Finding Christmas Joy

From Jim Harnish, retired pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist in Tampa.

The Christmas tree business is booming! It’s evidently one way people are finding joy in this strange, COVID-infected season.  The New York Times reported:

This year, with parties and vacations largely cancelled, one source of holiday cheer remains in tact: Christmas trees. Americans are buying the trees in droves and the farms that produce them are struggling to keep up.

So, what’s your “source of holiday cheer”?

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Prayer among deadly days

One of my morning rituals for some time now has been, in the wee hours of the morning before dawn, to pray the morning prayer (lauds) of Office of the Dead. It is one of the prayer cycles for the repose of a soul found in the Divine Office of the Catholic Church, also called the “Liturgy of the Hours.”  You can find versions online. The morning prayer consists of Psalm 51; Isaiah 38:10-14, 17-20; Psalm 146; a reading from 1 Thessalonians 4; the Canticle of Zechariah found in Luke 1:68-79; intercessions for the dead; an Our Father; and final prayer.

I began doing this a while ago as the death toll associated with the pandemic continued to rise.

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Passing on

A large regional trauma center hospital (more than 1,000 beds) was located within the boundaries of my former parish. The hospital, while having a wonderful chaplain staff, did not have a Catholic priest on the staff and so we priests in the parish took care of the sick and dying, in addition to our usual parish responsibilities. Over the course of more than 13 years assigned to the parish, I easily saw more than 10,000 patients.  Most who recovered, some who did not. For those individuals and their families who experienced the great passing on, it was a loss, a sorrow and especially when the young died, a tragedy. Continue reading

Next Steps

I think there was a spark of hope announced recently when Pfizer announced the results of its COVID-19 vaccine trials with 90% effectiveness as a vaccination. There are ten other companies that are in final stages of trials for their product. Certainly welcomed news in an otherwise dismal on-going reports of skyrocketing new infections, increasing positivity rates, a new wave of deaths expected in the typical 2-3 week lag, and (for me) discouraging reports of pockets of people and communities that refuse to wear masks. Their logic escapes me.

… and then there are the next steps

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Communion and Covid

In the course of celebrating Mass we come to the distribution of Communion – during these times of the coronavirus pandemic. At my parish many precautions are taken as part of the distribution of Holy Communion: sanitizing hands of the minister, wearing masks, standing behind a plexiglass shield with a hand pass through – and the Bishop has asked that all the faithful please receive in the hand and not on the tongue. Still we try to be accommodating as best we can. If someone want to receive on the tongue, I will ask them to receive in the hands, but if they insist, I simply ask them to wait until the end of the line so that they are the last to receive. They can then receive on the tongue, following which I am able to again sanitize my hands. Continue reading

Picking up the Cross

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16:24) That is a key verse in today’s gospel. Part of the American idiom is having a cross to bear but I thing it most often points to the presence of a difficult responsibility or burden that someone must handle on their own or just tolerate as best as one can. But has the expression lost its sense of pointing to or working for the glory of God. Continue reading

Freedom, Choice and Face Coverings

Back in May I wrote an article that essentially said, politics is politics, economics is economics, and biology is biology…and biology does not care about anything but biology. One only has to review the IHME website for the whole country (or your state) to see the relentless spread of the coronavirus. Biology is biology. Continue reading

Those who are just must be kind

It’s your first baby. It has been great. Sure, it has been hard work, but what a bundle of joy. And tomorrow is the last day of maternity leave. You have a great job and love the people you work with. Maybe you should stay home longer? Maybe the family can get by on one salary? But there is a great day care center near work. Maybe we could nanny-share with a neighbor? But the big project that you really want to be part of is coming up…. Such is the circumstance of ambivalence. Continue reading

Pandemic and Prayer

Four months ago, Florida announced its first coronavirus cases. On Sunday, it broke the US record for the number of cases reported in one day — 15,300 with positivity levels almost 20%. Reuters noted that if Florida were a country, “it would rank fourth in the world for the most new cases a day behind the United States, Brazil and India.” Continue reading