Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is now almost one full year since the public celebration of Mass in Catholic churches across Connecticut returned after a three-month absence due to the coronavirus pandemic. In that time, attendance at Mass has not been a source of viral spread anywhere in the state. Very simply, we have learned over this last year that attending Mass is at least as safe as any other activity, including grocery shopping, dining in restaurants, going to school or work, or exercising in a gym. I believe that this is a sign of God’s protection over us, as well as a result of our cooperation with common sense precautions.
As you know, the State of Connecticut is lifting most pandemic-related restrictions for businesses and other organizations on May 19. While masks will still be standard during indoor activities, capacity limits are being eliminated. Given this more open approach across the board, the Bishops of the three Latin Rite Catholic Dioceses in Connecticut (the Diocese of Bridgeport, the Archdiocese of Hartford, the Diocese of Norwich) are grateful to be able to welcome more of the faithful to Mass than has been possible in the last year. While the divine precept to keep holy the Sabbath and the Church’s precept to assist at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days has never been abrogated, a general dispensation from the obligation has been available since March of 2020. That general dispensation will end on May 22, and is explained in a letter from the bishops, which is included as an insert in this bulletin, is available on our parish website, and has been sent electronically to parish families. There are, of course, legitimate reasons why the dispensation can still apply to people. For example, someone who is ill is excused from the obligation to assist at Mass by virtue of their illness. Someone who cares for a sick person is likewise excused. If there is no Mass available within a reasonable distance or if traveling to Mass would be dangerous (in a blizzard or major storm, for example), the obligation does not apply. There are legitimate reasons that the Church understands may make fulfilling the obligation to assist at Mass difficult or impossible; I encourage you to learn more about them in the bishops’ letter. With that said, however, we should remember two important things. First, the command to keep holy the Sabbath remains no matter what: dedicating time to prayer and rest on Sunday is the right thing to do whether we can go to Mass or not. Second, it is extremely safe to attend Mass, and while watching Mass on TV or online gives us a modicum of participation, nothing can replace personal attendance at the holy sacrifice of the Mass and reception of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
What will Mass look like going forward? For us at St. Pius X, things will look very much as they have for a while. Next week you will notice that all the pews are available for seating. With no capacity restrictions in place, we will no longer have online sign-ups for Mass, or a sign-in sheet at the door. We will also be permitted to have hymnals available in the pews once again. Remember how excited we were that our hymnals fit correctly in the new pews? In addition to hymnals, we also have disposable worship aids available at all doors of the church, listing musical selections for each Mass. Please take one as you enter and bring it with you as you leave the church after Mass. A few other considerations:
- We ask you to kindly wear a mask while inside the church.
- Singing is permitted during Mass—the chanting of the entrance antiphon, offertory antiphon, and Communion antiphon help simplify the singing (see the Ars Celebrandi box in this bulletin for more).
- The presider’s prayers are offered from the chair, but with altar servers unable to hold the book, the Roman Missal is placed on a stand at the chair.
- The exchange of the sign of peace will continue to be omitted.
- Before receiving Holy Communion, please remove your mask.
- Please consume the sacred Host before moving from your place at the altar rail.
- Outdoors, masks are not required.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have livestreamed Mass each day on our parish Facebook page and YouTube channel. This has enabled parishioners to remain connected to their parish. It is important to remember, though, that watching Mass on TV or a computer is not the same as in-person participation. Therefore, while we will continue to livestream Masses (at 8:30 AM Monday – Saturday, and at 10:30 AM on Sunday), with unrestricted indoor capacity, an extremely strong safety record, and the end of the general dispensation, the time has come to return to the celebration of Mass in person. I am so excited to take these steps forward with all of you!