The Sunday Times headline is “Christmas is cancelled by surging mutant virus.” The social gatherings, dinners and parties that marks this wonderful feast may have been cancelled but places of worship remain open and we will be still celebrating Mass at St Thomas of Canterbury on Christmas Day and so giving people the opportunity to receive Holy Communion. Since the announcement by the Prime minister last night putting us in Tier 4 I have had several parishioners contacting me concerned about the effect of having full Masses (80 people) under the present Covid 19 restrictions. As one parishioner texted, “Everyone is really concerned for the safety of you three guys (priests) breathing in the germs of about 580 people with little ventilation in the church.”
We have been told by the chief medical officer that with this new form of the virus we should all act as though we have the virus even though we show no symptoms. Here is my take on things. Yes, two of the priests here are in their 70th year and the third is a young thing. Although one or two people think we should cancel Christmas Masses I will not to do this. But I am only happy to carry on if everyone is extra specially cautious, keep their distance and continue to act responsibly. Some people have already cancelled their tickets for Christmas Masses because of their health concerns. Please do think about whether or not you should come on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Do remember that the obligation to go to Mass has been suspended, and we are live-streaming all Masses and the Christmas Day lasts for an Octave (8 days).
It is so important for us all to continue to pray for those working in hospital and care homes at this time. I know they are feeling great stress and anxiety because their responsibilities at work and how it can effect their family life.
God is good and he is our health and salvation. He has not left us and is especially close to us at this time. He gives us his Spirit to strengthen us and guide us in our prayer. Here is a prayer adapted from a radio message from Rodolfo Valenzuela Núñez, Bishop of La Verapaz, Guatemala
Dear Lord, at this time of pandemic, Let us foster respect and solidarity with others, especially those who are weak or poor. Let us remain calm and ignore unsubstantiated rumours. Let us take advantage of living together as a family. Let us attend to moments of prayer. Let us cultivate responsibility, patience and hope. Amen.