CORONAVIRUS  The Bishops of England and Wales

Pentecost Sunday 31 May 2020

Westminster Cathedral

Homily of Cardinal Vincent Nichols

 

Life has been so strange for these last ten weeks. There has never been a time quite like, difficult yet gifted. For, in fact, these weeks have been full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whose coming on the group of the first disciples of the Lord we celebrate today. We thank God for the giving of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then and now.

 

A few days ago, I had one of these 'virtual meetings' with all the men who are in preparation for service as priests in our parishes. There were over 20 of them, many now part of a 'household of a presbytery' where they help out in the ministry of the priests. Their stories were full of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

They spoke of their joy and encouragement in being able to share in the life of the priests, who had welcomed them so warmly into their homes. Such gracious hospitality - a touch of the Holy Spirit.

 

They spoke of finding that prayer was at the heart of each day and that these weeks were giving them time to grow closer to the Lord. Such prayer is the gift of the Holy Spirit who shows us how to pray when our hearts know not what to do. This gift is there for all of us. We just have to ask and open our hearts.

 

They spoke not only of their own prayer but of all the ways in which they have been drawn into sharing prayer with others, over the internet, over the telephone, in rosary circles, in Scripture reflection. Many of you are doing this. Yes, it is the Holy Spirit who urges us to reach out to others and share with them the joy and consolation we find in the Lord's presence. We are just like those first disciples: we need this encouragement, this gift, in order to overcome our reticence and speak openly with others, with care and respect, of the greatness of our faith. There is no time like the presence for doing that!

 

The seminarians spoke too of sharing in the awful sadnesses of this time: being present at gravesides with such a small group of people bidding farewell to a lost one, feeling the painful breaking of bonds that death entails, without the comfort of wider family and friends.

 

The great work of the Holy Spirit is, of course, to bring about the astonishing miracle of the Mass. Through the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine which we bring to the altar becomes the Body and Blood of the Lord, our nourishment for the journey of life. How hard it is to be away from this Eucharist Communion. How much we need to rely on the same Holy Spirit to bring the presence of the Lord into our hearts through a spiritual communion. The Holy Spirit can do that.

 

No confines, walls or rules can limit the gracious working of the Holy Spirit whose gifts are to be found in so many places.

 

Today we think of the group of disciples, with Mary, waiting, as they were bidden, in the Upper Room. The doors were closed. Jesus came and 'breathed upon them and said 'Receive the Holy Spirit'. Then they were empowered, fired by that gift which is also described as being 'like tongues of flame'. Flinging open the doors, out they came, ready at last for their mission.

 

We, too, are waiting to open these doors, the doors of our churches. The waiting has been hard but we have accepted the Government's decision to close our churches because the protection of life required it. But this week's announcements by the Prime Minister that some indoor sales premises can open tomorrow and that most shops can open on 15 June, questions directly the reasons why our churches remain closed.

 

We are told that these openings, which are to be carefully managed, are based on the need to encourage key activities to start up again. Why are churches excluded from this decision?

 

The importance of faith to so many people is clear. The role of faith in our society has been made even clearer in these last weeks: as a motivation for the selfless care of the sick and dying; as providing crucial comfort in bereavement; as a source of immense and effective provision for those in sharp and pressing need; as underpinning a vision of the dignity of the every person, a dignity that has to be at the heart of the rebuilding of our society.

 

The opening of our churches, even if just for individual prayer, helps to nurture this vital contribution to our common good.

 

Opening churches must be done safely. That is so important. We are confident that we can do so. We have developed expert guidance. We are ready to follow the Government's guidelines as soon as they are finalised. What is the risk to a person who sits quietly in a church which is being thoroughly cleaned, properly supervised and in which social distancing is maintained? The benefits of being able to access places of prayer is profound, on individual and family stability and, significantly, on their willingness to help others in their need.

 

It is now time to move to the phased opening of our churches.

 

Thankfully the mission of the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knows no boundaries. We see this every day. I am confident that the experience of this 'lock down' is teaching us many new ways of sharing faith, of explaining faith, of putting faith into practice. Thank you all, so much, for the witness you are giving.

 

In speaking today of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis says this:

 

'Dear friends, we are called to share the comfort of the Spirit, the closeness of God we have received. How do we do this? Everything we would like others to do for us let us do to them instead. Do we want to be heard? Let us first listen. Do we need encouragement? Let us give encouragement. Do we want someone to care for us? Let us care for those who are alone and abandoned? Do we need hope for tomorrow? Let us give hope today. Let us, then, become messengers of the comfort bestowed by the Spirit.' (Message of Pope Francis for 'Thy Kingdom Come').

 

Today we remember: the Holy Spirit is the fire that keeps us going; the water of the immensity of God's life within us; the dove of his peace after disaster; the wisdom that shows us right from wrong; the creative spirit who makes a work of art of our lives, the wind that will urge us on to our heavenly home, if we will let him do so!

 

Holy Spirit of God:

 

Thou of all consolers best

 

Thou the soul's delightful guest

 

Dost refreshing peace bestow.

 

Give us comfort when we die

Give us life with thee in high

Give us joy that never ends.

Amen

 

+Vincent Nichols

 

Today, (14th May), Cardinal Vincent Nichols

spoke to presenter Justin Webb

on BBC Radio 4 programme about how Catholic Churches can be safely re-opened for private prayer.

Click the red button below to listen to the broadcast.

RECOGNISING THE PAIN OF CATHOLICS UNABLE

TO RECEIVE THE SACRAMENTS

 

A People who Hope in Christ

A Message from the Metropolitan Archbishops

of the Catholic Church in England and Wales

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

The radiance of the risen Lord shines upon us. At a time when so many shadows are cast into our lives, and upon our world, the light of the resurrection shines forever to renew and restore our hope. In the words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis: ‘In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side.’ (27 March 2020)

 

The impact of Covid-19, both nationally and internationally, has been immense. So much of what we take for granted has changed. Our health and physical interaction, our capacity to travel and gather, have all been affected. There is uncertainty in our future, especially with work and the country’s economy. As we know, very sadly, large numbers of people have died because of the coronavirus, and others have been or remain seriously ill. Keyworkers, not least in the National Health Service and care sectors, are serving selflessly to sustain the life of our nation. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone who is suffering because of Covid-19, and to all those battling to overcome its effects. May those who have died rest in peace and those who are bereaved find comfort.

 

When the Prime Minister announced the lockdown, this included places of worship and therefore Catholic churches. These measures were put in place to stem the general transmission of the virus. It is right that the Catholic community fulfils its role in contributing to the preservation of life and the common good of society. This must continue until the restrictions applied by the Government are lifted.

 

None of us would want to be in the situation in which we find ourselves. While the live-streaming of the Mass and other devotions is playing an important part in maintaining the life of faith, there is no substitute for Catholics being able to physically attend and participate in the celebration of the Mass and the other sacraments. Our faith is expressed powerfully and beautifully though ‘seeing, touching, and tasting.’ We know that every bishop and every priest recognises the pain of Catholics who, at present, cannot pray in church or receive the sacraments. This weighs heavily on our hearts. We are deeply moved by the Eucharistic yearning expressed by so many members of the faithful. We thank you sincerely for your love for the Lord Jesus, present in the sacraments and supremely so in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The bishops and priests of every diocese are remembering you and your loved ones at Mass each day in our churches as we pray ‘in hope of health and wellbeing.’ We thank our priests for this faithfulness to their calling.

 

As the Government’s restrictions are relaxed step by step, we look forward to opening our churches and resuming our liturgical, spiritual, catechetical and pastoral life step by step. This will also be of service to those beyond the Catholic Church who depend on our charitable activity and outreach through which much goodness is shared by so many volunteers from our communities.

 

None of us knows, as yet, how or when the lockdown will end. There is likely to be a phased return to travelling and gathering. As a church, we are now planning for this time and our discussions with the statutory public health agencies and Government representatives are ongoing. Together with Catholics across England and Wales we desire the opening of our churches and access to the sacraments. Until then, we are continuing to pray and prepare.

 

We want to acknowledge with gratitude the service of our fellow bishops and priests, our deacons and religious, our families and lay faithful, together with all our parish and school communities, for the wonderful ways the life of the faith is being nourished at this time, especially in the home. We also pay tribute to the Catholic organisations and networks that are working to support the vulnerable and needy.

 

On that first Easter day, the disciples were in lockdown and the doors were closed. In their isolation the Lord Jesus came among them and said ‘Peace be with you.’ May the peace of the risen Lord reign in our hearts and homes as we look forward to the day we can enter church again and gather around the altar to offer together the Sacrifice of Praise. We unite in asking the intercession of Our Blessed Lady and assure you of our prayers and blessing

 

Yours devotedly in Christ,

 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster

Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool

Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham

George Stack, Archbishop of Cardiff

John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales recognise that this time of the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every person in our countries. Those who are sick, and their families, are suffering many hardships of isolation from contact with those they love.

 

Our front-line workers in hospitals and in care homes all over our lands are giving exceptional service to those who are vulnerable at this time.

 

In order to show a spiritual solidarity with all those who are involved in the ways described above, each week from next Thursday, a Catholic Bishop will celebrate Mass in their Cathedral which will be live-streamed for people to join.

 

This will take place every Thursday at 7pm.

21 May

Bishop Mark Davies

Our Lady Help of Christians and Saint Peter of Alcantara, Shrewsbury

 

28 May

Bishop Terence Drainey

St Mary’s Cathedral, Middlesbrough

YouTube Channel

Participating in Holy Week while Remaining at Home

The Bishop of Leeds, Bishop Marcus Stock, has offered some reflections and suggestions for Catholics as we follow the sacred events of Holy Week in an entirely different way this year. Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

The importance of the Liturgy

The most important aspect of all our Catholic worship and liturgy is that we celebrate the sacred rites not as individuals, but as members of the one Body of Christ, the Church.

It is important that we do this even in these difficult times:

“For if we continue to love one another and to join in praising the Most Holy Trinity – all of us who are sons of God and form one family in Christ – we will be faithful to the deepest vocation of the Church”.

This is a profound reality even if, or when, our circumstances force us to be separated from the other members of the church by physical space or time.

The word liturgy means a “common work” or a “service in the name of/on behalf of the people”. The ‘Mass’ or ‘Divine Liturgy’ is the common work of the Catholic Church. It is the official action of the Church, the participation of the People of God in the ‘work of God’. The liturgy is “the source and summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows”.

For Catholics, both of the Western and Eastern liturgical traditions, the solemn gathering of the People of God for the praise and worship of the Most Holy Trinity is not an ‘optional extra’ to our personal spirituality, or our individual life of prayer. No, the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is, “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit”. The celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is central to our lives as Catholics, and that is why it is so painful for us now not to be able to gather together in our churches as a family.

We know that our churches are not just buildings; they are a ‘sacred space’, the House of God. Indeed, even within a church, there are separate dedicated spaces: the entrance hall or narthex, which provides an area for the faithful to gather for visiting with each other both before and after the celebration of Mass; there is the main body of the church, or ‘nave’ which is reserved for prayer, worship, and for making a ‘visit to the Lord’; and there are chapels or devotional areas which honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph and the Saints and Martyrs of the Church. The sanctuary though, is the ‘Holy of Holies’, the place where the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered on the altar and the table from which we are fed the “one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ”.

How should we pray and participate at home?

Whether we are sharing in the celebration of the Mass through live-streaming or reading the sacred texts for the Liturgy of the Word and the prayers in our Missal, we should try to set apart an area of a room in our house that is given over to the Lord. This area does not have to be large; it simply needs to be the little ‘sanctuary’ of our home.

What should there be in this sanctuary? Pride of place should be given to a crucifix; this is the altar of our home, for “Christ, our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by His death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption.” On Good Friday especially, we can spend some time in prayer before the crucifix, praying the Stations of the Cross, and at 15:00 or thereabouts kissing the crucifix or touching it lovingly with our hand, recalling that it was at this hour that Our Lord and Saviour gave up His life for us and for the salvation of the world.

An icon or statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, should also be present. For as Our Lord hung dying upon the cross, nearby stood Mary His mother, to whom He entrusted us as her children, and her to us as our mother.

Live Online Liturgies

We also have to learn how to differentiate when we participate in a liturgy on our computer or television screen from the experience of watching other live-streamed events, videos or programmes. In church we have learnt, often from our childhood, how to watch and participate in the sacred actions of the liturgy in a ‘holy way’. Learning how to do this using the various forms of electronic media alone will be entirely new to most of us.

Part of this learning means being aware of how we might physically differentiate in our home the way in which we watch and participate in a live-streamed liturgy. This simple action, changing how we watch, can help us to make our spiritual participation more fruitful.

In the room where we will watch the liturgy, we must try to turn off and to remove anything that is likely to distract us. We should as far as possible use the same bodily postures that we would adopt as if we were in the church itself; this will give us a sense of being united with the sacred actions that are taking place in the church.

For example, if possible we should stand at the opening to make the sign of the cross and for the penitential rite; join in by making all the responses; sit down for the readings and stand for the Holy Gospel (and make the sign of the cross on our forehead, on our lips and over our heart); kneel or bow our heads for the Eucharistic Prayer and for the moment when we make a Spiritual Communion; and stand for the final prayer and the blessing.

We might also, provided we take care and it is safe to do so, light a candle for the duration of the celebration. The lighted candle, like those on the altar in the church, symbolizes that Christ is “a light to enlighten the nations”, and that His brightness shines out in the Church and throughout the whole human family.

Whether we are taking part in a liturgy online or in person in a Church, our “fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations” requires us to foster both an internal and external participation. Our participation is not really about us ‘doing things’ in the liturgy but means that we need to engage both our minds and hearts in the celebration. We are body and spirit; the expression of our love for God therefore will always be manifest in our worship of Him, both in our words and our actions.

We should try to remember too, that often there can be many others who are also participating in the same liturgy that we are watching; sometimes hundreds and even thousands! It is not just a case of our watching the priest or sacred ministers celebrating the liturgy remotely in the isolation of our home: we are joining other Catholics, sometimes from other countries around the world, to offer a period of time in prayer, worship and thanksgiving to God who is our loving and merciful Father.

Praying with the Word of God

For those who do not have access to the internet and online media, one of the ways we can unite our prayer with the celebration of the Mass and the liturgies of Holy Week is through the use of Sunday and Weekday Missals to read the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures as given in the Church’s lectionary and to make an act of Spiritual Communion.

Although the offering of these prayers may be separated by physical space from where the sacred liturgy is being celebrated in a church, eternity breaks through into human life whenever Christians are united in prayer, especially when this prayer is offered at the same time and when they unite their intention to that of the sacred ministers celebrating the liturgy.

Our constant desire for the Lord

Deep in our hearts we know, though, that neither watching and participating in a live-streamed liturgical celebration nor uniting ourselves in prayer with that liturgy, can ever replace or be a substitute for that ‘fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations’ which our Holy Mother the Church calls us to strive for when we are personally present at the sacred liturgy celebrated within a church.

As members of the clergy and faithful, may our constant desire to be close to and receive the real presence of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and to experience His presence in the community of the faithful gathered visibly and physically as one, burn within our hearts each day until together we can return to our churches to assemble again as the Church.

Until that time, let us do all we can to remain united in faith, hope and love. Let us pray throughout this time of tribulation that God our Father will drive all pestilence from our world, relieve the pain of the sick, give strength to those who care for them, welcome into His peace those who have died and grant that we may all find comfort in His merciful love.

Full Closure of Catholic Churches

Following the Prime Minister’s historic announcement last night (23 March) strengthening restrictions in an attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19, Catholic Churches are closed to the public at this time.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols stresses that we must all play our part to safeguard the NHS and to save ‘precious lives’.

“We’re going to play our full part in it. That was the call of St. Paul that we ought to be good citizens and today we ought to be good citizens playing our part in the protection of the vulnerable, in our support for the NHS and in the preserving of human life, which is so precious to God in the face of this virus.”

 

 

Mental health and your spiritual life

From the Bishops of England & Wales

A healthy and nourished spiritual life is central to mental health and well being. For Catholics, attending Mass on Sundays and during the week is a source of mental and spiritual strength, as well as a social and community activity. This section will briefly explore some ways in which we can keep up a healthy spiritual life during times of social distancing and isolation.

Catholic churches in England and Wales are now closed until further notice. This will be a cause of distress and disruption to Catholics, but we are lucky to live in a time when technology can be a great help for the development of our spiritual lives.

The Catholic Truth Society has put together a helpful list of suggestions for several ways in which you can nourish your mental health and spiritual life during this time. You can find the full list and more information here, but here are a few key points.

Make a Spiritual Communion: Spiritual Communion is the heartfelt desire to receive Our Lord, even when we are unable because of the distance or for some other reason.

Watch Mass: Many dioceses are providing information about livestreamed Masses in parishes.

Read the Mass readings of the day: When you can’t attend Mass, you can follow the prayers and readings of the Mass at home.

Meditate on the Mass readings: Spend time meditating on the Mass readings and discerning what God might be telling you through them, using Lectio Divina, an ancient method of prayer. There is a guide for how to do this on IgnatianSpirituality.com.

Watch a video of a priest preaching on the day’s Gospel: New ministries are coming to light during this uncertain time, and one of those is Lent in Isolation, where you can listen to the day’s Mass readings and hear a priest give a homily.

Join an online community praying together daily: It is more important than ever to join together in prayer and utilise technology to form communities so that no one is isolated. The CTS will be posting prayers every day on Hozana.

As Catholics, we know the importance of going to Sunday Mass which is why the Church tells us that not going is a grave sin. However, this does not include those who are physically unable to get to Mass through no fault of their own. This means if you are unwell, in self-isolation, or for some other reason you cannot get to Mass, you are not committing a sin because in those instances you are not required to attend Mass.

Coping with OCD during Coronavirus

Coronavirus will present a unique challenge to those who live with OCD, especially in the form of scrupulosity (a form of OCD involving religious or moral obsessions). Indeed, the charity OCD Action has reported an increase in support requests from people whose fears have become focused on the coronavirus pandemic.

For people with OCD and some types of anxiety, being constantly told to wash your hands can be especially difficult to hear. It could also be difficult to identify which behaviours are ‘acceptable’ and recommended, and which are driven by the OCD and anxiety. OCD Action has published some helpful guidelines about how to manage your OCD during this time. The full list and more information can be found here

Scrupulosity is something which Catholic living with OCD might struggle with during the coronavirus pandemic. Scrupulous individuals are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation of religious or moral doctrine. In particular, not being able to attend Mass might be a cause of concern and worry for Catholics with OCD. As we stated earlier, it is important to remember that you are not committing a sin by not attending Mass during the pandemic. There are many ways in which you can maintain a healthy spiritual life, listed above.

For more information on scrupulosity and how it may be treated, please see this factsheet from the International OCD Foundation Reading this alongside OCD Action’s guidelines on Coronavirus might be helpful if you are a Catholic struggling with your OCD during this time.

News and Social Media

At times like this it is of course important to keep up to date with health information and advice; however, rolling news is not always helpful, and can contribute to mental ill health, including feelings of anxiety and depression. Here are some pointers for how to look after your mental health while keeping up to date with the news:

Limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching things which aren’t making you feel better. Perhaps decide on a specific time to check in with the news;

Stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information such as government and NHS websites, and updates from the World Health Organisation (WHO);

Take some time away from news websites and social media if you are feeling anxious;

Mute key words which might be triggering on Twitter and unfollow or mute accounts

Mute WhatsApp groups and hide Facebook and other social media posts and feeds if you find them overwhelming;

Talk to someone if you feel that you can’t manage your anxiety alone. Support helplines are listed below.

SUPPORT AND HELPLINES

An extensive list of mental health support and helplines can be found on the Helplines page of the Catholic Mental Health Project website.

ORGANISATIONS MENTIONED ON THIS PAGE:

Anxiety UK              Phone: 08444 775 774

OCD Action              Phone: 0845 390 6232

Email: support@ocdaction.org.uk

Skype: 0303 040 1112.

OCD Action recommends that if you are currently in therapy for OCD, try contacting your therapist or service provider and ask if they offer skype/phone sessions instead of face-to-face appointments.

 

RESOURCES

Coronavirus: How to protect your mental health (BBC)

bbc.co.uk/news/health-51873799

 

Catholic Truth Society: Weekly Blog

ctsbooks.org/blog/

Hozana: Social Prayer Platform

hozana.org/en/

Ignatian Spirituality

IgnatianSpirituality.com

The International OCD Foundation

piritualityiocdf.org/

Lent in Isolation

lentinisolation.com/

OCD Action and Coronavirus

ocdaction.org.uk/articles/covid-19

CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF

ENGLAND AND WALES March 18th 

Liturgical Advice for the Bishops of England and Wales

in the light of the COVID-19 Pandemic 18th March 2020

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, having consulted the Ordinaries of the Dioceses, has agreed that the cessation of public liturgies should begin from Friday evening 20th March 2020. Because of the situation the Church finds herself in, the obligation for the faithful to attend Holy Mass on a Sunday or Holy day of Obligation is removed, until further notice.

 

Celebrations of Holy Mass

Priests who hold parochial office should continue to celebrate Mass in a church within their parish without the faithful on a daily basis. Other priests (i.e. retired from office or entrusted with a non-parochial ministry) may celebrate Mass without the faithful in a church, chapel or their private home. Deacons should not participate in these celebrations.

Wherever possible, during this period, churches will remain open, especially on Sundays, for individual private prayer, without any organised services, and offering prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

Baptisms

Baptisms should be deferred

 

Sacrament of Reconciliation

Confession may be offered on request as long as hygiene and social distancing requirements are observed (eg a physical barrier between the penitent and the priest such as a grille and cloth).

 

First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion

These celebrations should be postponed until a time that allows for families and friends to gather safely within our churches.

 

Confirmation

The celebrations of Confirmation should be deferred until such time that the public health advice is that congregations can resume public worship.

 

Matrimony

If possible, the celebration of the sacrament of Matrimony should be deferred until such time that people can gather in numbers safely. However, if this is not possible and only in the most pressing of circumstances, then those present for the marriage should be restricted to the celebrant, bride and groom and immediate family, and if necessary, the legal Registrar.

 

Funerals

There must be great pastoral sensitivity to this issue. The funeral service should take place at the graveside or at a crematorium, subject to the conditions laid down by the cemetery or crematorium authorities. Arrangements should be made for a Mass to be celebrated in

memoriam when congregations are allowed to gather.

 

Anointing of the Sick

No pastoral visits should be made to people who are self-isolating until the isolation period ends. However, do offer phone support. When anointing the sick, the Oil of the Sick can be applied using a cotton bud which can be burned afterwards (one end for the head and the other for the hands) and the priest extend his hands over the sick person for laying on of hands, without physical contact. This has been confirmed as a valid mode of celebrating the sacraments which involve “laying on of hands.” Visits to people in care homes or hospitals should follow advice from the staff on infection control