Dear Beloved of St. Vincent’s,
This week Bishop McElroy decreed that the distribution of Holy Communion is to be suspended, except during the priest’s private Mass, or as Viaticum when someone is dying. This additional loss of the people’s access to the sacraments I’m sure finds you, as it does me, sad and disheartened. In this time of pandemic and uncertainty, it may feel as though nothing makes sense, the world as we knew it just a few weeks ago appears to be shifting so extremely, that it almost feels like it’s ending. Just like the Jews when they experienced the destruction of the 2nd temple in 70 AD, everything they knew, their whole temple worship system with sacrifice and prayers ended. Their whole way of worshipping God, of repenting before God, of offering sacrifice to God, of gathering as a people of God, ended definitively in 70 AD with the destruction of the Temple. And as they watched, everything came crumbling down around them. They were slowly surrounded by the Romans. The city was starved out, and there was nothing they could do about it, but learn to turn their hearts totally to God, and trust in His mercy to endure forever. (Psalm 136)
In times like these, the prophets repeatedly urged the people, “sacrifice and oblation you desired not, but a contrite spirit and humble heart you desired.” (Psalm 40:6) “Return to the Lord with your whole heart!” God Himself begs the people, “When you seek me with your whole heart, then you will find me. When you return to me with your whole heart, then I will return to you.” (Zechariah 1:3)
We may not have the Eucharist in the way we are used to at this time, but Jesus Himself teaches us, “My food is to do the will of my heavenly Father who sent me.” (John 4:34) We can still eat the bread of God, by doing His will at every moment. The point of Eucharist is to help us be obedient to God’s will!
For now, there are still some parishes offering the sacrament of confession…but if this is the next sacrament removed from us, always remember, “sacrifice and oblation I [God] desired not, but a contrite and humble spirit.” (Psalm 40:6) The point of Confession is to transform our hearts to become humble and contrite!
While, we do not currently have the Sacrifice of the Mass to offer God as a community, you are still able to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice to God, holy and pleasing in His sight, your spiritual worship!” (Romans 12:1) The point of the Mass is to follow Jesus and offer our lives as a sacrifice to God…living our lives totally for His will!
In this moment of time, the world is crying out, “save your bodies!” but Jesus is crying out, “save your souls!” “Do not be afraid of the one who can kill your bodies, but of the one who can kill your body and soul!” (Matthew 10:28) Our purpose on earth is the Salvation of souls—our own and others! “For whoever seeks to save His life will lose it, but whoever lives their life for me will truly save it.” (Matthew 16:25)
Let us look at the world wide trends, for these give us an indication of what God is saying and what He wants us to do. Around the world, for the most part, Masses are suspended, Eucharist is not being distributed, gathering as community, as the people of God, is forbidden. But for now, in most places, the sacrament of confession is still being offered, as well as the sacrament of baptism. Both of these sacraments deal with the forgiveness of sin-- original sin, and personal sin. Could one of God’s messages during these times be, “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is here”??? Could God be taking away all our ordinary ways of seeking Him, all our comfortable ways of encountering Him, so that we learn to seek Him with our whole hearts, minds, strengths, and soul?!
I believe the first message God is speaking to the entire world is to repent for the forgiveness of our sins.
The second message God is speaking is for us to seek Him with our whole hearts. God is stripping away everything we depend on and are comfortable with, just like He purified and stripped the Israelites in the desert for 40 years. The desert is a place where there is no comfort except God alone, there is nothing you can depend on for safety or security or health, except God alone. Could God be speaking this to us now?
When we are in the midst of the storm, and things are out of our control, and the boat is sinking! Where is Jesus? …Asleep in the boat. (Mark 4:38) The world would have us freak out and panic, but Jesus would have us rest with Him, and wait trustingly on Him to calm the storm in His timing…even if everything appears to be sinking in the meantime. God’s will is good, no matter how things appear in the present.
At this time, myself and my brother priests around the world have been restricted from celebrating public Masses now for 2 weeks, but my patron and confirmation saint, Padre Pio, went through a period in his life when he was restricted from celebrating public Masses for almost 10 years! St. Padre Pio, a man who bore the stigmata of Christ for 50 years, who knew people’s hearts and could tell them their sins before they had a chance to confess, who could pray for people and they would be healed, even raised from the dead--if Padre Pio can submit to those Church restrictions surely so can I, and you as well.
In these times we must continue to use what we have; to repent, to pray, to read our Bibles, and to grow in deeper knowledge, trust, and love of God. In these confusing and chaotic times, Jesus is the only answer. Jesus is the only one we can depend on. We must reprioritize so that Jesus is our number one reason for living.
During this time, our parish will continue with its Open Doors for your personal prayer, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and of celebrating the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (in the children’s chapel). Since celebrations and teachings are restricted publicly at this time, due to COVID19, we will continue to shift much of our energies to building up our online access to teachings, Masses, Liturgies, and other events, through the building of our new Parish App, and live-streaming options. I will also be spending extra hours in prayer for myself and all of you. I will be offering my private Masses for our salvation, and for God’s mercy on us all.
Please continue to build up your prayer and devotional life at home, to come to the church for private prayer when possible, and to offer your lives through volunteer services and generous donations. Below is a beautiful Spiritual Communion prayer that Saint Padre Pio himself used. I would encourage each of us to use the same or similar prayer, many times throughout the day. Together, as one community, let us find creative ways to continue the ministry and presence of Jesus in the San Diego Diocese. May God have mercy and bless us all.
Fr. Alex de Paulis
A Spiritual Communion by St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Padre Pio celebrated Mass daily, and at various times during the day,
he would pause and pray, making a spiritual communion.
I believe that you are truly present
in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
I love You above all things
and I desire to possess You within my soul.
Since I am unable at this moment
to receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as being already there,
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen
- The church will remain open for extended times of personal prayer by individuals (see below for church hours, and accessibility). When you are praying in the church, please keep the social distancing requirements for people outside your family.
- 7:00AM-9:00AM – church doors unlocked for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
- 9:00AM – 5:00PM – church doors locked, enter through gate on Ibis street using code and enter through children’s chapel door. To get the gate code, email Fr. Alex at [email protected]
- 5:00PM– 7:00PM – church doors unlocked for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
- Confession will be available by appointment, whenever you see Fr. Alex, or the following dedicated times:
- Mondays 5:00PM – 7:00PM
- Wednesdays 5:00PM – 7:00PM
- Sundays 9:00AM – 12:00PM
- The church office will continue to remain closed to the public, but the staff are working remotely and can be reached via phone or email. See website for all contact information.
- I will continue to celebrate private Masses, as requested by the bishop, with 8 or less people, and these Masses will continue to be recorded and uploaded to YouTube daily. If you are interested in attending one of these private Masses, please email me with the preferred day of the week that you want to attend. There is a waiting list built up already, so please be patient with me as I attempt to schedule everyone. Daily Masses are typically mid-morning or mid-afternoon, and Sunday Mass is usually early Sunday morning. There is limited space available because there can only be 8 people, including the reader, altar server, camera person, and sometimes a musician for each Mass.
- Because close to half of our parishes in San Diego Diocese are already closed, this will cause many people to be looking for other parishes that are still open and hearing confessions. This may cause St. Vincent’s to become more busy than she is able to handle. If this happens, the schedule mentioned in this letter may change, in order to help the schedule of the parish staff and Fr. Alex to remain sustainable. Although public Masses have been canceled, I still have private Masses each day, and I still continue the other demands on my time: appointments with people for counseling / spiritual direction, marriage preparation, funeral planning, business administration meetings and appointments for the parish, school, and preschool, etc. …in other words, none of my normal duties as priest have changed or lessened because of this shelter in place order. Many of the meetings have switched to teleconference, but in actuality, working hours have increased as we are striving to keep the church open and accessible to everyone for extended hours of personal prayer. Please use this time and opportunity to enter more deeply into prayer with God, and to continue to support generously with your donations when you come to the church for personal prayer or through our online giving platform.
- Many of you have continued to give generously these past couple weeks, either in person when you come to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, through mail, or through our online giving platform. The parish staff and I wish to thank you so very much! It is only through your generosity that we are able to continue with this schedule and the ministry. If the donations decrease or cease, then this will limit what we are able to do during this time. We do not want to have to temporarily close, out of survival mode, like some of the other parishes in our diocese. Please continue to give and support so that we can remain open and vibrant, even during these times when we feel separated or even exiled from each other as community. We can always remain united in prayer and in the Eucharist.
- To help bring more content and parish life to you over the web during this time, we have been recording and uploading the daily Masses to the website, we are in the process of putting together a long-term live-streaming option, and we are in the process of creating an APP for you to download on your phones, which would make Bible studies, talks/teachings, holy hours, Masses, and livestreaming of different events at St Vincent’s Parish & School accessible to you via your smartphone! Stay tuned for more updates on this during the month of April. We also continue to provide you with free access to Formed.org, which is full of catholic content and tools to help you grow in knowledge and love of your faith. There are also wonderful movies about the Saints which you can watch with your family during time together.
- Although we will not be able to gather as community during holy week and the Easter Sunday Masses, we will be recording these celebrations and uploading them to the website for your participation. Please continue to pray with us online, and to send in your prayer requests through the website.
- Since we are keeping the church open for extended hours of personal prayer, we have also increased our cleaning times. Not only do volunteers help us periodically to wipe down pews and door handles, but we have asked our professional cleaning company to come every day rather than 2-3 times a week.