November 25, 2020
Dear St. Charles Borromeo Family and all Friends in Christ,
The peace of the Lord be with you always! As the reported cases of Coronavirus are increasing and different states and localities are imposing increased restrictions to slow the spread, I know that many in our community and families are experiencing a greater anxiety about their personal health and the well-being of those they love. That concern is real and calls for compassion and increased attentiveness to those at greatest risk of severe illness with COVID-19. We have a corporate responsibility to care for the most vulnerable. It is there that we meet the Lord and find our judgment. “Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt. 25:40). Our faithfulness in “small matters” (as we hear in recent Gospel parables), can make a big difference, for good or for ill. So following the precautions based on the latest scientific research is not only sensible for our own protection but an act of charity for our neighbor.
At the same time, we must recognize the spiritual suffering that isolation and physical separation from loved ones generates in our lives. Being physically present with each is important not only because we are “social beings” but we are made for communion with God and each other, and that communion happens through a human encounter. All of us, whether sick or healthy physically, have recognized this deep need for communion over the past months and have suffered its loss in some way because of the pandemic. This suffering and loss have only been made worse because of the political tensions generated by our electoral process.
Healing in our hearts and in our relationships with others begins with deepening our relationship with God and fostering the communion which makes God’s unifying love a real experience in our lives. For this reason, I am encouraged by the upward trends in Mass attendance at St. Charles and encourage all who are in good health and do not pose a risk to other household members to return to the in-person celebration of Sunday Mass. Coming to Mass, with all the precautions employed, has proven to be a safe and low-risk activity. The Archdiocese noted in the directives prepared for the Advent and Christmas season that “since June when the churches opened again for the celebration of Masses, there has not been a known traceable instance of contracting COVID-19 through attending Mass or receiving Holy Communion in the Archdiocese.” That is “good news” and verification that when the mitigating standards of sanitation, social distancing, and limiting the number of people assembled are applied, the risk of transmission of the virus is effectively reduced.
I wish to share with you a short video that explains what to expect when coming to Mass at St. Charles. I also wish to share with you and encourage all to read the guidance that the Archdiocese issued regarding the celebration of the sacred liturgy and the use of masks. This document responds to the many questions that surround this topic. Since many people see different parishes and priests doing and requiring different things in the use of face coverings during Mass, it would be helpful to become familiar with the actual directives of the Archdiocese which are in accord with the standards and research issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). One can access the document through this link. Following the recent public statements from Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued this clarification on November 20: “All religious buildings and institutions are exempt from the gathering limits and enforcement of the masking orders.”
We at St. Charles are following all the recommended guidelines of the Archdiocese and the CDC to ensure that those who come to church feel safe, welcome, and can praise God reverently in the sacred liturgy without disrupting in any significant way the structure of the Mass. For the spiritual benefit of those with health concerns or who are in high-risk categories, the Archbishop has continued to dispense the faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. It is OK for those who are sick or at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19, or who are concerned that they may pose a risk to members of their household who are at high-risk of illness due to the virus, not to come to church. We continue to live-stream the Masses (10:00 a.m. English and 12:00 p.m. Spanish) each Sunday and post them on the website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. The best place to watch the Mass live or on replay is right on the homepage of our parish website.
Let’s continue to pray for an end to the Coronavirus pandemic, entrusting ourselves to Our Lady’s intercession. Mary always brings our needs directly to Jesus and is the model of faith, prayer, and courage in the face of uncertainty and distress. Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick, pray for us! Let’s not forget to pray for the faithful departed in this month of the Holy Souls and ask the intercession of the Saints, especially our patron St. Charles Borromeo, to aid us in our earthly battles. As always, I promise you my prayers and am grateful for your prayers and support. I wish all of you a safe, blessed, and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.
Sincerely in Christ,
Rev. Philip M. Forlano, Pastor
St. Charles Borromeo Parish
1731 Hulmeville Road
Bensalem, PA 19020
(215) 638-3625, ext. 726
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