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A reflection on 'Running a virtual Parish' by Fr Des Devenney

A month ago I was asked to share my thoughts, a reflection, an observation on “Running a Virtual Parish” if that’s the right phrase – but with so many, many “alterations” to the accustomed practice we have been having [for years!].

Constantly being asked – phone, text, email, what’s app, face time, zoom – “What is it like saying/celebrating Mass with no congregation?” I simply have replied “Empty Benches – Full Churches!”

Knowing the Altar contains Relics of the Saints in the altar stone I have never ever felt on my own! With Parishioners, Friends, many others from around the world – Australia, New York – celebrating and sharing together the Word and the Eucharist – the Mass – what is UNSEEN by us is always SEEN by God.

Reading the First Reading and The Responsorial Psalm at Mass now for the last seven weeks – instead of listening [or daydreaming!] has really been a highlight – I am much more attentive – dare I say it – particularly with the Acts of the Apostles in this Eastertime Season. It has been vibrant and refreshing seeing the vitality, enthusiasm, zeal of the early Church – and Peter and Paul at the forefront in proclaiming the Good News.

The day for me passes quickly and quietly but I have personally tried and encouraged others to keep a rhythm and routine – balancing the time if you like – to make life and faith rhyme. And as difficult as it is for us all this is a time – and hope – for renewal, healing and restoration of our lives in response to this pandemic.

All our lives are, have been, and will be changed for ever more as will finance, the economy, retail, culture, social mission, lifestyles, work, travel, holidays, education, sport – the list goes on, or rather does not stop. And, of course, religion, the practice of our faith, the Church – that too will have a different perspective in and for the future. And so, the question is – what about the future steps, as an example, of the Catholic Church, governance, buildings, churches, ministry, when we “resume” – [my word]. The third Commandment says – “Keep Holy the Sabbath!” Maybe it should be now –“Keep Holy EVERY day!” After all every new day is a gift – every new day is a bonus!

The Rosary I describe as a photograph album, a twitter account, a Facebook journey, of the life of Jesus – with its joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and mysteries of light moments. Let me share with you if I may some joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and mysteries of light moments with you from the last eight weeks.

JOYFUL – the goodness of people helping out – the applause for the cause of the NHS – our world IS a global village in the words of St Pope Paul VI – the live streamed Masses – people’s commitment to social distancing – amazing communication opportunities -

SORROWFUL – the anguish, pain, heartache of families of not being able to be with their loved ones - not being able to celebrate Funeral Masses – Baptisms – Weddings – Reconciliation – visits – taking Holy Communion – the exhaustion of our cares, nurses, doctors – the loneliness – the trauma, tragedy this Corona Virus has brought to communities – difficulty of financial challenges for Parishes in collecting for those in need and the many charities that are supported -

GLORIOUS – Pope Francis’ leadership – Easter and the Resurrection – the incredible witness of so many good people “laying down their lives for their [often unknown] friends” – homes and families and children being a domestic church - the affirming comments received about the Masses on the Webcam -

MYSTERIES OF LIGHT - these are – if you like – the statements of our faith that keep me and us going – the banquet described in Isaiah 25: 4-9. Jesus words in John 14:1-6 – I am the Way [ that leads to Heaven] – I am the Truth [every word I speak is a promise] and the Life [I have come so that you may have life – I call you friends – I chose you – I commission you – I command you ]. We take encouragement from the Old Testament when the Jews were exiled to Babylon for years – and were without their temple – their place of worship. We take inspiration from the Acts of the Apostles 2; 42 where people gathered together in small groups.

I miss the daily contact with people – at Mass – the School and Class Masses I miss enormously – the sacramental involvement preparation with the parents and children – I feel like I am on the Thirty Day Retreat – but not quite!!

At the beginning of each Mass we pray that those who have died overnight will experience the love of God and see the Face of Christ. I feel a sense of powerlessness at times and yet St Paul would tell us – “It is when I am weak that I am strong” and “the Lord loves a cheerful giver!”

I know people will ask “Where is God?” Maybe the question is “Where is God for me?” Or maybe even – “Where am I for God?” These are hard times – difficult times – unprecedented times. But tough times never last - tough people do.

We are asked at this moment in time to live our faith without the availability of the Sacraments – as many Catholic communities do in sacramentally deprived areas of the world. But it does not stop us loving God and loving others. And it does not either stop us from reading the Word in Scripture, doing our best for each other each day, and saying the odd prayer every now and then!!

May God the Father who created each one of us in his own image and likeness and calls us by name bless us and keep us safe each day.

May Jesus the Risen Lord who redeemed us all from sin by dying on the Cross and opened for us the path to the eternal life embrace us and hold us in his loving arms.

May the Holy Spirit the Paraclete who gives us his seven fold gifts and the power to live daily the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit anoint us and strengthen us to live the Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.

We behold the Splendour of God shining on the Face of Jesus We behold the Splendour of God Shining on the Face of the Son


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