THE PARISH PRIEST WRITES:
The Catholic Bishops have announced that "following official advice and in order to keep each other safe, save lives and support the NHS" we must not gather for public acts of worship in our churches. This will begin from Friday evening, 20th March, until further notice. The celebration of Mass will continue, but without a public congregation. Please note that the Bishops have also suspended your obligation to attend Holy Mass on Sundays and Holydays "for as long as the emergency circumstances last".
Message No 4: Palm Sunday (5th April 2020)
Todays Mass Readings
Palm Gospel: Matthew 21:1-11;
Mass: Isaiah 50:4-7, Psalm 21, Philippians 2:6-11;
Passion: Matthew 26:14-27:66
Holy Week begins today. The Gospel (normally at the beginning, before the Procession) is Matthews account of Christs entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. For the first time in the Gospel Jesus publicly states He is the Messianic king (“Behold, your king is coming to you“) and for the first time the people respond with acclamation. But he is no conquering general entering the city; He rides on a donkey and is humble.
First Reading: the prophet foretells the suffering of Christ, who though innocent “made no resistance“. The Psalm has always been understood by the Church as a prophecy of the suffering Messiah. Jesus Himself quotes it in on the cross. Second Reading: Christ Jesus, although divine, became human, and humbly accepted death on a cross. Paradoxically it was in this way that He was glorified: He is the Lord.
Passion: the events of the first Holy Thursday and Good Friday, as told by Matthew. You could read aloud the Passion as a family; download the text from www.biblegateway.com.
The Holy See and our Bishops have decreed how we are to celebrate Holy Week during this lockdown. The Liturgies of Holy Week will be celebrated, but adapted and without the presence of the faithful.
Fr Paul and I will each say our Masses sine populo today (Palm Sunday), using the Third Form (the Simple Entrance). There is accordingly no blessing of palms. We shall offer our private Masses on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The usual Chrism Mass is deferred until it can take place, but on Thursday priests will make a Personal Renewal of Priestly Commitment, before the Blessed Sacrament.
On Holy Thursday I shall celebrate the Mass of the Lords Supper at 6:00pm without the presence of the people, omitting things like the Washing of Feet and the Transfer of the Blessed Eucharist. Live-streaming of Watching on Holy Thursday will be available from St Chads Cathedral, Birmingham.
The Good Friday Liturgy - at 3:00pm - will include a special intention prepared for those in distress, the sick, and the dead. You could easily pray the Stations of the Cross at home, alone or as a family. Younger children could draw a set of Stations; older children could compose some prayers; Ingrid LaTrobe will place a video of Childrens Stations of the Cross on the parish website, for use on Friday.
On Saturday, I shall celebrate the Easter Vigil in St Thomass at 6:00pm, with the necessary adaptations and omissions, but the usual Sacraments of Initiation are deferred until they can take place.
If you have palm crosses from last year you could make them into a display for your front door or front window, to make a visual reminder to passers-by that this is Holy Week, the most important week in the Calendar. Please visit the Diocesan Website for a list of live-streamed Masses in the diocese.
The Bishops have already dispensed you from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days as long as the emergency circumstances last. You will also be aware of the Easter Duties, that is your obligation to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, which is to be fulfilled during the Easter season, and your canonical obligation to make your Confession beforehand. As this is not possible at this time, the Bishops of England & Wales have dispensed the Easter Duties for the year 2020.
Act of Contrition
The Bishops have asked that all should make a Perfect Act of Contrition at this time. Perfect contrition (or a Contrition of Charity) is true and real sorrow for our sins which is created when we realise the immense love of God for each one of us. We express this contrition when we realise how we offend God by our sinful words, deeds and omissions in contrast to the immeasurable love and mercy that He continually shows us. This requires us to be contrite of heart for what we have done, to know and be overwhelmed by the love and mercy of God for His children, and to approach this grace with humility and resolution not to sin again.
An Act of Contrition: My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.
If you - or someone you know - needs help with groceries, prescriptions, etc Community Care, giving name, address and contact (email or phone number). If you cannot email, ring the Presbytery. If you can volunteer to help deliver items please email the same address.
If you have been laid off work because of the coronavirus and so are in need of temporary financial support, the parish St Vincent de Paul Group may be able to help even if in a limited way. Please email Kathie Gonzalez
The Sevenoaks Food Bank at St Johns Church is still open but is running low in the current crisis; you can continue to drop off non perishable food between 1:00pm and 2:00pm on Thursdays or inside the church porch at other times. Alternatively email SVP as above to make a donation to their bank account.
Parish Finance and Parish Office
Many parishioners contribute their offerings by Standing Order, which protects parish income at a time when we are not receiving the 'loose collection' each Sunday, although we are saving money by not using so many Altar breads, candles, etc. Please email Fr David (below) for our Bank details. Please put your name as the reference. If your financial circumstances permit you can also put your donation aside each week, and then donate it in one go when we return to normal.
Traditionally, the Priests of the Parish receive the Easter Offering. This will not take place this year, so please consider sending a cheque (payable to St Thomas, Sevenoaks) to the Presbytery; Fr Paul and I thank those who have already done so. If making a bank transfer please put Easter Offering as the reference.
A reminder that the Parish Office is closed, so please do not email the office. Fr Paul and I can be contacted at the Presbytery, by phone, email, or snail mail.
You can check the Mass Intentions offered by visiting the Latest Mass Sheet section of the parish website. Mass Intention requests can be posted to the Presbytery, along with your donation. Although you may not attend Holy Mass in person, you can still participate by reading through the Mass texts, by watching a live-streamed Mass, by making a Spiritual Communion (a prayer asking Our Lord to enter our hearts, if not sacramentally, then through grace), and by fervent prayer for a swift resolution of this emergency, for those who suffer, and those who care for the sick.
A Holy Week like no other! Normally you would come to church for the Holy Week and Easter ceremonies; this week, however, it is a DIY Holy Week! Try at least to make Good Friday a special day, of prayer, fasting and abstinence. Try to make the Sundays a truly holy day, devoted to prayer and awareness of God. Now more than ever our homes must become true domestic churches, founded on Mary at the foot of the Cross.
This period of lockdown and self-isolating should give rise to meditation about what is truly important. Strangely, you can go outside to buy your whisky or best claret in an off-licence, but you arent allowed to go to Mass for more sustaining, life-giving sustenance. Absence makes the heart grow fonder goes the saying. When things are back to normal will your love of Christ, His Church, and the Sacraments have been strengthened or weakened by the enforced absence? Will you be fervent in your Mass attendance, or will you have got used to a holiday from God? Will you be bursting to go to Confession to get rid of the sins which have accumulated in you in this period? (I expect there to be queues for Confession once we are back to normal.)
At the risk of being accused of being morbid, there is a risk of death at the hands of this virus (if viruses have hands). Are you spiritually prepared, having at least made the Act of Contrition? Have you written a will? Does your family know what sort of Funeral you want? Please meditate on the death of Christ this Holy Week; what does it mean for you here and now in this precarious situation? Will the isolation we are all experiencing this Holy Week bring us closer to Christ, who was isolated on the Cross and in the tomb, but who rose again from that isolation?
Finally, pray for Andrew Watts and all who are ill at this time, and for those who care for them.
St Joseph, pray for us.
St Thomas of Canterbury, pray for us.
St Bernadette, pray for us.
Fr David Gibbons, KHS, Parish Priest of Sevenoaks
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