Posted on: May 29, 2020
Welcome Back, Welcome Home!
After 11 weeks of not gathering together, we are finally back. Albeit, under somewhat different circumstances. But praise be to God for this moment! In these past weeks, I have prayed for your safety and I hope my prayer was answered. We still want to be safe in the midst of this unprecedented virus that can take our lives so quickly. For this reason, the recommended precautions have been put in place at St. Matthew's. It will be different and perhaps difficult as we move through this gradual re-opening. But it brings us closer to who we want to be, a community "Gathering" in the name of the Lord.
For all these weeks, I have been writing in The Pulse that has been published online on our website. I know many of you may not have been able to read The Pulse or my articles because of a lack of access to the internet or a computer. I tried in these articles to encourage us along the spiritual journey and not give up hope. I, too, made a point to raise you as a community in prayer each day for your protection, your health, and well-being, and in thanksgiving for your constant faithfulness. (We do have limited copies of these editions of The Pulse. If you would like any week, please let us know. Again, they are limited. Also, you may view archived issues of The Pulse on our website...back to November 2017!)
With the re-opening of public Masses, we will not necessarily be open for regular activity yet. This is still to be determined as to how we will conduct meetings, ministry, and so forth. Having said that, weekday Masses will once again be celebrated on June 2nd with our regular schedule on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. Of course, all social distancing and masks will be required as well as protocols of Sunday. Again, I want to stress if you feel vulnerable or have an underlying condition, it might be prudent to re-think your attendance.
Over these weeks, I have raised the question, not so much as to why this all happened to society, but rather what have we or will we learn from it. I think it is a good question that we all should ask ourselves. Personally, I reflected on how quickly the pace of our life changed. We were a society running from thing to thing, event to event, need to need, and all of a sudden the only thing that seemed important was our own health. If I learn nothing else from this experience, it is that there are really only a few things that are important in life.
First, how much we depend on God for our protection, health, and well-being. Didn't we all pray fervently for our safety, even as we walked into a grocery store? Secondly, how much we need each other and not to take each other for granted. Away from family and friends, we realized how closely tied we are. Thirdly, how important is our freedom to be able to come and go as we please. With the limits placed upon us, we cannot be fully human, fully alive. Lastly, how delicate life is! Maybe society will learn to be kinder, gentler, and more respectful of one another. Well, we can only hope. We can only pray the world learns from this experience as ongoing as it is.
God bless you!
Posted on: May 22, 2020
Protocol for Returning to Mass
“The Lord be with you!.....And with your Spirit!”
These familiar words will once again be heard in public. With the returning to public Masses, we will once again as a community be able to praise God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and for the salvation He has won for us. As we prepare for this celebration of the Liturgy / Mass, it will look and feel different from when we last gathered on March 8, 2020, eleven weeks ago.
Throughout society, we have been practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and good hygiene. This will also be a part of our gathering with additional protocols that are required for a religious service. These protocols come from the Archdiocese of Detroit as recommended by the CDC.
I ask your cooperation with what we will implement and to please be patient with one another, with yourself, and respectful of the protocols that you are being asked to abide by. Having said this, I would like to indicate what you will expect and experience when we return on Pentecost Sunday, May 30 and May 31, 2020.
I know this seems like a lot and certainly it is not what we are used to, but these are unprecedented times, not just for us but for the Universal Church. God will get us through this quickly, I hope. But in the meantime, we must ease into our re-opening for the safety of all.
It is an act of charity to care for each other in this way. We would not want the beauty and mystery of the Eucharistic liturgy in any way to compromise our health or be the reason our community members should suffer.
We pray through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lourdes, patroness of health and healing, that God the Father will give us strength to endure, courage to preserve, and hope for the future. God bless you.
Posted on: May 9, 2020
In the Liturgy of the Hours (sometimes called the priest's breviary), the opening strope for morning and even- ing prayer is "Oh, God, come to my assistance, Oh, Lord make haste to help me." These particular words seem to hold so much meaning for me during this pandemic. As I pray them, I keep you in my thoughts. As a community, as a society, we need God's help and assistance as we move through these difficult times, "Oh Lord, make haste to help us."
Sometimes, this help comes in various ways. One is the kindness and generosity of parishioners who are continuing their offertory contribution by envelope and online giving. Thanks for sending it in. Please keep up the good work; it will help us make it through this pandemic.
Also, I want to thank for their generosity those parishioners who helped me after my surgery with meals and food dropped off at the rectory. You have been so kind to me. I do keep healing; although at 11 weeks, it is still a slow process.
I also want to encourage you, as difficult as it is, to continue to adhere and cooperate with the social restrictions placed upon us. I know it is challenging, these times are so strange; but even theologically, we adhere to legitimate authority be it in ecclesial or civil forum. It is for our own good and for the good of others. We might say that there is a spiritual dimension in that we show that by following the rules, we are a charitable people. Not caring just for ourselves but for the good or the wider community.
There is always a tension in our democratic society between the individual and the community. However, the government, the state, can have a reasonable interest in protecting the lives of citizens by asking for a period of quarantine. To keep us sheltered for a sustained but not permanent time is completely legitimate when the results of not doing so could result in the death of thousands.
To this end, church authority has the responsibility to co- operate with civil authority. Thereby, it does not impede our religious freedom if the prohibition on gathering is not a permanent practice. Of course, we know that this is temporary; and in the future, we will be back together again. Everyone including the state desires this. However, it may look different when we return.
Last week, the priests had a video conference with Arch- bishop Vigneron and some preliminary precautions are being discussed for when public Masses will resume. This has not been completely spelled out, but we must be prepared to cooperate. It is not only our civic duty but our ecclesial (church) duty as well. With these thoughts of encouragement and gratitude, we continue to pray, "Oh Lord, make haste to help us."
God bless all of you!
Posted on: May 2, 2020
The "stay home, stay safe" order is still in effect. I hope that everyone is doing fine. I want to remind you to please keep saying your prayers. Pray for those who have been effect- ed by this pandemic through sickness, personal exposure, and even death. I feel so sorry that so many people had to give their lives in the face of this COVID virus. Pray especially for the church throughout the world, our country, our diocese, and our parish. We will definitely have a challenge before us as we attempt at a future date to "re-open."
Religious communities by their nature are about gathering (we even refer to the opening rites of our liturgy as "gathering" rites), and we will have to see how this will occur with the threat of the coronavirus still over us. I have been praying daily for the church and for you. My only hope is that we will come through this.
Of course, many adjustments are being made in the meantime. Most regretful is not gathering for Sunday Mass. In turn, that effects many things. For one, the communication we have between us. Yes, technology is one way, but nothing can substitute for seeing one another and feeling the people's presence. Also, a direct appeal for events always seems to bring a better response. For this reason and for not being able to organize ourselves in a proper way, the Archdiocese has postponed the Catholic Services Appeal until the fall. We hope as a parish to be successful, perhaps, like last year, so that it can offset the funding losses we suffered this year due to the cancellation of "Jazz Nite."
I know I've mentioned it before, but just to keep it ever in front of us, please remember to send in your contributions by mail or online. The bills keep coming in. Heat, electricity, and water still have to be paid. Thanks to all who have remembered.
On a final note, don't let your absence from church effect your relationship with the Lord. We need Him more than ever, and I'm sure He hasn't forgotten us. It may seem like it, but He hasn't; and in the end, the good Lord through His wisdom will give to those good doctors, nurses, and researchers the strength and knowledge to come up with a treatment and vaccine. There has been throughout history terrible times that humanity has had to deal with, and we know that God has been with us through it all. He will not and has not abandoned us. Stay safe, stay healthy.
God bless all of you,
Posted on: April 25, 2020
3rd Sunday of Easter / Pandemic Update
On this Third Sunday of Easter, we continue to rejoice in the risen Lord. Although we could not be together in church as a community, it does not change the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. In fact, it is more important than ever at this time when surrounded by sickness and death of so many that our hope and encouragement lies in a strong spirit of renewal and new life. I keep reminding myself and in my daily prayer that this too shall pass. The risen Lord renews and recreates humanity throughout the ages no matter what history or challenge we live through. This COVID-19 virus will one day be history. Generations will read about it as we read about the influenza epidemic of 1918. They will judge us based upon our strength, endurance, cooperation with each other, and our faith. Take courage, be not afraid! In the midst of it all, I'm sure there are particular and personal signs of new life that each one of us can identify in our lives.
For me personally, I want to share with you some good news about my own health. As you know, just as the "lockdown" was beginning, I had just come off ankle reconstruction surgery. Well, it has been ten weeks now, and the last time you saw me, I was non-weight bearing and on a knee cart. I have since progressed to walking with a "boot"/cast on to now being back in a shoe (athletic, of course). There is still a great deal of swelling, but Dr. Hosey is pleased with it and because all the therapy clinics are closed, our good parishioner, David Gross, who is a physical therapist has given me a number of in-house exercises to do so that my healing continues. They both say it will take a good six months for a complete recovery.
Having said that, I want to thank all the kind and generous parishioners who have been helping me in these weeks. For the parishioners who brought food, gone shop- ping, sent cards and notes, called me, took me to doctor appointments, who prayed for me, I am most grateful. Each and every day I feel you as my spiritual family who takes such good care of me in my time of trouble. I see this as one of the signs of Easter's new life, as resurrection of spirit that gives rise to faith. I can see that what we celebrate on Sunday is not empty ritual, it is, in you, the living and risen Lord. You, St. Matthew parishioners, the living body of Christ. I can see it in your actions, not only to me but to others in the community that I know you have been responding to. Keep up the good works as you keep the faith.
On a more mundane, temporal but thoroughly necessary item, I want to thank you for continuing to support the parish. Even though we are not yet open, the buildings still need to be heated, water bills paid, and general expenses taken care of. Many parishioners are either sending in their contributions or giv- ing online. Some have continued their weekly commitment, some have given extra knowing our income is down. I thank you for responding so generously. I do hope that all the parishioners would respond as we are going to have some difficult financial times ahead. Not that we didn't in the past, but you have always pulled us through and kept our presence here at Harper and Whittier.
I also share with you that I have applied for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) from the federal government. Typically, the diocese does not allow us to apply for loans outside the diocese. However, in this situation, they made an exception. I do hope we will see a result from this. We qualify for payroll and some utilities, and whatever we do receive would be most helpful. Please pray that it comes through. But in the meantime, don't forget St. Matthew's, we will be here for you when all this is over.
The risen Lord is with us, alleluia!
Posted on: April 18, 2020
2nd Sunday of Easter / Pandemic Update
On this Second Sunday after Easter, although we are still in "lockdown" due to the coronavirus, I want to share with you my personal reflection on a very different Easter Sunday. As I wrote last week, I did celebrate a private Mass on Easter Sunday. As I signed myself with the sign of the cross and said "The Lord be with you;" the "And with your spirit" was not heard in response.
At first, it brought tears to my eyes. To look out at the empty pews, the empty church was heart-rending. Of course, the celebration of the Mass and the sacraments are efficacious, and I knew when I pronounced the words of Consecration "This is my Body;" "This is my Blood" that the Lord was truly present, not only to me as the priest but to all of you who so faithfully filled the pews throughout the year. My sadness was turned to joy - EASTER JOY! - when I realized that the empty church did not mean an empty belief.
I thought after the liturgy just how profound the experience was. I thought about the empty church contrasted with the empty tomb that first Easter morning when Mary, Peter, and John first peered into the tomb and saw that it was empty; it didn't crush them, it gave them hope! Could he have risen as he said he would? Could he be alive and they would see him again? I'm sure it was a strange mix of emotions.
It was that strange mix when I saw the empty church on Easter morning, you, the faithful, were not there; but it didn't mean that you were gone. No, I had the sure and certain hope that we will rise again as did the Lord. In fact, I felt your spiritual presence. I could see and remember faces, for we all sit in our spots, and when I looked around, I could you sitting there where you always do. I could recognize in my memory your voice singing or responding to the liturgy. I could see you standing and talking in little groups to one another after Mass and greeting me at the church doors with "Happy Easter, Father!" Like the empty tomb, the empty church gave me a whole new way to appreciate you as parishioners, as faithful Catholic people, you were there spiritually, and I felt your spiritual presence.
Maybe it was the familiarity of our worship space, maybe it was the smell of candles and incense that always seems to linger, maybe it was a good and holy feeling I always have when I enter the church on Sunday morning; but I felt you there, and I felt your presence in a different and unique way. As your pastor, I felt proud to offer the Eucharist with your intentions in mind praying for your health and safety and that of the world in these strange and seemingly empty times, and knowing that you and I and the Lord that morning were in communion with each other.
Yes, the empty tomb gave way to an enduring faith. The empty church brought about a yearning faith to experience the Lord more closely. Whether we were in our living rooms praying silently, watching the Cathedral Mass on TV, or simply remembering Easter past, we were together spiritually connected by the empty tomb of the risen Lord.
Indeed, a different but no less powerful Easter experience. As I viewed the church in a quiet, serene state, I had to ask myself, WAS IT A MORNING LIKE THIS?"
Again, my friends, Happy Easter!
Know that I pray for you daily, for your health and well-being, and I ask you to do the same for me. Keep the faith - this too shall pass.
God bless you!
Posted on: April 11, 2020
Happy Easter! / Pandemic Update
Alleluia! He is Risen! Happy Easter!
Today, we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. We celebrate Easter this year with a whole different perspective. We couldn't gather to receive palms and begin our Holy Week, we couldn't go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we couldn't attend the beautiful liturgy of the Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Fri- day, the Easter Vigil. Still we celebrate Easter. Why? Because the mystery, the reality of the Resurrection never ends. War, famine, insurrection, disease, or plague cannot interfere with it. Why? Because death has no power over us. That is the mystery and the glory of what Jesus the Christ did for us by his suffering and death. He conquered death forever and nothing, not even this horrible coronavirus, can overcome the gift of the Resurrection.
We might say this Easter, although we did not gather for Holy Week and the Triduum, we did not communally read the Passion of the Lord, we lived it. We, as a society, have been "cruising " along with seemingly not a care in the world. Our shelves and refrigerators were stocked. Our portfolios were satisfied. We could come and go as we wanted, some even took God for granted. We were living as if it were a perpetual Palm Sunday. Hosanna! God was in his Heaven, and all's right with the world. If we wanted to engage in petty squabbles, political or religious, it didn't really matter. We weren't personally effected by it. But then came the passion, the suffering caused by an invisible enemy that seems to put all things in perspective.
Like the Apostles who had to prepare the upper room for the Last Supper, we now have to struggle to go shop- ping, hoping we can find not what we want but what we need, and have to struggle with the anxiety of going into a store, gloved and masked. We feel the pain of standing at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday when we are helpless to reach out to our friends and relatives due to social distancing or hearing that someone we know has contracted the virus or, perhaps, has died from it. When we hear of the thousands around the world whose lives were cut short due to it, we stand at the foot of the Cross!
This Holy Week seems so different. But maybe it was more real. This year, we didn't just remember it, we lived it. Hopefully, we will remember this week with its pain, suffering, and dying for years to come so that when Easter Sunday arrives, we can truly appreciate the glory of the mystery of the Resurrection. Christ has conquered sin, suffering, and death. He has invited us to share his suffering so that we can share in his glory.
I truly believe this is the message of Easter 2020. We shall rise again! Death has no power over us. We hope in the Lord that this too shall pass. As our sacred Passover (pasch) is celebrated, we ae reminded of a different way and a quieter way to be ever vigilant, ever appreciative, ever watchful of the mysteries that we celebrate and hold in our Catholic faith. In the end, Faith is all that matters. This world may come and go, but your Lord remains forever. This is our Hope, this is our belief, this is our Faith. And so in the midst of these different days, we can still cry out, "Happy Easter, the Lord is Risen! He is risen indeed!
In order to raise these thoughts and these prayers on behalf of the St. Matthew Community and in union with the whole Church, I will celebrate a private Easter Mass at 10 a.m. this Easter Sunday with specific intentions for the well-being of St. Matthew parishioners that we will deepen our faith and love in the Lord during these difficult times, that our spirituality will not go dry, that we will long for the day when we can be together again, and for the whole world that through the pandemic we will remain healthy and our souls be kept safe from the disease of sin!
Know of my love, for you, my desire to celebrate with you, my prayers for your health and well being.
And may Almighty God bless you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (+)
Happy Easter, Alleluia! Alleluia!
Posted on: March 28, 2020
In these unprecedented times of "social distancing" due to the Coronavirus, I want to reassure you that we are not "spiritually distant" from each other. I pray for you and your health, and I encourage you to do the same for each other. I certainly miss seeing you, being with you, and praying with you, especially at Mass and sharing the Eucharist on Sunday.
But these are our times, and we are not alone. Our country and the entire world are struggling. I cannot believe that God has abandoned us. I do believe God is with us, strengthening us to deal with the inconveniences, protecting us as we protect each other by following the prescribed directives the medical people have given us through our civil leadership, and strengthening our resolve to move through this crisis.
In some ways, there may be a silver lining in this. Perhaps we can better appreciate what we have because when it is taken away, we realize how precious, even the smallest things, we do and have are. There is a saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder." As we are away from our community here at St. Matthew Parish, we long for the day to be reunited in our common bond with an appreciation for who we are to each other. Perhaps, we will have a fonder appreciation of community, our faith and its practice, and one another once we return.
I want now to highlight some aspects of how this pandemic is affecting us particularly as St. Matthew parishioners.
First, let me say that I am still recovering from my ankle surgery. I must say that my immobility has made it more difficult to deal with matters at hand. My energy levels wane at times, and it takes me three times longer to do the simplest things. I continue to pray for strength as my personal healing moves forward. I am six weeks off the surgery, and the healing is slow.
Secondly, with the ban on assembling, we are not celebrating Mass or receiving Communion. This is indeed unprecedented, and a spiritual hardship on us. At this writing, we don't know when we will be able to gather again given the civil directions that have come forth with the need to protect our community, especially the elderly. Let's be honest, we do have an older population in our parish. As soon as it is safe, we will return to our regular schedule. I ask that everyone would return to church, to our parish, to give thanks to God for bringing us through this crisis and to show our support for one another.
In the meantime, I encourage you to engage in a "Spiritual Communion" with the Lord Jesus. This is an age-old teaching of the Church. This is employed when someone due to illness or the unavailability of the Mass is asked to participate in so as to share deeply in the joy of the Lord's sacrifice and nourishment for us. This would entail setting time aside on Sunday morning in silence or in family prayer to perhaps read the Scriptures of the day, pray the Our Father, and in silent meditation ask that the Lord Jesus would be with you filling your heart and mind. Then, when renewed by this Spiritual Communion, offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God praying for his help in this difficult time.
We are uniquely affected by all of this at this time of year. By Archdiocesan directive and in accord with the Governor's order, we will not gather for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, or Easter Sunday. For some you may wish to watch Mass for Shut-ins on TV; or for those who have the capability, you can search for Holy Week liturgies streaming from the cathedral or from other parish settings. We don't have the capability for this at St. Matthew. Also, I cannot offer it at this time. Therefore, the practice of a Spiritual Communion is encouraged to remember the Paschal Mystery.
It is also typical in the Lenten season to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation. However, I have canceled our Reconciliation service. I would ask that you approach the Lord in this Lenten season, make a good Act of Contrition, express your sorrow for your sin, and promise that you will experience the sacrament as soon as you are able.
Thirdly, we all still need each other's help. Even though we are not gathered, the temporal bills and expenses still need to be paid. Without a gathering, we have no income from the Offertory; and this is presenting a hardship. I ask everyone to please consider sending in your weekly contribution envelope by mail. Our cash flow is important to us. I would hope that any contributions missed, due to our not gathering, would be made up. I can't stress enough the importance of this. We, in normal times, live on the edge, and now it is especially hard. Please prayerfully consider sending in your contribution or going online to fulfill your contribution. This is very important.
We are also coming to a close of this year's CSA campaign. If you still have not fulfilled your pledge, consider doing so. This will come back to the parish and help in our overall budget. I ask this regarding our finances because we will suffer a loss of income from our "Jazz Nite." For many reasons, i.e., failure to secure ads in this difficult time, the challenge of selling tickets, and the insecurity of not being able to assemble, I, along with our Finance Chairperson, Parish Council President, and the Jazz Nite Committee have decided to cancel the Jazz Nite event this year. We will lose approximately $12 thousand to $14 thousand dollars on this event. So, as you can see, the fulfillment of contributions and CSA pledges along with additional donations are extremely important. We will evaluate our financial situation in the fall; however, we will already be in a new fiscal year with its own demands.
Fourthly, as our country and our parish deal with this pandemic, please pray for the victims of this virus. They are suffering greatly here and around the world. Make your daily intercession through our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lourdes (patron of healing), for an end to this pandemic.
Lastly, let me reiterate that we are not alone, we are not distant. We are spiritually connected, and our prayer for each other binds us as one in a bond of Christ's love that cannot be broken. We, as Catholics, believe we connect with Our Lord through prayer, a communication that cannot be closed off by war, famine, or disease. He binds us together as one. Pray for one another and continue to love one another. Our heart will grow so much fonder when our reunion with the Lord is here.
God bless you through these trying times!
Posted on: March 21, 2020
Suspension of Public Masses
Excerpts from a Letter Written to the Faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit By Archbishop Allen Vigneron
March 13, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;
As we continue to receive reports about the spread of the Coronavirus in our communities, T write to you today with some news that may be difficult to hear. After consultation with health care professionals and government officials, I am temporarily suspending all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Detroit until Monday, April 6.
The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith, through which we encounter and enter into sacred Communion with the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The decision to temporarily suspend this practice was not and must never be taken lightly. As Mass is a commemoration of Christ's great act of love for us, we take this unprecedented measure with eyes fixed on him and his greatest commandment to love one another, which in this difficult time means that we ensure the health and safety of our community by following the wise counsel of local, state, and federal government and health officials.
During this growing spread of COVTD-19, we must redouble these efforts, particularly of prayer and fasting. We should pray and fast for God's mercy on our local community and the whole world to end the Coronavirus pandemic. We should pray for medical professionals, research- ers, and government leaders that the Lord would give them wisdom in their work and that we would heed their advice and directions for the good of society, especially for the least among us, those who are most susceptible of contract- ing this virus and other illnesses. You can find prayer re- sources at aod.org and more will be forthcoming.
The decision to temporarily suspend public Masses has been communicated to your pastors in a separate correspondence with more details. Effective Saturday, March 14, all Sunday and weekday public Masses, faith formation courses, communal Penance services, and all other par- ish events will be suspended in the Archdiocese of Detroit until Monday of Holy Week, April 6. Mass will be available to you each day via live-stream and other media channels. You can find these on our website www.aod.org.
Funerals, weddings, and baptisms are at the discretion of the pastor but are not to exceed 100 people in attendance (This figure has been revised by the federal government as of this publication date)., Holy Communion, except as Viaticum, will not be distributed to the faithful at any liturgy during this time.
Individual confessions, anointings, and other forms of pastoral care can be offered in a case-by-case basis. Consult your local parish for any of these needs during this time.
As you temporarily participate at Mass in a different way, you and your families are encouraged to make a daily spiritual Communion by praying:
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love you above all things and I desire to receive you in my soul.
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.
Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.
As I mentioned (in an earlier letter), let us entrust ourselves to Our Lady of Lourdes, patron for those who suffer illness. Through her intercession, may God grant healing and protection to the people of Southeast Michigan and beyond. And let us, by the courageous hope with which we face the challenge of the virus' spread, give witness to our confidence in the good news of the Lord's victory over suffering and death.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron Archbishop of Detroit