Newsletters during the Coronavirus- Lymington, Brockenhurst, Milford On Sea

Newsletter Pentecost 31st May 2020 Yr A.[...]
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Fr DAVID’S WEEKLY RAMBLE – Saturday, 30th May 2020


Dear People,

I hope you are all keeping safe & well

and continuing to trust in the undeserved

love of God which holds us, everyone and everything in being. Fr David


Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.

People are funny; they want the front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of the church. (Thanks to Sarah Roche)


The Bishop has been consulting with senior clergy and his Diocesan managers about re-opening the churches. We are due to receive the latest version of the guidelines shortly. A lot may depend on how the easing of the lockdown goes and whether, nationally, we have done enough to prevent a second wave of infections.


Talking of “R” numbers you may be thinking that these ramblings are lengthening at an alarming rate. So I will endeavour to be brief. Olly had his first swims this week which he greatly enjoyed. But he needs to have a ball thrown in the water. Unlike Oscar who just swam for the joy of it. Once again this year the beach is subject to a swathe of algae which has a less than pleasant odour. So Olly was subject to a thorough rinse down when he got back. Not something he exactly enjoys.

Linda has been beavering away at the flower boxes, pruning back on the shrubs & bushes and giving the lesser plants a chance to thrive. Apart from the lack of bedding plants the boxes are looking very fine. She has also been re-painting the yarden shed which now compares favourably to the most colourful beachhut!


It always pays to check the diary. This was something I forgot to do this week. There was I all poised to participate in the St Anne’s PPC meeting via Zoom, patiently waiting to be admitted by the host and chair. The little window on the computer assured me the meeting was set to start at 6.30pm on Thursday, 28/05/2020. The time came and the minutes ticked by with nothing happening. Then a little glance down to the right-hand corner of the screen suddenly caused the penny to drop. Yes, of course, Thursday is tomorrow. Today is Wednesday!! It always pays to check the diary.


I’m really enjoying the swifts when they come swooping and screeching over the car park with rapid wing movements and amazing aerial manoeuvres.


Managed another trip to the water. This time it was not far to Lymington harbour, in fact. The purpose was to acquire the skill of dock starting a foil board. I knew beforehand that this was going to be a difficult and humiliating learning experience. So much like the jumbo jet & the space shuttle I paddled over to the jetty on the other side of the railway bridge with the specially adapted foil board somewhat precariously perched on the deck. Thankfully, any curious onlookers were far enough away. All they would have seen was me launching myself off the jetty& falling into the water about 20 or more times and the foil board flying off in all directions. Thankfully, there was some progress but not of the kind that is visually obvious. Many more training sessions will be necessary no doubt!


Which reminds me of a lovely saying which popped up on Facebook, from the Persian poet, Rumi, (12th cent): You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop!


The plans for reopening the churches are with the Bishop in consultation with the Clergy. The Diocese has to be compliant with Government guidelines. As instructed by Bishop Philip, we are waiting to see the final draft of the guidelines before we can consider opening any of our churches.

When the final draft is submitted by the Bishop, Linda, as our 3 parishes H&S co-ordinator & myself have been asked to do the risk assessments of all 3 churches and work out the possibilities which will be, of course, different for each of our churches.

Therefore, as the person legally liable for the safety of my parishioners I must insist that nothing is done without my express permission. Fr David

Newsletter 24th May 7th Sunday of Easter[...]
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Fr DAVID’S WEEKLY RAMBLE – Saturday, 23rd May 2020

Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited .....

until you try to sit in their pew

The good Lord didn't create anything without a purpose..... but mosquitoes come close.

(Thanks to Sarah Roch for the above)


I’ve just finished the newsletter and I’ve sat down to write my ramble and of course my mind has gone blank! I surely must have done something this past week apart from the usual domestic routines, doing meditation and reflection ( in a kind of free-flowing way) & celebrating Mass, supported by my dutiful server, and taking Olly the dog out.... and back in again... and out... & in again.... and out & in again……


Speaking of Olly, he has been to the groomers this week which means that he is slightly more fragrant than usual but that doesn’t last long, of course! Olly sleeps in my room and what with his snoring and his, what sounds like, hyperventilating it’s a wonder I get any sleep. The combination of dog noise and early morning sunlight means I’m waking up most days fairly early. So, the first job is to let the dog out (can’t risk accidents – Cocker Spaniels have no propriety in that respect). The second job is to let the dog in. Then he must have his breakfast, a few morsels of pilchard. Then of course he’s off to sleep again, while I am wide awake.


My idea of keeping a daily diary never quite materialised. I have a vague idea that there were lots of little fixing, tidying & sorting jobs. And I’ve just remembered the few hours spent pigeonholing all the accumulated emails on the parish address. Then there were the hours reading and digesting the Bishop’s proposals on re-opening the churches (strictly confidential & not for general consumption at this stage) and crafting the requested feed-back. This is a work in progress, and we have just received further material to be mulled over and commented on. And then we delivered some Easter eggs to lucky winners!


I’ve just remembered too the7.30am (yes, I can’t believe it either!!) school governors meeting via Zoom. It was my first experience of this technology which had to be conducted in Linda’s study because she is a governor too and her computer is the only one with a built-in camera and microphone. All in all, it was a very good experience. The pros are: no early morning driving, no sitting in a cold classroom on kiddie’s chairs, having tea or coffee & a snack close by (out of camera!) and being able to nip to the loo without being missed too much. When I can think of some cons, I will let you know. For PPC meetings it would certainly be an advantage in the Winter and would save on the church travel and heating bills.


Managed to have a trip to the water last Tuesday. We went to Branksome Beach. The car park was virtually full but the parking angels (Don’t ask! I can’t explain it either. Just talk respectfully to your parking angels, give them as much notice as possible and usually with a little patience on our part they come up trumps) got us a prime spot looking over the water thanks to the kindness of someone leaving who was happy to wait for me to move the van down from a less ideal spot. Good social distancing on the beach & no dog restrictions so Olly was happy. But I only just managed to avert disaster when he was about to wee on some child. The parent, initially shocked, was then immediately grateful that unpleasantness had been avoided! However, the promenade was a different story: runners, cyclists, walkers, groups of people clearly not all family – social distancing out the window!

Managed to get out on the water (eventually – getting the kit together is a palaver) trying the 6-metre wing with my foil board. The wind was not quite at the ideal speed & so combined with my lack of skill it was a case of 99% winging and 1% foiling with a few graceless falls into the briny. Apparently, the spectacle was quite entertaining to the onlookers and I must have appeared very amateurish compared to the two kite-foilers who were flying backwards and forwards like children on a swing.

The wing came neatly folded & packed in its bag. It went back to the van looking like scrunched up wrapping paper. I appreciate sand under the water but give me grass on the beach every time!


CORRECTED NEWSLETTER 17 May25 - 6th Sund[...]
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Newsletter 17th May 6th Sunday of Easte[...]
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From Fr David 17th May

First of all, please continue prayers for Eileen Griffiths who, at the time of writing, is receiving end of life care in SGH and being lovingly supported by her two daughters Jacks & Colette and the hospital chaplain, Fr Joe McNerney.

Last Wednesday the Diocese migrated the email system back inhouse. It has absorbed quite a bit of time ensuring everything keeps working. It wasn’t helped by the fact our internet was down for two & a half days. There have been a few minor issues with email addresses & mailing lists so apologies if you get things twice.

Our Bishop is anxious to re-open the churches. As far as I am concerned the first priority is the health and well-being of our parishioners. So, nothing will happen in our parishes until it is absolutely safe to do so. We also must wait and see if the recent Government relaxation of the lockdown has any negative consequences on the rate of infection. The Diocese is considering what kind of measures will be needed. There will be no “one size fits all”, every church and community are different. Everything will have to be carefully considered so there will be no rushing into things. As I am personally liable for Health & Safety in our parishes I will be taking things very seriously.

And now to happier things! Olly the dog is certainly happy this evening. Not only has he been to the beach for the first time in two months, he has also beaten me to the water! Hopefully the paddleboard will be out soon. We saw the local seal too, about 100 yds out, and quite a large creature. He seemed to be hanging around one spot for some reason. Olly doesn’t swim unless its to fetch a ball or if the water is very calm, but he does like to splash about in the shore break.

A little Jenny wren (or was it a Jack wren) came into the yarden (no, that wasn’t a typing error. it’s a yard with over 90 pots in it.) yesterday evening, very vocal! He or she was feeding on the insects on the honeysuckle. Much appreciated!

Some achievements this week: the extractor fan finally got cleaned, thoroughly. I must say I did a pretty good job. Its one of the things I enjoy about the Repair Shop. Those brilliant craftspeople, Rob, Steve, Suzie, Will, Dominic, Kirsten, Lucia, Amanda, Julie, Brenton & others (thankyou Wikipedia!), don’t need to boast but when they’ve done a good job they just acknowledge it in a very matter of fact way - true humility. We still enjoy it even when we’re watching repeats (sad people that we are!). I’ve finally sorted the pile of invoices and generous contributions to the parish & myself (those cheques will finally get cashed!). Frances our ever-patient parish accounts person will be relieved but still anxious for the information. Report on its way, Frances, I promise.

I wore a mask for the first time this week for going into the banks. I didn’t wear my glasses though because they can steam up. It was my first time in Lloyds, lots of space in there. Thankfully my sums were OK, thanks to Excel. It seems most people are not wearing masks at the moment.

A dear friend has been popping by once a week &, observing due social distancing, has been giving us not only the joy of their presence but also leaving a little gift, usually a bottle of something nice. This week our friend brought us something that’s been hard to find & much needed: antibacterial wipes & spray!

One last true story, Linda is acquainted with this family, not Christian. They have a young daughter who is really (& mysteriously) interested in God. She asked her Dad “Where does God live?” He replied: “He lives in heaven.” “No, Daddy,” the daughter replied, “that’s where he works! I want to know where he lives!”

Reading this Sunday’s Gospel we can begin to find out where.

Catholics admitted to Hospitals

It is important when a Catholic is admitted to hospital, the family ensure that the Catholic Chaplaincy is contacted so that appropriate support can be given. As access to the hospital may be restricted, it is suggested that the patient have a note to give to hospital staff on admission notifying staff that they are Catholic and would appreciate the Catholic chaplaincy service. This could be followed up by a telephone call from the family to the ward making the request.


Coronavirus Appeal

Coronavirus (Covid-19) has now spread worldwide, with confirmed cases in several countries where we work. Its spread to countries with poor health systems will be devastating. Our local experts need your support to continue protecting lives.

Newsletter 10th May 5th Sunday of Easter[...]
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10th May

Hello Dear Sisters & Brothers,

(Some of you might want to recall last week’s instruction on how to

side step the trivial ramblings of a parish priest (obviously suffering the effects

of social distancing & who knows what else!) and go straight to the important stuff).


The above punctuation reminds me of a crossword clue I came across in the very difficult and challenging Womens Weekly. The clue was “brackets”. So here I am scratching my head thinking of hinges, corner fixings, shelf mountings and other DIY sundries. This was all to no avail, nothing

seemed to fit. Later, of course, someone, who shall be nameless but whose mind doesn’t naturally turn to artisanship or things mechanical, filled in the answer. Yes, you’ve guessed it already – parenthesis!


Well believe it or not I have established a “new normal” already. The daunting task of spring cleaning my bedroom has finally been completed. There just remains the sorting out and filing of my personal finance records which, much like the parish office paperwork, has been accumulating in a disorderly pile for a couple of years. But at least I can look forward to the joy of discarding (after careful shredding, of course) all those things I’m no longer legally bound to keep for tax purposes. The current year plus six, if I’m not mistaken. I always

find I have to write it out to get it clear in my head. I digress.


The “new normal” involved the opportune re-configuration

of my bedroom furniture. I moved a couple of wardrobes, made easier because they were on casters, and a couple of small cupboards. And voila! more light and usable space. The one thing that couldn’t be moved was an old wardrobe

that was already in the room. For some unknown reason it had been sawn in half and then put back together again in a way that betrayed a serious lack of artisanship. To attempt to move it would be too risky altogether. Thankfully

my dissatisfaction with being unable to do a thorough cleaning job was somewhat assuaged ( I just had to check the meaning of that

word on Google) by the fact that, armed with the appropriate attachment, the vacuum cleaner was able to reach the parts I couldn’t.


And that just reminded me of a rare self-deprecating advertisement many years ago that was a bit too subtle to air for long. You may remember “Heineken, the beer that refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach”. One of those adverts featured a very wealthy man suffering from ennui (Google is working overtime tonight!). Mansions, luxury yachts, fast cars, faster women, nothing could rescue him. So finally, his last hope, a glass of Heineken! Attending servants waited with anxious anticipation, hoping for the joy to return on their master’s face. But, oh no! His listless spirit was left unmoved.

The final blurb was something like: O well, there are some parts even Heineken can’t reach! Thankfully, as Jesus said, it’s impossible for mortals but not for God. For with God all things are possible.


A quick resume of other unimportant stuff: the ducks down at the park still have seven duckling left. They seem to have trebled in size in a matter of days. If it was the same for human babies stretch lycra would have been invented centuries ago!


I’ve failed miserably in my exercise routine. Partly because I missed my slot, in other words Linda got to the bike first! Partly because spring cleaning used up

a good part of my energy reserves. Olly the dog can now safely plead for treats from two humans. But as we are often in different rooms he has to decide who is likely to be the softer touch. This sometimes means I can sneak a biscuit without him knowing, a rare moment of quiet satisfaction. Two shameful confessions!!

Firstly, we must confess that we have now missed the communal expression of gratitude to the NHS staff on two occasions. Sadly that’s what can happens when one gets the cleaning bug, the time flies by. Secondly, we’ve been watching BGT! I know it’s a cynically manipulated exploitation of human emotions & possibly herd immunity: sweet children, octogenarian soloists, scary stunts, painfully untalented no-hopers, genuinely gifted artists (see the £££ signs spinning in Simon’s eye sockets) and this evening DOGGIES (with a laudable but almost unwatchable expose of the cruel dog meat trade)

Finally, one of our dear families in Brockenhurst has been flying the flag recently: the French flag on Wednesday and lots of Union Jacks and the EU flag on Friday. I’m intrigued by the mixed messages.

Well, hopefully you’re asleep by now, which is what I should be doing as its 1.02am!


Keep safe & well and God bless.

Fr David.

from Rev David Adams

For those who persevered to the end of the ramble:

All is revealed about the wonderful commemorations of

historic victory and European accord in Brockenhurst!


Fr D


Dear Fr. David

Thank you for your newsletter and amusing anecdotes.

For a moment I wasn’t sure if it was our flag flying you were referring to in Brockenhurst as it was the Netherlands flag ?? that was flown for their Liberation Day not the French flag ?? which will of course be flown on Bastille Day on July 14.  

The EU flag was flown on Friday as our bunting went up because of course it was Victory in Europe - though the Union flag was properly flown on VE Day. The EU flag was back up the next day on 9 May for Europe Day which marks the Schuman Declaration which put the production of French and West German coal and steel production under the joint management. This peacetime pact led to the creation of the EU on the principal that countries that traded together and had common interests would never go to war against one another again.

Our education of Brockenhurst village on flags of the world continues!


God bless to all!

Madeleine and Paul

Good Shepherd Sunday 3rd May

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

We would normally send out resources (prayer cards and posters) to parishes this weekend, as we join in prayer for Vocations. Despite our lockdown, we can still reflect on Vocations and pray that we all, especially our young people, come to know what God is asking us here & now.

Pope Francis has offered a wonderful reflection for us focused on gratitude, encouragement and courage.  Do try and take some time to read it in full. You will find it under 'The Pope' on the left hand menu.

Good Shepherd Sunday Collection - for Clergy Training

Please consider supporting our Seminarians with a financial donation, especially as we are unable to take this important collection in our parishes.  We are blessed with eleven students this year, with possibly five more starting in September.


by Sara Parvis, a senior lecturer in Patristics at the University of Edinburgh. Published in The Tablet, 30-04-20


Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is part of the lifeblood of the Catholic faith. A theologian writes of the depth of her grief at being unable to receive the Eucharist – and why we must not allow self-pity to distract us from our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable

The little Catholic chapel in Edinburgh that I normally attend has a glass front, and looks on to a garden. This means that you can still see both the tabernacle and the lit sanctuary lamp next to it from the lane behind the church, even when the back gate is locked.

I was enormously proud of the Church’s prompt response to the coronavirus pandemic, and had little time for those who thought otherwise. It was just the reverse of the child abuse crisis: we saw the institution moving swiftly to protect the vulnerable, showing intelligence and resolve, and swallowing the probable cost to its own status and financial security without hesitation. Led by Pope Francis, who smothered all self-pitying tendencies by directing our gaze to the health workers, bus drivers and supermarket workers daily risking themselves for others, the Church laid down its life, the life of its public Eucharist, for the good of the people, in hope and trust that in due time God would allow it to take it up again.

Our local community of Dominican friars moved quickly to become connected to their people in other ways, broadcasting their celebrations of the Mass on their Facebook page and sending out a daily email with spiritual reflections and jokey video clips intended to keep our spirits up, braving for the common good the risk of inciting volatile responses from pent-up parishioners with frustration in their hearts and too much time on their hands.

I have always had a strong devotion to receiving the Eucharist; praying before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle and on the altar has also become very dear to me in recent years. We need a tangible sense of Christ’s presence. We need to know that Christ is with us. Of course, you can find Christ in others, in prayer, and clothed in the flesh of Scripture. You can find Christ in your heart, in your memory, understanding and will. But Christ in the Eucharist has a sureness, a concreteness, that is irreplaceable. Yet I knew we had to give that up to safeguard as far as possible the lives of our fellow parishioners and their families.

I was surprised, therefore, at the strength of my reactions to watching from afar the Dominican community celebrating the Triduum without the people. I felt not only terrible desolation but also naked jealousy. It looked like some kind of clericalist fantasy: no lay people, and above all no women. I so missed every lay reader, psalm singer, coffee maker; I missed the thrill of gathering in the fresh, cold night as a raggle-taggle group in the lane for the blessing of the new fire, the dark, excited procession back into the church, the organ and bells at the Gloria, the invocation of the saints and the sloshing of the holy water over us all, ending with sharing the Eucharist together. I missed joining everyone afterwards to share our Easter joy. So many are Vatican II Catholics in their seventies and eighties, my parents’ generation, who had remained faithful and joyful over so many years. These were also the people most in danger from the virus. I thought of what the chances were of going back to normal again next year, and wept.

Instead, we watched other people feast on the risen Christ together while we fasted separately from behind an impregnable online wall. It was meant to comfort, but it felt like being shut out of Paradise. The “Act of Spiritual Communion” said at every Eucharist jarred more than anything. “Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.” “At least” spiritually! “As if” you were already there! What atrocious theology! St Alphonsus Liguori was bad enough; the suggestion, widely offered by friends both clerical and lay, that being separated from the sacraments might somehow help us appreciate them more was salt on the wound. It seemed to make a mockery of my fast, dictating the terms of my grief, somehow hinting that it was my faith that was lacking.

Yet I also recognised over the successive liturgies the shining witness of the friars to Christ in the quiet dignity of their celebrations, and their care for one another and for us. So I carried on wrestling with it all. I started a series of arguments with different people (over the phone and by email), and did some further reading and thinking. Another Dominican, expert in the theology of sacramental desire, took me to task for misprizing the notion of Spiritual Communion as somehow second best, argued it all out with me, and sent me off to read St Thomas Aquinas on the subject (Summa III.80.1, since you ask). I realised that he was right that physical and Spiritual Communion are equivalent in Thomas’ teaching (much to my surprise). I also saw that, for St Thomas, although the Eucharist heals and feeds us as individuals, just as important is its function of making us into the Church, joining us as Christ’s members to the Head.

At this, it all fell into place, with a bit of help from Mary Magdalene. The deep grief I felt was her grief at the apparent disappearance of Christ’s body, the gathered Church. Only the dry bones, dismembered and deprived of flesh, seemed to remain of the assembly of the people that we had been. But Ezekiel had prophesied to us resurrection as a people, a rejoining of bone to sinew and flesh to flesh. Christ would still raise Lazarus for Martha and Mary, no matter how late his coming seemed, and in the meantime he would weep with them. While we wait and watch and ponder the Crucifixion from afar, or in some cases very close-up, only a truly sacramental desire, continually renewed in our hearts, to be again the re-membered Church, can keep us from oblivion and allow us to see and hear the resurrected Lord once more. It is and has long been the depths of our longing to be the Church, our longing to be the Body of Christ, which is the source of our grief. This is why we mourn, and this is how and why we shall be comforted when Christ shall choose to raise us.

Meanwhile, we must stand at the gate and gaze on Christ until it is opened and we can enter the garden once more.

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          REIMAGINING THE EUCHARIST           

by Professor Thomas O’Loughlin
(an article from The Tablet, Thursday, 26th March 2020)

Masses have been suspended throughout Britain and Ireland. A leading theologian argues that, as well as a time of loss, this might be a moment to broaden our understanding of the Eucharist and to deepen our spirituality beyond the walls of our usual place of worship

“All Masses Cancelled.” That sign went up today outside my local church. Who could have imagined it just a couple of weeks ago? Most Catholics recognise it’s a sensible decision: large gatherings are just what we do not want at the moment. The loving thing right now is to keep our distance, lest we transmit the virus.

There are those who do not like the idea of “missing Mass”. Could they “get Mass”, they ask anxiously, even if they are not able to be physically present at a service? I have heard priests saying that they will not have “the state” – imagined as somehow the enemy of the Church – ordering them to close, and talking of “defending the freedom of religion” by “providing Mass”, even though it would be endangering the very people they are claiming to serve.

But the fact that many regular Massgoers will not be in a church this weekend – and most likely not even over Easter – might actually help us to broaden our understanding of the Eucharist and deepen our spirituality. For too long – some historians would say since the seventh century – Latin Christians have tended to think about the Eucharist as an object (something that happens due to the activity of the priest, which the lay faithful observe rather like the audience at a play or a concert) or as a commodity (with those present behaving as religious consumers). The language we use is the giveaway. We talk about “getting Mass” and “attending a Mass”, of “getting Communion” and “taking Communion”. The image in our minds is that the Eucharist is something “out there”, which we watch or somehow obtain and make our own, as if we were theatregoers or consumers.

But the word “Eucharist” relates to a verb: it is something we, the whole People of God, do. It is the activity of thanking God the Father as a gathered community – and we offer this praise and thanks through Christ our Lord. The focus is on thanking the Father. The access to the Father is provided to us in the Spirit through Jesus Christ – and the prayers are led by the priest. It is our basic activity as Christians, not some “thing” that the priest does for us or makes for us.

So if we cannot gather because of the coronavirus, can we still offer thanks to the Father through Christ? Let’s relearn some basics.

First, Jesus is present with us. Many Catholics treat church buildings as if they were pagan temples: as if God is only “in there”. But God’s presence is everywhere and the risen Christ is not limited by space. This presence of the risen Jesus among the community is captured in this saying preserved in Matthew’s Gospel: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (18:20). Even the smallest gathering – just two people standing two metres apart so as not to spread the virus – has the risen Lord among them. It might be two people in a house together; it might even be two people talking together on their mobile phones or on Skype. This is expressed in another ancient Christian saying – preserved in the Didache (a first-century new disciples’ guide): “Wherever the things of the Lord are spoken about, there the Lord is present” (4:1).

Second, your room is a basic place of prayer. We sometimes think that we are only commanded to pray in a church building – we have grown up with the idea of attendance at Mass on Sunday as a regulation – but it is sobering to recall this instruction by Jesus: “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the gatherings and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6). We are now being advised not to go to work or use public transport, not to attend church services and to keep our distance from people. It’s a moment for us to rediscover the art of closing the door and praying alone – knowing that the Father will listen to our prayers.

Third, we describe the Eucharist as “the centre and summit of our Christian lives”, which is true, but we often make the mistake of regarding it as the whole of our religious life. This crisis calls on us to build up the surrounding foothills, by caring for one another and thanking God at home and in our place of study or work as well as in church. If we are not thankful for the meals and the friendship we share at home, we are hardly ready to be thankful at the Great Thanksgiving that we call “the Eucharist”.

And finally, every table is a sacred place. Jesus encountered people and taught at their tables: every table is a place where we can encounter the Lord in those with us. We will not be eating together as sisters and brothers in a church for the next few months, so let’s start recalling that whenever we eat, we should be thankful: “You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:10). We should always be thankful for the food we eat (saying grace before meals) and for the pleasure of eating and being together (grace after meals).

Most Catholics today can barely remember the time when few of those present at Mass actually ate or drank. This was partly because of fear of condemnation for “unworthy reception” – based on a misreading of 1 Corinthians 11:27 – or for an imagined breach of the fasting regulations. An idea had also taken root that one could gain grace by attending additional Masses (or at least consecrations) – a work of “supererogation” at which one could never “receive” – which led to the development of the notion that one could obtain the spiritual blessings through a mental act of intentional volition without any physical contact. These ideas can be traced, not surprisingly, back to the Cartesian world of seventeenth-century France, and the rarified and cerebral spirituality that flourished in the Jansenist community at Port Royal near Paris. They belong to a world that saw faith as an action of the intellect, and which placed minimal value upon the liturgy as a holistic encounter of the actual body of the Church. (Since we will all be staying in for the next few months, you might want to read the two brilliant and surprisingly entertaining chapters on Jansenism in Ronald Knox’s Enthusiasm.)

Some have been tempted to reach for the idea of “spiritual communion” as a sort of “fix” in this emergency. Better to simply acknowledge that this is a weird time: we cannot meet up, we cannot shake hands, and we are temporarily – for very good reasons – unable to behave in the normal human way. So we cannot behave in a liturgically normal way, gathered as a people, as sisters and brothers, to be together, to sing together, to listen together while sitting in a group, to shake hands with our neighbours as friends (John 15:15) and then to share a loaf and a common cup. Until we can get back to normal, let’s just note its loss, concentrate on what we can do while we are living in isolation from one another, and then, when the restrictions are lifted, rejoice that our fellowship is restored.

We will not be gathered as large groups for the next few months – let’s use this experience to rediscover that we are the Church (it is not a building, or the preserve of the clergy), that we must be eucharistic every day (it is an act of attitude of thankfulness for all the good things of creation, particularly meals, not a performance we “attend” or an object we “get”, “take” or “receive”), and that the risen one is with us, interceding for us with the Father, in these worrying times.

Thomas O’Loughlin is professor of historical theology at the University of Nottingham, and a former president of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain. His latest book is Eating Together, Becoming One (Liturgical Press, £23.99; Tablet price, £21.59).