This past week, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced that it would immediately implement the just announced CDC guidelines which stated that fully vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks in outdoor or most indoor settings, except on public transit, in health care facilities, and in congregate settings. Throughout the pandemic at national, state and local levels that last phrase “congregate settings” have included churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship. Following on the heels of the Commonwealth’s announcement, our local diocese announced that because of some ambiguity in the announcement, that we were to not inhibit or challenge people who wanted to not wear masks during the celebration of Mass. While we did not agree that there was ambiguity, we complied. As folks and families approached the doors of the church they were not asked if they were vaccinated, but were simply informed that “fully vaccinated people were not required to wear masks but were also free to wear them if they desired.”
Mask, no mask. Social distancing: 3 feet, 6 feet, more? Outdoors, indoors, ventilated, air exchange, airborne transmission… and a whole range of factors to which we have become accustomed. If you are curious about the what, when, where and other interesting factors about the medical and scientific response to Covid-19, take a moment to read what I found to be a fascinating article about the evolving science behind covid-19 transmission.
Risk is one of those things we don’t think about, are adverse to in different measures. It is unavoidable. We would rather not have any, and yet are surrounded by it, and sometimes we are so focused on it that we can think of little else. It has always been one of the things I wonder about. Its one of the things financial advisors try to discern about your investment posture: risk avoidance or acceptance. It’s something people wonder about submariners. Its one of the things economists specialize in. It is part of life and is unavoidable – so sometimes it is easier to ignore. But I like to read about it from time to time.
In the quiet of the morning, before the sun is up, morning prayer complete, cup of tea ready, I settle in to my routine of reading several morning papers. Even though I am at my new parish in Northern Virginia, I continue to read the Tampa Bay Times online. There and in other news outlets we have all heard about the con artists who are contacting people offering to register them for vaccination appointments at public or private facilities….”I just need some information – full name, address, etc…and your social security number, and a credit card to hold your reservation.” Right. I hope we have all gotten to the point where we simply do not give out such information over the phone.
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”?
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.
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
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
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
“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