In last week’s edition of the Boston Pilot there was a Catholic News Service story on Robert Cardinal Sarah’s letter to the presidents of national bishops, conferences around the world. The Cardinal’s letter, written in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and approved by Pope Francis for publication, urged bishops around the world to facilitate the return of people to Church for Mass as soon as conditions permit.

He cautioned against two things in particular: a normalization of virtual Mass through media and a degradation of the experience of divine worship in the name of public hygiene.

He wrote: 

Participating only virtually risks distancing us from a personal and intimate encounter with the incarnate God whose presence among His people was not virtual but real...This physical contact with the Lord is vital, indispensable, irreplaceable.

This means that as soon as measures for reducing the spread of the virus have been adopted, the faithful need to resume their place in the assembly and those who have been discouraged, frightened, absent or uninvolved for too long need to be invited and encouraged to return.

However, needed attention to hygiene and safety regulations cannot lead to the sterilization of gestures and rites, to the instilling, even unconsciously of fear and insecurity to the faithful. It is up to the prudent but firm action of the bishops to ensure that the participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist is not reduced by public authorities to a ‘gathering’ and is not considered comparable or even subordinate to forms of recreational activities.

Facilitating the participation of the faithful in liturgical celebrations should be done without improvised ritual experimentation and in full respect of the norms contained in the liturgical books which govern their conduct.

The faithful have a right to receive the Eucharist and worship the Lord present in the Eucharist in the manner provided for, without limitations that go beyond what is provided for by the norms of hygiene issued by public authorities or bishops.

And when the situation returns to normal, any COVID-control adaptations to being in church and at Mass should expire. 

About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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