narthex, front porch and parking lot to come to Communion at the altar rail.
    • Please, queue up single-file in the main aisle.
    • Follow the tape markers on the floor for the spot to wait.
  • Regarding the altar rail:
    • There are six Communion stations.
    • They provide proper spacing, time for preparation and recollection, and speed.
      • Each properly spaced Communion station at the rail has a pad for kneeling.
      • One has the option to receive standing or kneeling but the pad is the location from which to communicate.
      • One may receive on the hand or on the tongue regardless of posture.
      • Look for tape on the floor for guidance as to where to stand while waiting for the communicant ahead to receive.
    • Wearing a mask for Holy Communion will require extra time that the altar rail provides, such as:
      • The removal and reapplying of masks.
      • A moment extra to recollect oneself for the great unique privilege of sacramentally receiving Our Lord.
      • I ask that the mask be lowered from one’s mouth when I present the Eucharist.
        • It would be impossible to receive Holy Communion on the tongue if it isn’t.
        • For those receiving on the hand, I fear that one may drop the Sacred Host while engaging in this unfamiliar action of holding the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior in one hand and deftly extricating one’s mask with the other hand.
      • Counter-intuitively the altar rail will be faster because I am the one moving and therefore the whole congregation doesn’t depend on the speed of one individual communicant.
    • Those in the parish hall, please, wait for me to bring Communion to you at your place.

I’m obliged to disinfect the church and hall after each Mass. Volunteers are welcome. We need to wipe down pews and chairs after Mass to prepare for the next one. Lamentably this may cut into the time of those who prefer a lengthier thanksgiving after Mass. Please, be flexible. We are trying to serve as many as possible.

In compliance with the bishop’s instructions that the church be well ventilated I am opening the windows and doors this Sunday. The forecast appears very amendable to such a practice, but I don’t know for how long we can keep that up.

In preparation for Mass this Sunday, look for a QR code posted outside of the church and on our website. This will provide your smartphone with the lyrics to the hymns that we’ll be using. In addition we have limited disposable copies of these hymns printed for your use.

Mass times for Pentecost, May 31: 8:00 & 10:00am in English and 12:30pm in Spanish. There is no Saturday evening Mass of anticipation for Sunday. Daily Mass will resume at its scheduled time of 8:30am with the addition of Saturday morning Mass (8:30am). Also, we’ll return to Wednesday evening Mass at 6:30 in Spanish before the Eucharistic Holy Hour starting at 7:00.

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

Homily – Feast of the Ascension

I understand that one of the many casualties of the Coronavirus is that our beloved graduates don’t get a graduation ceremony. They are deprived of some VIP and the valedictorian give commencement addresses. In their place I offer them Our Lord and Savior. Today’s gospel account was our Lord’s commencement address to the Apostles who were the first graduates of the messianic school of divinity. His words are quite simple and to the point. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations …  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Traditionally, the feast of the Ascension reminds us of the humanity that Jesus brings to heaven, kind of like Neil Armstrong on the moon, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But there is more to this feast than the Apostles marveling about what Jesus did. It isn’t about the followers of Christ waiting around till we have our chance to join Him in heaven. The point of this commencement address is about their mission and how He will be with them. Simply put, they and their followers, us, are to share the faith. Our faith teaches that God Almighty in His Omniscience has placed us, with our particular gifts and talents for this time, space and people. He has freely chosen us for this task to do the right thing, that which is in accord with truth, justice & charity. In so doing we become a sign of hope for the world.

No doubt that we often feel inadequate, unfamiliar or even afraid. Next Sunday we celebrate how the Holy Spirit ignited the conflagration of Christianity in the world. We particularly celebrate how that same Divine Force bestowed the gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge and Counsel. Through our Baptism and Confirmation we have our own personal Pentecost. We too receive these gifts for the divine mission.

After the Ascension of Our Lord the Apostles head to Jerusalem to pray and wait as Jesus instructed. But after Pentecost, they don’t remain there. After our full initiation into the faith by Confirmation & Holy Communion, we mustn’t stagnate. It’s contradictory to the Christian life. At the end of each and every Mass we are reminded of this mission, Ite misa est. Not merely, “Go forth the Mass is ended”, or “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”, or even, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” It is rather ‘Go y’all, it is sent.’ That is, the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus and His Father is at the lead. We merely follow His prompting.

“One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism…. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in …” (Pope Francis, Evangelium Gaudium, #85)

We are assured of victory. Jesus gives us the end of the story. Meanwhile before that triumphant moment, we are called and equipped to do our part for Our King Who wishes to expand His Kingdom on earth in the hearts and minds of mankind. Sister Janet Erskine Stuart says, “If you look to Sacred History, Church History, and even to your own experience … you will see that God’s work is never done in the ideal conditions, never as we should have imagined or chosen.” (Legion of Mary Handbook, #24, p. 301) I.e. Our human estimate of poor conditions or lack of talent is not an obstacle for God. In fact we hear Our Lord tell St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9) No excuses! Our limitations are not obstacles. Rather they are required for success. It is how God works. He takes great pleasure in adding His Divine Grace to our human nature. So we have to do our part to cooperate.

How many today succumb to fear, complacency or false ideas about all religions being equal? Do we not believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life? We broadcast this loudly when our lives conform to the truth of His teachings. When we put our lives on His path of the moral way of life, we teach better than any talented or cleaver defense of the faith. This also gives us the courage to teach boldly. I wonder whether the popular compromise of our convictions has more do with the compromise of our life-style.

You know the lines of the ostensibly Catholic politician, ‘I’m personally opposed to abortion, but in a pluralistic society we don’t have the right to impose our beliefs on anybody. So, whatever the people want is what we have to accept.’ We wouldn’t accept a leader say that regarding racism, hunger, ignorance or injustice. The personally opposed argument is faithless and cowardly. This is blasphemy for one who has the Holy Spirit’s gifts of Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord.

Before time began, God chose to place us here in this time and space, with these people and with these problems. We may not feel expert or up to the task, but that’s okay, neither did Moses. He told God that he didn’t know how to speak publically, or Jeremiah. He told the Lord that he was too young, or Peter. He told Jesus to leave him for he was a sinner, or even the Blessed Virgin Mary. She said to the archangel that she was a mere virgin.

The Lord’s Ascension challenges us to assent to our Lord’s command to share the faith and trust in His promise that He is with us until the end of the age. As we go forth each day and take on the task at hand in our lives with fidelity and love, we become a sign of hope in a desperate world.

Pastor’s Piece – May 23

I hear good reports regarding your health and the Coronavirus. The three persons of our communities that were roughed up a bit by COVID-19 are recovering well. I pray and hope that this trend persists. Although we can’t go “public” this Sunday we can prepare. God willing and Governor Northam & Loudoun County cooperating, we’ll be have Public Masses at St. Stephen the Martyr next Sunday, Pentecost, May 31. In order to get everyone ready with the expectations and procedures, I have sent you what Bishop Burbidge instructs for Phase I parishes. And as he has instructed me, here is how these guidelines apply to SSM.

Let’s start with the expectations. Firstly to gather for Mass at SSM we do so in a spirit of charity. Out of charity we mustn’t endanger the health of our neighbor. If you or those for whom you care are vulnerable to infection or the serious effects of coronavirus, please, stay at home. Those who are “vulnerable” are over the age of sixty five (I won’t be checking your i.d.), those who have existing heart or lung conditions, have diabetes, and or
are otherwise immune-compromised. Others who should consider staying home are those who simply feel sick.

According to the governor and the bishop we are able to fill our church and adjoining spaces up to 50%. That means for the nave of the church we have a maximum seating capacity of 140 rumps. This number will be diminished by social distancing guidelines whereby we are to leave six feet between each other, unless we’re from the same household. I will block off every other pew and ask you to use your judgment and, please, follow the instructions of our ushers to accommodate these guidelines.

The nave is not the only venue to attend Mass. We can seat up to 8 more people in the narthex. Theoretically I can seat 50 people in the parish hall, but I’ll need to place the chairs in there this week to see what that looks like. Similarly I’ll try to gather a number for those seated in front exterior of the church. I don’t think that there is a county code that regulates how many can sit outdoors. Social distancing and one’s ability to hear the speaker system may be the only factors that determine the number that gathers there. Or feel free to sit in your car. I’ll broadcast the Mass on 89.5 FM “The Martyr”.

The bishop’s guidelines mention expectations. There are expectations to wear facemasks (not requirements). And so you can expect Fr. Murphy not to wear one. You can expect to feel free to wear one (the bishop encourages it). You can expect that if your neighbor isn’t wearing one that it is the sin of rash judgment to consider him uncharitable. If you find these expectations troubling, it may be a good barometer to help you determine if you should attend. Generally speaking, I find that the mask is rather optional in Middleburg. If this makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps you’re not ready.

We are expected to disinfect our hands for things like Holy Communion. I’ll have some hand sanitizing stations available. You are welcome to bring your own. Please, know that it should contain 60% alcohol. Speaking of hooch. Holy Water isn’t prohibited, but it is now a controlled substance. We stash it is the Usher’s Closet. BYOB (bring your own bottle) and help yourself.

Besides the fact that there is no longer an obligation to attend Mass (until further notice), there are some reminders and actual changes to the Mass as instituted by Bishop Burbidge:

  • No holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer.
  • No exchange of peace.
  • No distribution of the Precious Blood.
  • Only Priests & Deacons distribute Communion.
  • Only those in a state of grace may receive Communion, but those who have health concerns are not obliged.
  • One is encouraged to disinfect his hands immediately before receiving Communion.
  • Please maintain social distancing in the Communion line.
  • One retains the right to decide how to receive, whether on the tongue or in the hand.
  • Holy Communion cannot be received in the hand with gloves.
  • I am to disinfect my hand immediately if accidental contact is made with a communicant.

Procedures at SSM to be aware of:

  • I invite those attending in the church nave, narthex, front porch and parking lot near the front of the church to come to Communion at the altar rail.
  • Those in the parish hall or seated in a car near the parish hall, please, wait for me to bring Communion to the hall after those in the church receive.
  • Regarding the altar rail:
    • There are six Communion stations.
    • They provides proper spacing, time for preparation and recollection, and speed.
      • Each properly spaced Communion station at the rail has a pad for kneeling.
      • One has the option to receive standing or kneeling but the pad is the location from which to communicate.
      • One may receive on the hand or on the tongue regardless of posture.
      • Look for tape on the floor for guidance as to where to stand as one waits for the communicant ahead to receive.
      • Such tape indicators are found throughout the main aisle.
    • Many will have for the first time the experience of wearing a mask for Holy Communion. This will require extra time for:
      • The removal and reapplying of masks.
      • It will require a moment extra to recollect oneself for the great unique privilege of sacramentally receiving Our Lord.
      • I ask that the mask be lowered from one’s mouth when I present the Eucharist.
        • It would be impossible to receive Holy Communion on the tongue if it isn’t.
        • For those receiving on the hand, I fear that one may drop the Sacred Host while engaging in this unfamiliar action of holding the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior in one hand and deftly extricating one’s mask with the other hand.
      • Counter-intuitively this will be faster because I am the one moving and therefore the whole congregation doesn’t depend on the velocity of one individual communicant.
    • Those in vehicles must come into the church or parish hall to receive.
    • Ushers will maintain roughly the 140 number and social distancing in the church during this time, so, please, follow their instructions.
    • Those in the Parish Hall can line up and follow the markings on the floor in order to maintain social distancing.

I’m obliged to disinfect the church and hall after each Mass, so I need some volunteers. We need to wipe down pews and chairs after Mass to prepare for the next one. Lamentably this may cut into the time of those who prefer a lengthier thanksgiving after Mass. Please, be flexible, we are trying to serve as many parishioners as possible.

Mass times for Pentecost, May 31: 8:00 & 10:00am in English and 12:30pm in Spanish. There is no Saturday evening Mass of anticipation for Sunday.

 

Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Murphy

 

P.S. This Sunday’s Private Mass (May 24) is the same as last week. If you have no idea what that means, ask around, we’re getting a reputation.

P.P.S. On May 29th, the Knights of Columbus will be collecting non-perishable food to replenish the Saint Lucy Project’s food warehouse. Donations will be accepted at the Food Lion parking lot off Washington Street in downtown Haymarket between 10AM and 2PM on Friday the 29th. If you can’t deliver your donation to the Food Lion parking lot on the 29th, you may bring any donations to Saint Stephens from May 11– May 28. There will be a bin labeled “St.Lucys” in the narthex for your donation.

 

Guide for the Lay Faithful from the Diocese of Arlington – May 13, 2020