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April 16 , 2020

Friday • Second Week of Easter

 

Dear fellow parishioners and others,

 

Christ is Risen!

 

During Holy Mass, I have the privilege to offer the invitation to Holy Communion: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the lamb" (The Roman Missal; cf. Revelation 19:9).

 

In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, liturgies with the faithful present were suspended on March 14, 2020. The reason was for the common good of our state, to slow the spread of a virulent and lethal virus that medical experts were only beginning to understand.

 

The suspension was a trial for us. We rejoiced when public worship resumed in mid-2020. Yet, we continue to experience trials. There are those who cannot attend in-person for various reasons.

 

With minor exceptions, those who have returned to HFC have followed the protocols to minimize risk. Parishioners have volunteered to help us to sanitize our church after each liturgy. Thank you.

 

I am grateful to Archbishop William Lori for his pastoral leadership and to the Archdiocesan Curia (Central Service) for helping parishes, ministries, and institutions to navigate well during these times.

 

Since March 25, 2020, HFC has live-streamed Holy Mass on Facebook. On March 31, 2021, HFC changed from using my cell phone on a tripod to a sophisticated system. HFC will continue to live-stream after community immunity is achieved. This is another way that we are fulfilling our evangelical mission.

 

During my homily series, "Connected: Growing Christ Together," I said on September 27, 2020:

 

Finally, a word to those who have resumed other activities in-person but you continue to worship only via live-stream. Note well that this message is not about going to the supermarket, the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, and such.

 

This message is for those who are doing activities such as eating in a restaurant, attending a theatre, exercising in a public gym, and such. However, you have not returned to the parish church for Sunday Holy Mass. I know that you do not want to say to the Lord that it is not worth the risk to go to church, but it is worth the risk to go to a restaurant, theatre, or a gym. It is time to return to the primary activity for the follower of Christ in His Church.

 

Some parishioners came back in response to my invitation for prayer and reflection.

 

At this stage of the pandemic, I ask again, "Is it time for you to return to Sunday Holy Mass in-person? Personal circumstances are unique. For example, some have compromised immune systems, Due to several pre-existing conditions, I understand that. Consult your physician if necessary. At the end of April, I will consult with my physician about changing some limitations since I am fully vaccinated.

 

Come back when you are comfortable in doing so. This is not an issue of faith. During this pandemic, I have been more concerned about those who seem to put the Lord to the test, thinking that it is an example of having faith when it is really an example of being imprudent.

 

I remind you that Archbishop Lori has suspended the obligation to worship during Sunday Holy Mass and other designated holy days of obligation. If the obligation was in place, the Church has given direction long before a pandemic began that no sin is committed if you do not attend because your health is compromised, you are sick, you are taking care of a loved one, etc.

 

Do not allow consciences to be troubled, but do not allow your consciences to become apathetic either. As a pastor who has the care of souls—an awesome responsibility that I do not deserve—I am called to contribute to the formation of consciences.

 

After a period of prayer, thought, and discussion, I offer this revised guidance for your prayer and reflection.

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 At this stage of the pandemic, if you are taking a risk to visit the supermarket, convenience store, and the drug store, then is it not time to return to Sunday Holy Mass in-person? Particularly if you have been fully vaccinated?

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Food and medicine are essential. So is worshipping God in-person and receiving the Eucharist. The Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ is food for our journey of life within time and for eternity. The Eucharist is our medicine of immortality.

 

I am praying for you. Do not hesitate to contact me about it after I return from my vacation on Saturday, April 24.

 

As you cooperate with God  and others, along with utilizing the proven public health measures during this pandemic, may God keep you safe. May God help us to persevere as promote the safety of others. May those who are not cooperating due to a misguided notion of "freedom" have a change of heart.

 

Know that whether you are able to worship in the parish church or via live-stream, we remain spiritually connected as a parish. I will continue to work with staff and lay leaders to reach out to all of you.

 

In Christ,

 

Father Raymond Harris

Pastor

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