Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
I’ve written a number of spiritual columns lately and I’ve fallen behind on a lot of subjects. I’d like to catch up on a lot of practical matters today, with your patience.
1. TODAY we begin a new, beautiful tradition at Saint Mary, one which has actually been the general practice of most parishes throughout the world for years. We will fill our Sunday Masses throughout the Easter Season—when we celebrate the presence of the risen Jesus— with our children receiving First Holy Communion with their families in the context of the community. The custom of having a special liturgy on Saturday has become so detached from the general life of the parish, and had become so unlike our customary Sunday parish experience of the Mass that I decided we would seek a more reverent, more family-based celebration of the sacrament. So when you come to Mass and see a family with a child dressed for First Communion, be sure to affirm them, welcome them and tell them they are in your prayers. None of us receives sacraments for ourselves; it is the way that God builds up the Body of Christ, the Church, who we are.
2. Some have taken offense for being asked to wait in the vestibule at Mass after arriving after the First Reading has already begun. We ask our ushers to graciously ask all to wait until the end of the Gospel proclamation, at which time all are invited to come into the church to find seating. The reason for this is very simple: once people are seated and concentrating on listening to the Word of God, it is a major
disruption to be seeking a seat, often having to climb over people to get into the center of the pews. Neither the person climbing, nor the person being climbed over, is hearing anything of the Word of God. We put in a really good speaker in the vestibule, and we ask that everyone wait there until the proclamation is complete. We don’t intend to offend, or cause anyone to feel unwelcome; we just place that
high a priority on attention to the power of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. At that moment there is nothing more important.
3. For our members who may be elderly or challenged physically where all this standing and kneeling is involved, please know that you are still welcome to come to Mass and just sit. No one will judge, it is much better that you are here with us! I’ve heard lately from people who said they have stayed away for this reason. When we say, “please stand,” please know that “as you are able” is implied. Kneeling is
good, but God knows about that knee replacement that you are waiting on, or the pain you have in your back, and would rather you be here with him than deal with hardship alone.
4. About kneeling, another subject is our confessionals. All confessionals are equipped with both a kneeler and a chair/bench. Either will do! Please don’t apologize about sitting. That is why you paid for seating in there. And while we are on the subject, please consider opening the little window so you can celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation face-to-face. I promise it is better. But there is only one
handle on the little sliding window and it is on your side. Please know that you are welcome to open it, in fact, I encourage it.
5. Finally, if you need pastoral care please don’t assume that we will hear about it from the hospital, or any of the rehabilitation or care facilities in the area. Most institutions today have a policy that church pastoral care is only allowed when directly requested by the patient. Even then, it is often difficult to get a current listing of all the Catholics who have self-identified as Catholics when they are admitted. If you desire a visit, or if you are in need of anointing or Holy Communion, please call the office and let us know. We have priests, deacons and very dedicated lay people who bring Communion every day to
people who need it. Also please be aware that parishes are responsible for the facilities that are within their boundaries. At Saint Mary we cover Mary Washington Hospital, Woodmont, Heartfields, Hughes, Golden Living, Greenfields, Falls Run and The Crossings with regular monthly Mass and weekly visits from Eucharistic Ministers. We come when requested to other locations. But you must ask! And we kindly ask that you give us reasonable time to respond, if possible. Thanks.
God bless you.