Covid-19 Note from Fr. Derek

May 15- A Note From Fr. Derek

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is hard to believe that it has been two months since we have had public Masses offered in our churches.  This is a long time for us to be separated from our worship and from one another.  I am delighted to see how many people are joining in for Mass through Facebook Live each week.  I would also remind you that the Mass can be viewed on the parish website at 9:30 as well.  The Mass is also available to be replayed at a later time.

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage, Jesus continues his “Farewell Discourse” to his disciples, preparing them for his departure from them both in his Passion and death, but also in his ascent to the Father.  Knowing the void there will be in their lives from his departure, he promises to send his Spirit to be with them.  This is a reminder to us that, even in those times when God appears to be so far from us He, in fact, remains infinitely close to us.  It reminds us, also, that God can use the worst of times to reveal to us his presence and work some good in our lives. 

As we continue these days of social distancing, even though talk has started to move towards “opening up,” it is important that we not fail to look back on the past few months, as difficult as they have been, to try to see how Jesus has been present to us, using this pandemic to work some good in our lives.  Perhaps for some, in spite of being “closed in” with our loved ones day after day, we have come to a better understanding of them.  Perhaps in spite of being “stuck at home” we have gotten to know our neighbor better.  Perhaps in spite of not being able to work, we have found a way to help someone in need.  Some of us have endured more than others in these days.  Let us seek to recognize also, the ways in which Jesus has used these days to draw us closer to him and reveal his closeness to us.

I have a couple of new notices for you this week:

  • We have a live concert via Zoom coming up:  “An Evening with Charlie and Antonia” on Friday, May 29 at 7 PM. This music program will feature many of your favorite hymns and spiritual songs, along with one or two songs that may become new favorites. There will be an opportunity to sing along from home as well! Using Zoom technology will allow Charlie and Antonia to sing for you live, right from their homes. It is going to be a joyful and spirit-filled event, so please mark your calendars! Details about how to join the event can be found in our parish weekly emails. A recording of the event will be posted on our Facebook page and our website after the event.
  • This Thursday is Ascension Thursday.  Under normal circumstances, Ascension Thursday, marking 40 days after Easter Sunday and our Lord’s Ascension into heaven, would be a Holy Day of Obligation.  As you know, in these days of the stay-at-home advisory and social distancing, the obligation for Sunday Masses and Holy Days is lifted.  Because this is still an important Solemnity, we will plan to live-stream Mass that morning.  It will take place at 9:00 (not the normal Sunday time of 9:30) on our Facebook site and website.  For anyone who wishes to join us but cannot do 9:00, it will be available for replay afterwards.

Domestic Violence / Child Abuse – The media has brought to our attention lately the reality that the Stay-at-Home advisory, with people not being able to get out as often and with children not being around mandated reporters as frequently as they usually are, has resulted in fewer requests for help and reports of suspected abuse which may likely not be the reality people are facing.  When talking to friends or neighbors be attentive to any “clues” that might be dropped in the conversation and ask if help is needed when it is safe to do so.  If you are in need of help, or think someone else is, be aware of these numbers:

Elder Abuse Hotline – 800-922-2275

Domestic Violence – REACH (24 hr. hotline) – 800-899-4000

Child Abuse – Mass Dept. of Children and Families – 617-748-2000

Needham Police Department – 781-455-7570

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – 800-656-4673 – rainn.org

Offertory – Many thanks to those of you who have been sending in your donations and donating online.  If you have not done so, please consider signing up to donate online.  Online donations can be made here:  http://stbartholomew-needham.org/donate/.

Bulletin – while there is not a lot going on in the parish we are still publishing a weekly bulletin which can found online here:   http://stbartholomew-needham.org/bulletins/

Elders & Those Most at Risk – Once again, please remember to check in on the elders of our community and those who might have underlying conditions that make them most at risk for this coronavirus.  If you know of someone who needs something, or you, yourself, are in need, please call the parish office.

The Church is open for Prayer – Just a reminder that the church is generally open for prayer M-F from 7:00 to noon, and on the weekends when we would normally have Masses scheduled.  On a week-to-week basis we are continuing the Adoration on Tuesday nights that had been scheduled for Lent, but in order to come you MUST sign up.  There is a link for that on the parish website.  Please remember that, based on the state’s guidelines, we cannot have more than ten people in the church at a given time.  Thank you.

May 8- A Note from Fr. Derek

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

            I pray that this letter finds you all staying safe and well during these days.  As I write this, though we remain in the midst of our state of emergency the news is reporting that the “numbers” in Massachusetts are trending in a favorable direction.  This is good news.  Let us pray that this trend continues and that our plight might be eased.  This week I started to have conversations with our Parish Pastoral Council and with the staff, trying to “imagine” what our worship will be like when we are finally able to offer public Masses again.  Cardinal Sean has also begun this at the Archdiocesan level and we will, of course, follow the lead of the Archdiocese in this regard. 

May 10th, if it were not a Sunday this year, would be observed in the United States as the memorial of St. Damien de Veuster or St. Damien of Molokai.  It is a shame that his memorial is missed this year for, it seems to me, he is an important saint for us to be turning to now, so that we might seek his intercession during this pandemic.  St. Damien was a missionary from Belgium who belonged to the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. 

            In the late 19th century, a colony was formed on Molokai to quarantine those in the Hawaiian Islands that were suffering from leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease, so as to stop the spread of the disease (sound familiar?).  With no one to care for their spiritual needs, Damien volunteered to go to minister to them.  He cared for both their spiritual and physical needs, helping them to recognize their own dignity in spite of how the outside world looked upon them.  After laboring for years within the colony, Damien contracted the disease himself and died from it in 1889 at the age of 49.  He was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 1995 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. 

            Let us seek St. Damien’s intercession, in our own days of quarantine, towards our being liberated from this COVID-19 plague, and for all who suffer from it in any way. Let us ask his prayers for all the medical personnel assisting them and for all those who, by doing their daily tasks, are at risk, as well as all those who are unable to be with their loved ones in their suffering.  You may also be aware that some teams of priests from the Archdiocese have been designated to minister solely to those who are dying of COVID-19, to bring them the consolation of the anointing of the sick.  Let us pray for them also, as they go at all hours of the day to comfort the dying, that they may be kept safe from the disease themselves.

            Finally, I want to wish all the moms a very blessed Mothers’ Day this Sunday.  No doubt it will be one different from any that we’ve seen.  On a day that usually sees a lot of people going to restaurants, there will likely be a lot of take out!  God bless and stay safe!

                                                                                                            Fr. Derek

Again, some notes for you:

Domestic Violence / Child Abuse – The media has brought to our attention lately the reality that the Stay-at-Home advisory, with people not being able to get out as often and with children not being around mandated reporters as frequently as they usually are, has resulted in fewer requests for help and reports of suspected abuse which may likely not be the reality people are facing.  When talking to friends or neighbors be attentive to any “clues” that might be dropped in the conversation and ask if help is needed when it is safe to do so.  If you are in need of help, or think someone else is, be aware of these numbers:

Elder Abuse Hotline – 800-922-2275

Domestic Violence – REACH (24 hr. hotline) – 800-899-4000

Child Abuse – Mass Dept. of Children and Families – 617-748-2000

Needham Police Department – 781-455-7570

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – 800-656-4673 – rainn.org

Offertory – Many thanks to those of you who have been sending in your donations and donating online.  If you have not done so, please consider signing up to donate online.  Online donations can be made here:  http://stbartholomew-needham.org/donate/.

Bulletin – while there is not a lot going on in the parish we are still publishing a weekly bulletin which can found online here:   http://stbartholomew-needham.org/bulletins/

Elders & Those Most at Risk – Once again, please remember to check in on the elders of our community and those who might have underlying conditions that make them most at risk for this coronavirus.  If you know of someone who needs something, or you, yourself, are in need, please call the parish office.

The Church is open for Prayer – Just a reminder that the church is generally open for prayer M-F from 7:00 to noon, and on the weekends when we would normally have Masses scheduled.  On a week-to-week basis we are continuing the Adoration on Tuesday nights that had been scheduled for Lent, but in order to come you MUST sign up.  There is a link for that on the parish website.  Please remember that, based on the state’s guidelines, we cannot have more than ten people in the church at a given time.  Thank you.

May 1- A Note from Fr. Derek

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is hard to believe that we are approaching our eighth weekend of being unable to gather together to celebrate the Eucharist on account of the ongoing state of emergency.  Please know you all remain in my prayers and close to me when I celebrate Mass.  It has been a blessing, on account of technology, to be able to “gather together” on Sundays by live-streaming Mass on Facebook.  I know that connecting to this has been difficult for some of you, but we may have figured out how to stream on our website at the same time.  If you have had difficulty, try checking out our website on Sunday at 9:30. 

As we enter into the month of May, we enter into the month of Mary, the Mother of our Lord and our mother as well.  It is important, as we enter into this month, that we not fail to seek her maternal help and mediation in this time of pandemic.  I wish to share with you a letter that Pope Francis has written to all of the faithful in the world:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The month of May is approaching, a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.

For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities. The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow.

I am also providing two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you. I include them with this letter so that they are available to everyone.

Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial. I keep all of you in my prayers, especially those suffering most greatly, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. I thank you, and with great affection I send you my blessing.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 25 April 2020
Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist

Pope Francis

I have placed the two prayers he mentions at the end of this letter.  I would also direct your attention to this link for a fantastic booklet together by Jen Foster that is full of resources for children and adults to help us to grow closer to Mary during this month.  Let us continue to pray for one another, seeking Mary’s help in these strange days of ours.

                                                                                                            Fr. Derek

Again, some notes for you:

Domestic Violence / Child Abuse – The media has brought to our attention lately the reality that the Stay-at-Home advisory, with people not being able to get out as often and with children not being around mandated reporters as frequently as they usually are, has resulted in fewer requests for help and reports of suspected abuse which may likely not be the reality people are facing.  When talking to friends or neighbors be attentive to any “clues” that might be dropped in the conversation and ask if help is needed when it is safe to do so.  If you are in need of help, or think someone else is, be aware of these numbers:

Elder Abuse Hotline – 800-922-2275

Domestic Violence – REACH (24 hr. hotline) – 800-899-4000

Child Abuse – Mass Dept. of Children and Families – 617-748-2000

Needham Police Department – 781-455-7570

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – 800-656-4673 – rainn.org

Offertory – Many thanks to those of you who have been sending in your donations and donating online.  If you have not done so, please consider signing up to donate online.  Online donations can be made here:  http://stbartholomew-needham.org/donate/.

Bulletin – while there is not a lot going on in the parish we are still publishing a weekly bulletin which can found online here:   http://stbartholomew-needham.org/bulletins/

Elders & Those Most at Risk – Once again, please remember to check in on the elders of our community and those who might have underlying conditions that make them most at risk for this coronavirus.  If you know of someone who needs something, or you, yourself, are in need, please call the parish office.

The Church is open for Prayer – Just a reminder that the church is generally open for prayer M-F from 7:00 to noon, and on the weekends when we would normally have Masses scheduled.  On a week-to-week basis we are continuing the Adoration on Tuesday nights that had been scheduled for Lent, but in order to come you MUST sign up.  There is a link for that on the parish website.  Please remember that, based on the state’s guidelines, we cannot have more than ten people in the church at a given time.  Thank you.

Prayers that Pope Francis Mentioned:

First Prayer

O Mary,
You shine continuously on our journey
as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who, at the foot of the cross,
were united with Jesus’ suffering,
and persevered in your faith.

“Protectress of the Roman people”, 
you know our needs,
and we know that you will provide, 
so that, as at Cana in Galilee,
joy and celebration may return
after this time of trial.

Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the will of the Father
and to do what Jesus tells us.
For he took upon himself our suffering,
and burdened himself with our sorrows
to bring us, through the cross,
to the joy of the Resurrection. 
Amen.

We fly to your protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from every danger,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin. 


Second Prayer
 

“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God”.

In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your protection.

Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.

Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.

Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.

Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.

Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.

Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.

Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.

Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.

To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.

April 17- A Note from Fr. Derek

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage, Jesus appears to his disciples as they are hiding behind locked doors out of fear and says to them, “Peace be with you.”  How ironic it is that, in these days, we find ourselves, if you will, behind the “locked doors” of self-isolation and social distancing, out of a concern for the well-being of ourselves and others.  And it is in the very midst of this experience that we are presented with this Gospel passage where Jesus speaks to us the words, “Peace be with you.” 

            Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about the peace he offers to his disciples, as he is preparing them for his Passion, in these words, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid ” (Jn 14:27).  The shalom or peace that Jesus desires is nothing that this world can give, nor is it rooted in anything of this world.  Rather it is a supernatural peace that is rooted in a relationship with him and with the Father. 

            As we are entering into these days when we expect to encounter the peak of the effects of the coronavirus in Massachusetts, it may be difficult for many of us to find peace.  What a blessing for us to hear Jesus offering us a peace that transcends this pandemic and its effects, and draws us more and more into the loving embrace of the Father.  Let us seek to allow this peace that Jesus desires for us to take root in our hearts and minds, and so be fruitful in our lives. 

                                                                                         Fr. Derek        

Some notes for you:

Domestic Violence / Child Abuse – The media has brought to our attention lately the reality that the Stay-at-Home advisory, with people not being able to get out as often and with children not being around mandated reporters as frequently as they usually are, has resulted in fewer requests for help and reports of suspected abuse which may likely not be the reality people are facing.  When talking to friends or neighbors be attentive to any “clues” that might be dropped in the conversation and ask if help is needed when it is safe to do so.  If you are in need of help, or think someone else is, be aware of these numbers:

Elder Abuse Hotline – 800-922-2275

Domestic Violence – REACH (24 hr. hotline) – 800-899-4000

Child Abuse – Mass Dept. of Children and Families – 617-748-2000

Needham Police Department – 781-455-7570

Offertory – Many thanks to those of you who have been sending in your donations and donating online.  In the past couple of weeks we have also received some very generous gifts to help us at this time.  I am deeply appreciative for that.  I know some of you tried to use the online giving last week and had problems.  Online donations can be made here:  http://stbartholomew-needham.org/donate/.

Bulletin – while there is not a lot going on in the parish we are still publishing a weekly bulletin which can found online here:   http://stbartholomew-needham.org/bulletins/

Elders & Those Most at Risk – Once again, please remember to check in on the elders of our community and those who might have underlying conditions that make them most at risk for this coronavirus.  If you know of someone who needs something, or you, yourself, are in need, please call the parish office.

The Church is open for Prayer – Just a reminder that the church is generally open for prayer M-F from 7:00 to noon, and on the weekends when we would normally have Masses scheduled.  On a week-to-week basis we are continuing the Adoration on Tuesday nights that had been scheduled for Lent, but in order to come you MUST sign up.  There is a link for that on the parish website.  Please remember that, based on the state’s guidelines, we cannot have more than ten people in the church at a given time.  Thank you.

April 3- A Note from Fr. Derek

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I pray that you are staying safe and well.  As this pandemic continues to spread, more and more of us will find ourselves more affected and more tested on a personal level. As I write this, the news media and our civil authorities are pointing out to us that the coronavirus pandemic in the United States is going to get worse before it gets better.  It is more important than ever to remain close to Jesus Christ in these days.  The week ahead is a wonderful opportunity for us to do just that. 

We are about to enter into the most holy week of the year in the Christian calendar.  We begin with the triumphal entry of Jesus into his own city of Jerusalem where he will fulfill the Father’s will for him -to suffer and to die that we might have eternal life.  Let us not forget that this week begins on a triumphant note, then follows Christ through the lowest points of human weakness in his suffering and death, only to end with his triumphant victory over death, the cause of our hope and our joy.  Let us seek, in a special way, to enter into the Passion of Jesus Christ this week especially in the midst of our own passion during these days of pandemic.

Last Friday, Pope Francis held an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi message and blessing.  This is an event that usually takes place twice a year, at Christmas and Easter, and is a message and blessing for the city of Rome (urbi) and the world (orbi).  In this time of pandemic, the Holy Father saw the need to address all of the faithful and offer his pontifical blessing, which has a plenary indulgence attached to it.  In his message, he reflected on the passage in Mark’s Gospel of the calming of the sea.  I would encourage you to read his reflection which can be found here:  http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2020/documents/papa-francesco_20200327_omelia-epidemia.html.  You can also watch the entire event, which showed the starkness of an empty St. Peter’s Basilica and Piazza, on the Vatican’s YouTube channel here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnzTIGpYxdA.  It is very powerful.

A few notes for your attention:

Holy Week – We are planning to live-stream our Holy Week services on our Facebook site.  The schedule is as follows:

Palm Sunday (April 5) @ 9:30 AM

Holy Thursday (April 9) @ 7:00 PM

Good Friday (April 10) @ 3:00 PM

Easter Vigil (Saturday, April 11) @ 8:30 PM

Easter Sunday (April 12) @ 9:30 AM

Palms – The Archdiocese has instructed parishes not to distribute palms at all this year.  While a reason was not specifically given, this is a prudent move as leaving palms out for people to pick up would encourage too many people to abandon the stay at home advisory, thus failing to help in mitigation tactics to contain the coronavirus.

Offertory – Many thanks to those of you who have been sending in your donations.  I know some of you tried to use the online giving last week and had problems.  My guess is that since all the parishes in the U.S. are in the same boat, the site got overwhelmed.  You might try a day other than Sunday  by clicking here: http://stbartholomew-needham.org/donate/ where you can chose which donation you wish to make and it will take you to a secure page.

Bulletin – while there is not a lot going on in the parish we are still publishing a weekly bulletin which can found online here:   http://stbartholomew-needham.org/bulletins/

Elders & Those Most at Risk – Once again, please remember to check in on the elders of our community and those who might have underlying conditions that make them most at risk for this coronavirus.  If you know of someone who needs something, or you, yourself, are in need, please call the parish office.

                                                                                                                        Fr. Derek

March 27- A Note from Fr. Derek

Untie him and let him go” (Jn 11:44).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I pray that this letter finds you, and those whom you hold dear, well and in good health in these uncertain days.  These words of Jesus from this Sunday’s Gospel passage come after he has raised Lazarus from the dead and Lazarus comes walking out of the tomb bound in his burial cloths.  Jesus gives those who have witnessed this miracle the command to untie Lazarus and let him go.  Jesus has already set Lazarus free from the death that had bound him and now commands these witnesses to free him from the things of this world that bind him.

This sense of setting someone free, I think, speaks to all of our hearts in these days.  This past week, Governor Baker, issued a “Stay at Home Advisory” for the people of Massachusetts as well as shutting down all businesses considered non-essential, in essence encouraging us all to restrain ourselves from going out unnecessarily so as to slow and hopefully stop the spread of the coronavirus.  In a sense, we could see it being “tied up” as Lazarus was in the Gospel.  When we look around the rest of the country (e.g., California and New York) and the world (e.g., Italy, China and India where total lockdowns have been put in place), we see that the “cloths” that bind us are not as restrictive as others.  Still, there remains in the hearts of all of us, no matter where we are, the desire to be “set free,” “unbound,”  from this contagion that is plaguing our world. 

While at prayer in the rectory chapel this morning, I heard a wonderful sound….the chirping of a bird.  While we have had an unusually warm winter, it reminded me of how that is usually the herald of the time when the earth is breaking free of the bonds of winter, and it was a reminder of the reality that we are a people of hope, that we look to the future, and we must always seek to exercise that virtue.  And one of the ways in which we do that is through prayer.

As I did in my first letter after public Masses were suspended, I would encourage you to remain steadfast in prayer, especially seeking the Lord’s favor that we would be “let go” from this pandemic.  The rosary, a litany…to St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Sacred Heart, other prayers are helpful at this time.  There is also a wonderful prayer from the texts of one of the Masses in the Roman Missal (“In any need”): 

O God, our refuge in trials, our strength in sickness, our comfort in sorrow, Spare your people, we pray, that, though rightly chastised now by affliction, they may find relief at last through your loving mercy. 

Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

                                                                      Fr. Derek

A few notes / reminders:

  • Sunday Mass– will be live-streamed again at 9:30 AM on our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/St-Bartholomew-Parish-Needham-MA-121212978474/  This time we are upping the risk factor….we’re going to try to add some music!  The planned music follows after my notes (on the bottom right side or you can download and print the music and readings here!). Remember that you can also watch Sunday Mass on Catholic TV online at www.catholictv.org, or on Comcast at 268 or Verizon at 296,  or anytime on demand at www.watchthemass.com. Readings can be found here:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032920.cfm
  • Dispensation from Abstinence – I learned late on Thursday that Cardinal Sean, mindful that in the current situation, many people may be dependent upon eating what they have stored up in freezers or cabinets, or on meals that are provided for them, has dispensed all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Boston from the rule of abstaining from meat on Fridays for the remainder of Lent. He asks, however, that those who are able to continue the practice of abstinence do so and offer that up for those who are suffering in any way during this pandemic.
  • Offertory – Many thanks to those of you who have been sending in your donations.  I know some of you tried to use the online giving last week and had problems.  My guess is that since all the parishes in the U.S. are in the same boat, the site got overwhelmed.  You might try a day other than Sunday  by clicking here: http://stbartholomew-needham.org/donate/ where you can chose which donation you wish to make and it will take you to a secure page.
  • Bulletin – while there is not a lot going on in the parish we are still publishing a weekly bulletin which can found online here:   http://stbartholomew-needham.org/bulletins/
  • Elders & Those Most at Risk – Once again, please remember to check in on the elders of our community and those who might have underlying conditions that make them most at risk for this coronavirus.  If you know of someone who needs something, or you, yourself, are in need, please call the parish office.
  • Church – The church building does remain open for prayer Sunday – Friday mornings and most of the day Saturday.  Please be mindful that there can be no more than 10 people in the church at a time.  Also there are a limited supply of Lysol wipes to clean the area you use….if you are able to bring a little baggie with your own wipes to help keep the space clean and safe and decrease the drain on the ones we have, that would be greatly appreciated.  

March 21- A Note from Fr. Derek

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I pray this finds you and your loved ones healthy in mind, body and spirit.  I know that being bombarded with news about the COVID-19 pandemic can be wearying.  While it is important to stay on top of the news about it, as it seems to change every hour, it can be overwhelming.  But let us not forget that it is Jesus Christ, and not this virus, that is Lord, and it is Him, above all, on whom we must keep ourselves focused. 

So many of you have reached out to me and I thank you for that.  I am doing well.  It is hard to believe that we are about to go into our second weekend without any public Masses.  Ironically, even with Masses being suspended, I have been finding myself trying to find a new “normal” in how ministry is done, and that has kept me plenty busy.

As Sunday approaches, however, I just wanted to share with you a few thoughts.  But first, I think I have managed to figure out how to stream live on our Facebook account which can be found by clicking here.  And so on Sunday, at 9:30 AM I will attempt to live stream Mass from the rectory chapel for any who wish to watch.  Spoiler alert…some thoughts that follow might find their way into the homily.  If I mess this up (and I just might), and it doesn’t work, don’t forget that you can watch the Sunday Mass on Catholic TV online at www.catholictv.org, or on Comcast at 268 or Verizon at 296,  or anytime on demand at www.watchthemass.com.

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage (readings can be found by clicking here), the disciples of Jesus ask him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parent, that he was born blind?”  In essence, their words might be boiled down to the question, “Why?”  It is a question that is often asked when we undergo hardships, e.g,  the sudden and tragic death of a loved one, or when we are faced with a serious or terminal illness, or any various number of situations.  It is a question many might be asking as this coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold. 

The presumption of the disciples in the Gospel passage is that the fact that this man had been born blind was some sort of divine punishment for personal sin.  In the Gospels, Jesus speaks many times about the “harvest” and the judgment of God which is reserved for the end of time.  We must be careful not to think that this virus is a direct punishment from God.  Remember that we began this season of Lent with the story of Adam and Eve being “evicted” from the Garden of Eden because of their sin.  It is that sin, Original Sin, which has caused us to be born into a fallen state and to live in a fallen world where suffering is a reality.  While God does permit suffering, Jesus, in healing the man born blind, reveals to us the Father’s love and consolation, and his desire to bring healing into our lives – most especially spiritual healing.  Be sure to notice that the man in the Gospel passage is given not just physical sight, but the sight of faith.  In his encounter with Jesus, he recognized (“saw”) God breaking into his situation in a powerful way.  Just so, Jesus calls us to recognize the ways in which he is present to us in the midst of our trials so that, like the man born blind, we might give him praise for the blessings he sends to us.

This weekend we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent.  This Sunday actually marks the half-way point of our Lenten journey.  From this point we are closer to Easter than we are to Ash Wednesday!  And so the Church calls this Sunday Laetare Sunday.  The word laetare come from the introit or entrance antiphon for this Mass and is Latin for “Rejoice!”  It is an imperative, not a suggestion.  We might ask, “What is there to rejoice in when more people are being diagnosed with COVID-19, when we have tighter restrictions on going places and gathering with others, when we cannot get to church to celebrate holy Mass together?”  Though we may be half-way through Lent, we don’t know how long we will be dealing with this pandemic, which can be disheartening.  But we need to remember that joy is not simply an emotion.  Happiness is, and  happiness comes and goes depending on what is going on in our lives.  Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and it abides in the soul of the person who exercises the virtue of faith.  Let us remember, then, that the Christian finds joy not in the ABSENCE of disease, trial or suffering.  Rather, the Christian finds joy in being aware of the presence of Christ in the midst of our disease, trial and suffering. 

As we navigate the days ahead, there are some things I would invite you to consider:

Confession – If there is anyone who desires to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, please let me know and we can work that out.  You can find a guide to preparing for Confession by clicking here.

Holy Water – While we have had to dry up the holy water fonts at the doors of the church, there is a metal container filled with this water at the back of the church.  You might consider bringing a small container from home to fill with the water.  The water serves as a reminder of our Baptism and has also been used to ward off evil and temptation.  Should our inability to gather as a community for public Mass continue on to Easter, it would be good to have some at home with you as that is the time we traditionally renew our baptismal promises and are sprinkled with the Easter water.

Elders & Those Most at Risk – Once again, please remember to check in on the elders of our community and those who might have underlying conditions that make them most at risk for this coronavirus.  If you know of someone who needs something, or you, yourself, are in need, please call the parish office.

Offertory – Finally, as you may be aware, with no public Masses being celebrated, there is no weekly collection coming in.  The bills, however, still seem to find their way to us.  I thank those of you who have been mailing in your envelopes and checks.  Perhaps some of you would consider either mailing in your donation or donating it online.  You can do that by going to the parish website and clicking the “Donate!” icon or simply clicking here.  I know with the way the stock market is going, and with the pandemic, that these are uncertain times, but every little bit will help.  Thank you.

Let us all keep each other in prayer in the days ahead.  Rejoice!

                                                                                                            Fr. Derek

March 16- A Note from Fr. Derek in Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

These are certainly interesting times in which we are living and we are finding ourselves tried by this novel coronavirus pandemic.  Please know that you all remain in my prayers as we navigate this uncharted territory together.

Last Thursday I was celebrating a funeral Mass when, as the second reading was being proclaimed, I noticed myself experiencing a deep sense of consolation.  As the reading continued, I heard St. Paul writing to the Church at Rome: 

“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?  No, in all thee things we conquer overwhelmingly in him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death , nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, not height, nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 37-39).

As I listened to those words, I couldn’t help but think about how what we were doing at that funeral Mass really defied the reality of all that was going on in the world with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Even though it was someone’s death that occasioned the funeral Mass, it was really the love of Christ that brought us together as a community of hope.  As we gathered in the church we were recalling that, as Christians, death is not to be feared, for the love of Christ has conquered even that.  As we face this pandemic together, we must also not let fear get the better of us, for this virus cannot kill the eternal life the love of Christ has won for us. 

Now, fearlessness does not mean stupidity!  We must be prudent.  It is imperative that we heed the calls of our civic leaders and take the precautions necessary to prevent and minimize the spread of this virus.  At the same time, it is important that we do not panic.  There is a saying that has been attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola:  “Pray as if everything depended upon God.  Work as if everything depended upon you.”  In the midst of all of that is happening, when we are bombarded with news about the novel coronavirus seemingly 24/7, it can be easy to be unnerved and feel a bit of insecurity or hopelessness.  It is in these times that we must place our hope and trust in Jesus Christ while doing all we can to keep ourselves and others safe.

I know that the reality that we are not able to have public Masses at this time is difficult.  It is difficult for me, as your priest, not to be able to provide the Blessed Sacrament for you.  What might be helpful to remember during these days is that frequent reception of Communion was not always a common practice in the Church. Rather, it is something that came about only in the days of Pope St. Pius X (Pope from 1903-1914).  In the Middle Ages, many people, out of sense of unworthiness, did not present themselves to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  Because of this, the Fourth Lateran Council decreed that all of the faithful must receive Communion at least once a year, especially in the Easter Season.  This, with the obligation to go to Confession once a year, became known as the “Easter Duty,” which remains a part of the Church’s law today.  In Pius X’s  decree Quam singulari (1910), the saint lowered the age of first Holy Communion from twelve to seven and encouraged the more frequent reception of Holy Communion.

In a sense, we have entered into a different type of Eucharistic fast.  Church law requires those receiving Holy Communion to fast from food and drink for one hour before receiving Communion.  Now we are fasting from the Eucharist – and just before we begin the “Year of the Eucharist” on Holy Thursday.  Perhaps there is an invitation for us, in this, to grow in appreciation of Who is truly present in the Eucharist, to allow our hearts to seek ever more that real communion that we have with Jesus Christ whose body and blood the bread and wine become at Mass.  When we are once again “admitted to the table” of the Lord’s Supper, may we approach with even greater desire, respect and admiration of Jesus Christ, truly present in the bread that is broken and shared.

So, what can we do?????

First of all, let us keep the faith.  In the gardens by the Jesuit residence at Creighton University in Omaha there is a magnificent statue of the Sacred Heart. It was a gift of the students at the University.  The engraving reads, “Thank Offering of the Students for Protection in the World-Wide Plague in the War Year 1918.”  One hundred years ago, college students were aware of the need to seek Divine Protection, and were aware of the hand of God in their protection.

During these days, I would encourage you to watch Mass on Catholic TV (www.catholictv.org or www.watchethemass.com) and to make a spiritual Communion, a practice of desiring Jesus present in the Eucharist when we are unable to receive Communion personally.  While various saints may have composed their own prayers, the following prayer might be prayed as we watch the Communion Rite of Mass on TV:  “My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.  I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.  Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.  I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.  Never permit me to be separated from You.  Amen.”

I also plan to keep the church building open for personal, private prayer as much as possible during the times when we would normally have Mass offered.  On weekdays, as much as possible, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed.  As of last night, however, with Governor Baker’s order, we need to limit the number of people in the church at any given time.  On account of that, if you are to be present when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, I need you to sign up at: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/60b094faba728a4f85-eucharistic.  Please do not come if you are not signed up, and remember to observe “social distance.”  All of this, of course, is subject to change.

One final thing I would recommend to you…This Thursday, the 19th is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Clearly we will not be having the Mass and social we had planned.  I would invite, however, those who are able to prepare for that solemnity by observing Wednesday as a particular day of prayer and fasting according to the norms of the Church (one full meal and two smaller ones to keep one’s strength) and offer that sacrifice up for deliverance from this pandemic through St. Joseph’s intercession.  On St. Joseph’s Day itself, let us together pray the Litany of St. Joseph, which can be found here, asking Joseph’s intercession for the same cause.  Let us, also, not fail to seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary through praying the Rosary. 

On a practical level, in a spirit of charity, please reach out to anyone who is in a high-risk group, especially our elder parishioners, to see if there is anything they need.  If you are in a high-risk group, please call the rectory if you have a need taken care of, such as a grocery run or a prescription run, and we will see how we can help you. 

I pray you all remain well during this time and I appreciate your prayers.

                                                                                                                                    Fr. Derek