New Pastoral Letter
Earlier last week, I made the decision to publish my Pastoral Letter, Reflections on Five Years — Continuing the Mission in Friday’s issue of The Anchor. It is my prayer as we look back and consider our future; we will all be filled with a renewed hope for life beyond our current difficult situation.
With this Pastoral Letter, I look to enter into a conversation about some of the joys, hopes, blessings, and challenges in our Diocese. The content, prayed about for several months, as I mention in the letter, was spurred on by three recent graces.
- First, last September 24, I celebrated my fifth anniversary as Bishop of this Diocese. It was an occasion for me to thank God for all He has helped us to do together in terms of pastoral care, improved administration, greater involvement of the gifts and dedication of the laity, as well as a time to think about the many things still ahead of us and implore God’s assistance.
- Second, at the beginning of November, I was privileged to go to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis and present to him and his chief collaborators, as is required, a lengthy report on the situation of the Diocese, highlighting our areas of strength and those where we need to improve. The Holy Father was so encouraging of our efforts to rebuild the Church.
- Most importantly, throughout the last couple of years, I have had the chance to meet so many of you in different consultations across our Diocese, hearing in person about your desires and dreams, worries and fears, praise, constructive criticism and recommendations for our Catholic life and witness throughout southeastern Massachusetts. This input and counsel have been invaluable.
Reflections on Five Years — Continuing the Mission is a fruit of those experiences. In the coming weeks, I will use my Building Faith blog to share reflections from my Pastoral Letter on where we have come over the last five years and share some thoughts on how I would like to build on those foundations. Again, my hope is this letter will be a source of some joy, hope, and light for all of you during these challenging days. We appreciate your devotion and fidelity as we continue to pray and minister to all those affected by this health crisis.
A Special Plenary Indulgence
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican has issued a special Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary on the granting of special Indulgences to the faithful in the current pandemic, 20.03.2020. “The gift of special Indulgences is granted to the faithful suffering from COVID-19 disease, commonly known as Coronavirus, as well as to health care workers, family members and all those who in any capacity, including through prayer, care for them.”
For anyone unfamiliar with this doctrine and practice in the Church, “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven” (CCC 1471). Sin has eternal (spiritual, everlasting) and temporal (earthly, non-eternal) consequences.
The Sacrament of Confession removes the eternal consequences of sin, that as they say, is the hard part. What remains after our confession is the temporal consequences, which a partial or plenary indulgences help to remit. Let’s look at it another way.
A friend borrows your car; they have an accident, which is their fault. They come to you asking forgiveness; of course, you forgive them, but they are still responsible for the repairs to your car. This remission of your “responsibility for repairs” is the beautiful gift the Church, in the special plenary indulgence, is offering each of us during this pandemic.
As I mentioned during our recitation of the Rosary together on Sunday, the Decree allows for indulgence under the following conditions:
“The Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful suffering from Coronavirus, who are subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a spirit detached from any sin, they unite spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion, or if at least they will recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible [after the pandemic restrictions have been lifted].
Health care workers, family members and all those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, care for the sick of Coronavirus according to the words of the divine Redeemer: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15: 13), will obtain the same gift of the Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions.
This Apostolic Penitentiary also willingly grants a Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions on the occasion of the current world epidemic, also to those faithful who offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or Eucharistic adoration, or reading the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary, or the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, to implore from Almighty God the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and eternal salvation for those whom the Lord has called to Himself.”
You can read the entire document on the Vatican website.
We live in an unprecedented time of difficulty with the COVID-19 pandemic but also, by the grace of God, an incredible time of opportunity to stay connected by means of the Internet, television, and social media. Here is a continually updated list of parishes streaming their Masses for viewing over the Internet and via Facebook Live. Keep in mind that most parishes also archive these Masses for viewing at a later time as well. Parishes are listed alphabetically by their city/town location. New listings are posted at the top.
In light of the advisory issued yesterday by Governor Baker that entities not providing “COVID-19 Essential Services” close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, the Diocesan Chancery campus will be closed for onsite business effective, Tuesday, March 24, at noon. Arrangements have been made to enable the majority of employees at the Chancery to work remotely, and it is our intention to continue to function as best we are able given any challenges that may emerge with offsite working. I ask your patience going forward in this new reality. Please know that you should be able to reach most staff by their diocesan email address.
Please know of my continued prayers for each of you and my commitment to keep you informed as this ever-changing situation develops. I am also committed to making myself as visible as I can to pray not only for you but with you.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha