The following is a copy of an email I have sent to many Catholics in the Boston area who are on my contact list.
Dear fellow Catholics,
Governor Baker’s latest order has closed all non-essential places of business. But the long list of exempt essential services includes grocery stores, pharmacies and even hardware stores and liquor stores. Cardinal Raymond Burke has written an excellent article about the crisis we face. It’s a long article, but if you read it, I hope you will be convinced that we need to open the Churches and restore the Mass in the Boston Archdiocese. April 7 would be a good target date, in time for Holy Week and Easter.
I have clipped a few of the most important passages from Cardinal Burke’s article and pasted them below in bold.
In a time of severe crisis, and faced with widespread illness and so much talk of death, it is likely that many fallen-away Catholics will be thinking about returning and many non-Catholics or even atheists will consider that they should turn to God, but they have nowhere to go if practicing Catholics are isolated with no possibility to publicly demonstrate their Faith and the need for spiritual as well as secular efforts to combat the virus.
I suggest that as many people as possible circulate the link to the article widely. Send it to family, friends, fellow parishioners, your pastor, Archdiocesan officials, even Cardinal O’Malley if you can figure out how to do that. Or if you prefer, just forward this email, perhaps including a personal message as well.
“In combatting the evil of the coronavirus, our most effective weapon is, therefore, our relationship with Christ through prayer and penance, and devotions and sacred worship. We turn to Christ to deliver us from pestilence and from all harm, and He never fails to respond with pure and selfless love. That is why it is essential for us, at all times and above all in times of crisis, to have access to our churches and chapels, to the Sacraments, and to public devotions and prayers.
Just as we are able to purchase food and medicine, while taking care not to spread the coronavirus in the process, so also we must be able to pray in our churches and chapels, receive the Sacraments, and engage in acts of public prayer and devotion, so that we know God’s closeness to us and remain close to Him, fittingly calling upon His help. Without the help of God, we are indeed lost. Historically, in times of pestilence, the faithful gathered in fervent prayer and took part in processions.”
“Many with whom I am in communication, reflecting upon the present worldwide health crisis with all of its attendant effects, have expressed to me the hope that it will lead us – as individuals and families, and as a society – to reform our lives, to turn to God Who is surely near to us and Who is immeasurable and unceasing in His mercy and love towards us. There is no question that great evils like pestilence are an effect of original sin and of our actual sins. God, in His justice, must repair the disorder which sin introduces into our lives and into our world. In fact, He fulfills the demands of justice by His superabundant mercy.”
“In our totally secularized culture, there is a tendency to view prayer, devotions and worship like any other activity, for example, going to the cinema or to a football game, which is not essential and therefore can be cancelled for the sake of taking every precaution to curb the spread of a deadly contagion. But prayer, devotions and worship, above all, Confession and the Holy Mass, are essential for us to remain healthy and strong spiritually, and for us to seek God’s help in a time of great danger for all. Therefore, we cannot simply accept the determinations of secular governments, which would treat the worship of God in the same manner as going to a restaurant or to an athletic contest. Otherwise, the people who already suffer so much from the results of the pestilence are deprived of those objective encounters with God Who is in our midst to restore health and peace.
We bishops and priests need to explain publicly the necessity of Catholics to pray and worship in their churches and chapels, and to go in procession through the streets and ways, asking God’s blessing upon His people who suffer so intensely. We need to insist that the regulations of the State, also for the good of the State, recognize the distinct importance of places of worship, especially in time of national and international crisis. In the past, in fact, governments have understood, above all, the importance of the faith, prayer and worship of the people to overcome a pestilence.
Even as we have found a way to provide for food and medicine and other necessities of life during a time of contagion, without irresponsibly risking the spread of the contagion, so, in a similar way, we can find a way to provide for the necessities of our spiritual life. We can provide more opportunities for the Holy Mass and devotions at which a number of faithful can participate without violating necessary precautions against the spread of contagion. Many of our churches and chapels are very large. They permit a group of the faithful to gather for prayer and worship without violating the requirements of ‘social distance.’ …If a church or chapel does not have a sufficiently large staff to be able to disinfect regularly the pews and other surfaces, I have no doubt that the faithful, in gratitude for the gifts of the Holy Eucharist, Confession, and of public devotion, will gladly assist.”