Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I PRAY FOR EACH OF YOU EVERY DAY!!! That’s one of the reasons I have not had the opportunity to write this letter to you before, as we pray in the morning, afternoon and evening. As the rumors grew each day of the possibility of school and church closures, we never imagined that we would be at this point. On that very Friday 13th, when I locked the church before people arrived for the stations, I must confess that it saddened my heart. My first reaction was to run down to the chapel and pray in front of the blessed sacrament. Jesus is always the right answer…and the only person at this point who can help us. It dawned on me that it might be a good idea to share this opportunity to pray in front of the blessed sacrament with everyone else. That was my first “live” streaming ever… or my first attempt!!! I’m glad we have this possibility, even though it’s virtual, to see that Christ does not abandon us…HE EVEN GOES ONLINE TO SEE US!!! This is important, no matter how low or high we are, THERE IS GOD!!!
In the Old Testament, God reveals his relationship with his people by using the image of marriage. When I think of this relationship, I always think what I see from a privileged position in every wedding I celebrate, namely, the vows! The groom and the bride promise to be faithful to one another, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, to love and honor each other every day of their lives. I’m sure the wedding vows in the Old Testament were not the same as we use nowadays, but GOD’S PROMISE IS! How many times do we hear that He will be OUR GOD and we will be HIS PEOPLE, or that even if a mother forgets her child, God will not forget us? Didn’t we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” just a few months ago? Isn’t the meaning of Emmanuel GOD IS WITH US??? Therefore, let this be our consolation and our strength. In the same way that God was with us in the good times in our lives, in the moments when we were healthy, he will also be with us in these scary moments of sickness. And if we have God, what else can we ask? St. Teresa says in her prayer, “Whoever has God lacks nothing, only God suffices.”
I’m not sure if I shared with you before that at one point in the seminary I wanted to become a monk! After my experience in Israel, where I lived for 1 year, I really learned to pray, to have the intimacy with the Lord. I liked it so much that I wanted to spend my whole life dedicated to prayer. We also worked in a place where I was serving the pilgrims who passed by. Basically, I followed the Rule of Life of St. Benedict, “Ora et Labora” (Pray and Work). We had different tasks during the day and we would also pray at different moments. It was a great experience, and I asked God if that was my vocation. As you can see, He called me to a different life, serving you in the parish…and now online.
When I first heard about the possible lockdown, I must confess that part of me looked forward living a monastic life for a bit. I thought that I would do some videos and dedicate the rest of the time to prayer. It turned out that God thought of something else. We still do our prayers, but we also are visiting some people (with the necessary precautions), we are calling others, keeping up with all facilities, and recording videos.
In this Holy Week that we are about to begin, I invite you to prepare your hearts for the Lord, to learn more about Him and what He already did for His people. I encourage everyone to spend some time in PRAYER and WORKS. There are many ways in which we can SPEND THIS TIME WITH GOD! Maybe we can begin the day with a personal prayer in the morning, or attending Mass with us at 9 AM online. Then do some work in the house, fix the messy room…then after lunch, dedicate some time to read the Bible (you can read the story of the Exodus, or even the 4 different accounts of the Passion.) After some rest, working, or video calling the family, you can have supper, and get ready for the Rosary at 6pm. In the evening, you can always watch a documentary on the Bible, on the Holy Land, or even the life of a Saint (my favorite part of the day…when I make it that far).
Take advantage of this time to have a spiritual retreat, to rest in the Lord. Many of us spend our lives working hard, running around, serving people. Let’s spend this time resting in the Lord. Let’s be at peace. Let’s have a holy preparation for Easter.
Finally, no matter what happens, be assured of this, GOD LOVES YOU, and He sent his only Son to give us life. That was the ultimate sacrifice, a Father who gives his Son to save the World. Look into your lives. He was always there for you…and He will continue being there for you. We, your priests, are praying for you every day. If there is something that we can do for you, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Father Steven Clemence