Coronavirus Updates

Pastor's Letter - 3/29/2020

Dear friends,

As you will have noticed, we temporarily have a scaled-down bulletin, and it will only be published online during the Covid-19 restrictions. So many things have been scaled down, haven't they? Yet today's Gospel reading shows that with Christ, all sufferin g—even death—is only temporary.

One way to meditate on a Scripture passage that is in the form of a narrative is to put yourself in the place of one of the characters. In the narrative of the raising of Lazarus, imagine for a moment that you are Lazarus.

For, in many senses, we are all Lazarus in the tomb.

Lazarus was confined by his illness; surely he was confined to his home, and then to his bed. And then, after some days of suffering, he died.

During the restrictions in place because of the pandemic, most people are pretty much confined to their homes. Some people, due to illness or self-quarantine, are confined to their rooms. Some people, due to serious illness, are confined to a hospital bed and struggle even to breathe. And some, after much suffering, have died.

It is the rare person who cannot on some level identify with Lazarus.

We all come at some point to reduced options, to confinement, to suffering in our life – but in these places, Jesus comes to us and calls our name.

He weeps for us when we are in our tombs, because he knows our suffering from within.

He calls our name, that we may come into the light, and be set free from all bonds that are more suited to death than life.

As baptized Christians, we can also identify with Lazarus after being called by name out from the tomb. We are set free from original sin by baptism, and the door to eternal life as been opened for us. We have become temples of the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit of God dwells in us, and we belong to Christ. The Holy Spirit animates us from within.

At least in a moral and spiritual sense, we have freedom now, and are free to walk in the light. And we await a far greater promise, in a far more glorious resurrection on the last day.

But we still have freedom. We find ourselves between resurrections. The first one has set us free, and the second one is promised by one whose word is never broken.

Now, imagine for a moment that you are Martha.

Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." Martha replies, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."

We should long to be Martha, and willing to believe in Christ's power to set us free from our confinement: physically, morally, emotionally, and spiritually. We should long to be Martha, and see the love of Christ for us, a love that weeps for all who suffer, and all who die. We should long to be Martha, and believe that there is no confinement, no dead end in our life, that Christ cannot overcome with a single word of command, with a single calling of our name.

One of the most difficult confinements for many Catholics is the temporary separation from the Eucharist and Confession. Confession is such an important part of our ministry at St. Patrick, and yet, in conversation with the Diocese, at least during the "Stay at home" order in Ohio, it is likely that your only option will be to make a good act of contrition. The Holy See, through the Apostolic Penitentiary, reminds us that in conditions like this, perfect contrition obtains the forgiveness even of serious sins:

"Where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God, beloved above all things, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is at present able to express) and accompanied by votum confessionis, that is, by the firm resolution to have recourse, as soon as possible, to sacramental confession, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. CCC, no. 1452)."

Perfect contrition requires

  • the love of God
  • the sincere desire for forgiveness
  • the ardent commitment to receive the sacrament of reconciliation when available

The Diocese would like to make the Sacrament of Confession available again as soon as possible, and would like to plan for th e time when this time comes. We Dominican priests will be glad to be part of that "rolling away of the stone" as soon as this is possible. In the meantime, thank you for your patience and understanding, and I hope that your temporary separation from the Eucharist, Con fession, your fellow parishioners, and our beautiful St. Patrick church, will make you ever more hungry and thirsty for these great channels of grace when they are opened again.

Peace, Fr. Stephen, O.P.

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