Father Mike’s Communication for May 31, 2020

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”
Solemnity of Pentecost

May 31, 2020

Brothers and Sisters,

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, often does not draw worthy attention. Maybe we are challenged to understand who the Holy Spirit is. Though God the Father and God the Son are both mysterious; they tend to hold a clear identity. God is the loving Father, sending His son Jesus so we might know God’s, eternal love. Still, the Holy Spirit remains enigmatic and His workings do bring us to a personal encounter with God. As such, we invite Him into our lives this Pentecost with the simple prayer, Come Holy Spirit, come.

This past Monday, the brokenness of our world once again became apparent. In tragedy, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. Racism and prejudice remain. Only with diligence and determination to respond to hate with true love can we conquer the sins of our world and the collective sins of our society. Archbishop Lori has dedicated two pastoral letters over the last couple of years to reflect on the systemic problems of injustice and racism. He has highlighted the life and powerful preaching of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and called us to repentance. While we may not individually subscribe to the ideologies of hatred and violence, we ought to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts, our homes, and our communities to help us recognize the ways we collectively contribute to these injustices and ask for the ways we can contribute to building the Kingdom of God here and now. For only in the Kingdom of God will true peace and justice reign. Let us call forth the Holy Spirit to aid us in living out our dignity as daughters and sons.

As we pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we may forget to recall He is constant. At the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit was already present by way of the angel Gabriel, inviting Mary to say “yes” to God. Today, that same Spirit invites us to say “yes” to His promptings and gifts. When we create a space in our heart for the Spirit, we learn His language, follow His voice with conviction and receive His gifts given to us for the sake of building up the kingdom of God in this world. The fruits of charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity can heal a broken world desperately hungry for God. The Catechism teaches that these fruits are “the first fruits of eternal glory” and are experienced and perfected in us by the Holy Spirit. So we cry out, Come, Holy Spirit, nourish your people!

This past week we prayed for these gifts each night during our Pentecost Novena embracing the mid-week prayers for peace and patience as Divinely timed.  Tuesday afternoon, after feeling elated learning the news that outdoor Masses could begin, we quickly discovered the fine print that “no food or water was to be consumed before, during or after a service.” We immediately reached out to the Archdiocese who were already in direct communication with Howard County Executive leadership regarding this directive. By Wednesday midday, the Catholic parishes of Howard County convened with Archdiocesan Executive Leadership for further detail of steps taken and stood ready for any additional support necessary. Just the week prior, the leadership of the Howard County parishes appealed to the County Executive for a plan to reopen churches, sharing the Archdiocese of Baltimore COVID-19 guidelines and our desire to collaborate to develop best practices for all Howard County Houses of Worship.

Rightly so, this week I heard from some parishioners who were disappointed, frustrated, and in some cases, deeply angered by Howard County’s initial Executive Order that would have essentially forbidden the distribution of Holy Communion at permitted outdoor masses. I assure you we shared the same concerns. Sadly, a few parishioners also directed their strong feelings towards the parish, perceiving we had been complacent in apparent inaction. Some of those communications questioned our stance and implored us to mobilize parishioners.

We chose first a path of advocacy, in the spirit of our Church’s theological tradition, by encouraging understanding and dialogue. Early Christian writers, including St. Thomas Aquinas, note a dialogue begins by listening and understanding the position of the other. Rather than presuming the malintent of the County, we hoped in mutual exchange to highlight a potential unintended consequence of their directive and why it could lead to discrimination against our expression of faith. We also hoped to communicate the guidelines for responding to COVID-19 as offered by the Archdiocese of Baltimore included careful measures to reduce the spread of the virus with deep value to protect life. 

While disagreements are likely to occur in any political discussion, let us continue to listen to one another, seeking understanding before jumping to conclusions. While the story did get picked up by the national news circuit, potentially applying pressure, I believe our mutual concerns would have been resolved regardless. I share with you now the approach taken, so you may better know my leadership style, embracing that I remain committed to serve the best interest of you, the parish always while remaining faithful to God. 

One month ago, I would not have imagined the work necessary to open our campus in a safe and secure manner. Grateful for the guidelines of state and local governmental agencies, the CDC and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, we have constructed best practices for parish safety.  While our decisions may be viewed as excessive, we choose to err on the side of caution with the highest desire to protect life. We appreciate your participation in this noble goal and remind you of these expectations as you choose to join us on campus:

▫ Check your temperature; if it is above 99.9°, remain home;

▫ Wear your mask (with the exception of those children who are 2-years-old or younger) at any time while on campus.  This includes while in your car, inside the church, outdoors for confession or while walking the campus in the presence of others;

▫ Practice “physical distancing” and do not engage in conversation in the church or near building entrances;

▫ Be mindful of the ten-person limit in the church;

▫ Please plan in advance so that you may not need to make use of public restrooms. The Narthex family restroom will be the only available facility supporting our efforts to clean and sanitize shared locations;

▫ As you come and go, please use the Narthex or front entrance doors to the Church, which will be propped open for touchless entry. Side entrances will remain locked for entrance, yet available points of egress in the case of emergency.

As a Priest, we are fortified to have celebrated a wedding and funeral this past week and today, a baptism. I am delighted parishioners have been able to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as well as prayer and Eucharistic Adoration in the church. Each week our schedule for confessions and Eucharistic Adoration may need to be modified to accommodate other commitments.  For example, this week, we need to adjust for the OLPH School Pre-K, Kindergarten and 8th Grade Graduation ceremonies on Friday, June 5.  Knowing each week will have new commitments for Fr. Rob and myself, it is of great comfort to be met with your patience and flexibility as we continue to plan, pivot and modify week to week. 

Our Events and Activities for the week of May 31:

▫ The Church will be open for Eucharistic Adoration and prayer: Wednesday, June 3 (11:00 am to 4:00 pm) and Thursday, June 4 (3:00 pm to 8:00 pm) with a ten-person limit;

▫ Outdoor Reconciliation: Wednesday, June 3 from 10am to 12 Noon & 3pm to 6pm;

 **Please note Eucharistic Adoration and Reconciliation is not available this week on Friday.**

▫ Festival of Praise: Friday, June 5 at 7:30 pm, live-streamed via Facebook and the parish website;

▫ Sunday Mass 9:00 am every Sunday, live-streamed via Facebook and the parish website;

▫ Daily Mass, live-streamed at 8:30 am, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and at 9:30 am on Thursday (with a focus to our parish and school families);

A sincere congratulations and prayers offered to all our graduates in the parish. While these are less than ideal circumstances, I pray that you feel and experience the love and admiration of your parents, family, friends, teachers, professors, neighbors, and your brothers and sisters in Christ. Hearing about your accomplishments and seeing various tributes on social media is uplifting to me personally. Your work and dedication to excellence in learning will have a deep and lasting impact on our world. Keep developing that love of learning and desire to grow in both knowledge and virtue. 

This week we will celebrate the graduation of our parish school Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 8th graders. With love, we offer our eyes to our 8th-grade graduates. When you grow together for nine years as parish school students, you become family and look forward to milestone celebrations. Like other graduates, you too have adjusted by reimagining anticipated activities with your friends and classmates. I pray that as we connect in celebration this Friday through social media, you will experience joy at the memories of your accomplishments and know that you are always a welcomed member of this parish family. 

We still have many steps ahead of us to advance diligently as we reopen our campus so that the Sacraments may be offered with dignity, drawing hearts and minds to God. To borrow a well-crafted phrase from a neighboring parish, “we value excellence over urgency and hospitality over haste.” Please anticipate another communication from me this week as we draw closer to our next stage for re-opening our parish campus.  Let us continue to hold each other in prayer while we long to be with each other.  I thank you as you continue to support and pray for  Fr Rob, myself, and our parish leadership team.

In the Risen Lord,
Rev. Michael S. Triplett