The Rector writes …
It is good to be back even if the return to anything like normality is some way ahead. To be able to celebrate Masses publicly once more is a great joy and privilege and the reintroduction of a daily pattern is answering an obvious need. Clearly, we are too close to events to be able to draw long term conclusions from the experience of the past months but it would a great pity if we were to seek to return to a pre-Covid situation without taking on board the lessons that are there to be learned. For some whose underlying conditions have made them especially vulnerable and been forced into self-isolation, these days and weeks have been very hard: despite the kindness of friends and neighbours, the toll on the emotional and psychological health of many around us has been heavy. Part of our responsibility as a parish community is to help those who have felt most cut-off to return to a happier socialisation..
While there have been many minuses involved in the lock-down, there have been many pluses too. Among them – I am told by many of our families – is the opportunity for parents and children to be together in a more intense way than is usually ever possible. Of course, there is a downside to this as many of our local families live in apartments without easy access to outside space but for many the chance to interact has brought a new bonding and sense of familial identity. In particular, comments made by various different families over the past few days have emphasised the re-discovery of the role of the father within the family unit. For too many, the demands of long working days had meant that families were rarely together and often the father saw almost nothing of his children, except perhaps at weekends. There appears to have been a re-balancing in many homes with both parents able to play a fuller part in the lives of their children, while enjoying valuable time in developing and deepening their own spousal relationship. Perhaps recent events will help us realise that the Church’s emphasis on the fundamental place of the family in society is not something from a past age but richly prophetic for our own.
We have yet to see the effect of past months on Sunday Mass attendance. It seems likely that freedom from the obligation will have loosened the practice of some, while the long sacramental “fast” will have intensified the desire for the things of God in others. The past months could be compared to a long retreat where everyone has been forced to look at their lives in a broader context. Up till now there has been a general acceptance that science can address the needs of this world – that given enough time and resource, technicians will provide answers to the problems that beset the human condition. Instinctively we have accepted the inevitability of “progress”. Six months ago, no one had heard of Covid-19 but, apart from its dreadful toll of death and suffering, the virus has – not least in the havoc it has created in such a short time over such an expanse of the universe – shocked us all into realising that perhaps we are not masters of our destiny in quite the way we had previously come to imagine. Notions of a Divine order in creation and of a natural law. the observance of which is crucial to the well-being of the universe, together with a sense of Providence, need to be explored more thoroughly. Again, the Church’s traditional emphases have a relevance for today which hopefully many people will now begin to ponder.
If the upheavals of past months may have shaken many of the assumptions on which our world has been constructed, and we have been challenged to be kinder and more supportive of one another generally, it must also be hoped that our individual friendship with God has been enhanced. Saint Augustine’s words echo down the centuries: “my heart is restless until it rests in thee”. Saint Teresa of Avila says simply: “God alone suffices”. Every fresh situation – good or bad, painful or joyous – contains within it the invitation to know God better. We are “wired” to know and love our Creator – through the Church founded on his Christ all that is necessary to live a good life here with the promise of eternal happiness hereafter is available for the asking. May these past weeks have strengthened our Catholic faith.