This Sunday marks the end of this Liturgical Year. The feast of CHRIST THE KING sums up all the praise and faith we’ve given the Lord since last Advent. It always shows me how blessed we are to have another chance each year to grow in faith. And this Feast asks each of us: Is Christ really our King? The answer may be more complex than we think.

Last Sunday’s readings began to deal with the TURBULENCE of the end times, when Christ assumes his full reign. For the faithful, this will be a time of joy, not terror. Hang in there; if the ride in your life is bumpy, it will even out into a smooth ride-at least at times.

Now we know that preparing our new field where the convent was, will take longer than expected. I’m advised by cemetery people to wait until the end of Spring, so the ground settles well. Meanwhile we’ll do some planning and sizing things up, but there will be no opening of the new section for graves until at least the end of April.

Now fasten your seatbelts, read these notes carefully on where we are with the pandemic, and keep it around to re-read. First, though the winter outlook for this is uncertain. we’re restoring a number of church practices restricted since the pandemic outbreak, Ribbons that blocked pews have been removed, except for a few on one side in the back for families with small children. Vaccinations for children are just beginning, and parents have asked to still have some safe space. Please leave these pews available for them. Hymnals will be back out shortly. Unless we hear cautions about it, holy water fonts will be filled. Small choirs have returned, wearing masks, except for solo pieces. The deacon or priest again invites the sign of peace, which can be done with a nod or wave.

As far as our parish in general, Council members and others bring questions like “what is St. Monica’s policy on masks”. This is frustrating, because the answer is, there is no policy special to our parish. I haven’t spoken about the issue for months, since the County Council and County Executive together reinstated a mask directive when indoors. Since then I’ve only restated their directive when asked. Churches are not exempted, they’re specifically included. The Archbishop has urged churches to follow the government norms of their area, so our churches are not seen as hindering the overall effort of the wider community to overcome this disease. Neither I nor any pastor has authority to ignore him on this.

So there is no “rule” special to St. Monica Parish, different from all the parishes in the county (or the city too). So when you come in our church and see that almost everyone’s wearing a mask, that’s not because I or anyone else in the parish said to. Those individuals have each made their decision to follow the health guidelines, for their safety and others’. No one has been asked to leave the church, or not to come, based on this. And we are hardly the only church in the area to be seen like this. Nearby pastors tell me their churches are the same as ours in conformance, while other churches don’t show that practice as consistently. Our

seniors have expressed thanks for a safe atmosphere .. People come to our church from a different parish and report that they do so because it’s a safer environment than theirs; while some here are reported to go to another church for a “looser environment”-but we all   put on a mask to be allowed to go into our doctor’s    or dentist’s office. It will be nice to be past all this, but we’re in a pandemic still and we’re all figuring this out. But the answer to why so many here continue to wear masks is, they’re choosing to follow the health authorities’ directive for their protection and the community’s. No one can say why others elsewhere don’t.

Also, misinformation sometimes gets spread in our parish gatherings. I guess these don’t change anyone’s mind anyway, but I advise you not to automatically buy informal statements on this serious topic. I don’t want to repeat the offhand things that go around, but common ones are about masks being ineffective, and having the disease and recovering gives one such immunity that they don’t need vaccination or a mask. Your own quick research can undercut these. Read about the masks restricting our breath particles on which the virus particle is carried, And check the reinfection rate on unvaccinated people who had it once and recovered, and their ability to have it again and be a carrier. I’m not positioning myself either as a medical expert, and that’s the point. None of us are. I only reiterate health officials’ directives, and I make these comments because I’m concerned about confusion being spread. I ask our people not to spread opinions on COVID health matters if you’re not sent by a medical facility. That’s not what our parish meetings are for. Let’s leave each other to hear the same guidance from the officials, and make our choices to keep ourselves and each other as safe as possible.

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