Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Several celebrations coincide on this Sunday, May 24. There is also important news for our daily life.
The first and most consequential is, of course, that Jesus Christ, risen from the dead returns to the Father bringing the novelty of our human nature glorified, victorious over sin and death. As stated in preface I of the Ascension: “He ascended not to distance himself from our lowly state but that we, his members, might be confident of following where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.” Or as preface II states, he was taken up to heaven, “that he might make us sharers in his divinity.”
The ending of the Gospel according to St. Matthew proclaimed this Sunday includes four “all” statements by the Lord. He has all power. He commands us to go to all peoples. He wishes that we teach all that he has told us. He promises to be with us all the days until the end of times.
The Church has always tried to remain faithful to the missionary mandate of the Lord and has brought the message of the Gospel between lights and shadows to the ends of the earth since the apostolic times until our own days heavily affected by the pandemic.
For two long months, the doors of our parish church have been closed. However, we continued to celebrate the sacraments. Daily and Sunday Masses were celebrated without faithful present according to the regular schedule. They were streamed online through our webpage to sustain personal piety and keep alive the desire to encounter Jesus truly and substantially present in the Eucharist. According to the directives of the Archbishop, even during this time we have celebrated Baptisms, Matrimony and funerals. The parish office has remained open to attend to the needs of our people, especially the administration of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the sick. Dedicated volunteers of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul continued its work of mercy.
As is widely known, the Archbishop has decided that the doors of the parish church reopen as of next Tuesday, May 26, memorial of St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratory. Notwithstanding, he had issued some directives that we ought to follow to contribute to the prevention of contagion of coronavirus. They include “social distancing”, donning masks during the celebration and other measures outlined in his letter of May 18, memorial of St. Rafaela Maria of the Sacred Heart, founder of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The city of Miami Beach has also established regulations for houses of worship that went into effect this week and we must abide by. Additionally, it has made suggestions and recommendations, some of which we have implemented.
It is imperative that we be aware of the regulations, directives and signs. They have been implemented for our safety and the safety of our sisters and brothers. They are published on our webpage and prominently displayed throughout the Church. It is important that we cultivate a culture of compliance, abiding by the directives and making others comply, always with charity and tenderness but firmly. We will also need the help of ushers to organize entry and exit and the flow of people during Mass. Those who wish to cooperate, please, call the parish office.
The measures in place both at the diocesan and municipal level determine a significant reduction in the capacity of our parish church. Therefore, it may happen that somebody is unable to enter because the capacity of the church has been reached. In that event, we ask you to return to your vehicle, follow Mass through a portable device and during the prayer of the Our Father head to the statue of the Blessed Mother and Child fountain located at the corner of Garden Avenue and Barry Street where you will be able to receive Communion. It is important to always be mindful of the need for social distancing during those movements.
During the celebration of Mass, by order from the Archbishop, we will omit the sign of peace and there will not be a procession with the gifts. The collection will not take place in the usual way. There will be baskets by the entry and exit doors for you to deposit your gift. If you prefer, you can also mail it to the parish office.
We will have the same Mass schedule and, for the time being, will continue streaming live every day from 8 in the morning until 8 in the evening. On June 1, Memorial of St. Justin Marty, 10th anniversary of the installation of Archbishop Wenski as Archbishop of Miami, we will end adoration at noon. Obviously, we will continue with habitual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursdays from 8:45 AM to 6:45 PM and two hours of adoration and reparation on Wednesdays evening from 7 to 9 PM.
The Archbishop has kept in place the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for the benefit of those in high risk groups, those who are afraid to go out and those who cannot be present. Additionally, he begs those who are sick, especially if they have flu like symptoms to refrain from coming to Mass.
May 24 is also the memorial of Mary, Help of Christians. We ask her to intercede for all of us. There is no question whatsoever that these days we will need a lot of help to grow in the virtue of prudence and to endure patiently the inconveniences we will experience too.
Every year, May 24 is a Day of prayer for the Church in China. These are Catholic communities that have suffered a lot. They have experienced and continue to go through persecution and harassment by civil authorities. The presence of Catholics in China is a concrete expression of the fidelity of the Church to the missionary mandate in the Gospel passage for this Sunday. If the temporary difficulties and inconveniences we are experiencing test our patience, let us think of our Catholic brothers and sisters in China, who in addition to the pandemic have to face daily the hostility of the Communist regime in power since the second half of the 20th century and, yet, remain faithful to Christ and His Church.
On May 31, we will have the first Sunday celebration with faithful present since the closing of churches in the Archdiocese of Miami on account of the pandemic. It is the Feast of the Visitation and, this year, Solemnity of Pentecost. May the Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary, Help of Christians, at the time of the Annunciation, descend on all of us so that with renewed missionary impetus we bear witness to the love of Christ all days, in all places, in all dimensions of our life.
Fr. Roberto M. Cid