“I gently invite people who have not been back in Church since before the pandemic to rethink their decision this Lent and to come back to Sunday Mass so that they will enjoy its benefits and blessings in their lives,” Bishop Ger Nash stated in Gathering Back, his pastoral letter to the faithful of the Diocese of Ferns for Lent 2023.
Bishop Nash went on to explain that, “this Lent I am inviting you, the people, priests and religious of the diocese, to think about your own attendance at Mass in your parish and your commitment to your local Christian community … just as a house is not a home without people, our Church buildings are not our spiritual homes without people.
“The Covid pandemic of the past few years has brought about many changes in our interaction with people and our participation in the Eucharist and Mass attendance has also changed greatly.
“We surprised ourselves by how well we coped with the Eucharist without a congregation physically present. This was due in large part to the broadcasting of the Eucharist on television, radio and many Church webcams.”
The Bishop Ferns continued that it is now necessary for parishioners to honestly assess the consequences of how our worship “has changed and whether or not it may be time to revert back to a former practice that was seriously altered for the sake of health and safety throughout the pandemic.
“I ask you to allow your thinking be guided by the two aspects of the Christian life – the personal and the communal – and especially where the two meet or are intertwined.
“A large number of people have not returned to the Sunday Eucharist in their parish churches … Mass is ideally a relationship. This is a reality that we as a Community of believers must learn to accept even if it causes us some regret. The purpose of this Pastoral Letter is not to guilt anyone into returning to active participation in Sunday Eucharist. However, it is the responsibility of all who value the Eucharist, and the Sunday gathering, to preach love and loyalty to the Eucharist to all our sisters and brothers. This is where the personal and communal aspects of being a Christian come into play.”
“The Eucharist is our meeting with Christ in a special way. The teaching of the Church on Eucharist speaks fittingly of Christ’s real presence after the changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the Mass. It is something we do because Christ invited us to do so when in the words of the Last Supper He said, ‘Do this in memory of me’. A return to the Sunday Mass in our public places of worship (parish churches) is our way of honouring Christ’s sacrifice. We give thanks for his real presence in the Eucharist by offering our own real presence at Church and thus making real our participation in this most communal of acts,” Bishop Nash stated.
For the full text of Gathering Back please click here.