How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 10

March 28

Dear St Andrew Community,

It is with great disappointment that I must inform you about the following regarding Holy Week and Easter. Please be attentive to the Bishop’s letter that he sent to the priests of the diocese.

My Brothers in Christ:

Peace be with you.  In consultation with the bishops of Florida, our priests and others, I encourage you and your parishioners to join me via livestream during Holy Week for our liturgical celebrations:  the Chrism Mass, the Sacred Paschal Triduum – Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Passion of the Lord, and the Easter Vigil.

Easter Sunday Mass will be broadcast from St. James Cathedral at 12:30 p.m. throughout the Diocese on WFTV-Channel 9.  Invite your parishioners to participate in Holy Week through these streamed opportunities.  Provide them with spiritual resources and guidance so they are able to participate as best as possible, even though remotely.

Social distancing is a sacrifice, especially when we consider reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  No distance is greater than the closeness God gave us through His Son who died for us that we might have the greatest distance, everlasting life.

Pray with me.  You are ever present in my heart.

Holy Week Directives:

Palm Sunday

  1. Live-streaming of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is allowed.
  2. Palms may be blessed on Palm Sunday but they are to be distributed at a later date when public liturgies resume and people are allowed to gather.
  3. The Passion on Palm Sunday can be read by a deacon or priest alone.

Triduum Liturgies

Triduum liturgies will be broadcast throughout the diocese from St. James Cathedral.

(web links will be forthcoming for you to share with your parishioners.)

Chrism Mass, Wednesday, April 8, 6:30 p.m.

Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Thursday, April 9, 7:00 p.m.

Passion of Our Lord, Friday, April 10, 3:00 p.m.

At the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter, April 11, 8:00 p.m.

Resurrection of the Lord, The Mass of Easter Day, April 12, 12:30 p.m. aired on WFTV Ch. 9 (priests are able to livestream from parishes as you also deem appropriate)

Sincerely yours in Christ

Most Reverend John Noonan

Bishop of Orlando

Join us in our celebration of the Eucharist for Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020 on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/St-Andrew-Catholic-Community-494812197673244/.  I will let you know in the coming week what time Palm Sunday Mass will be available for viewing.

Always, may God’s peace be yours,

Fr. Leo

Thank you to all those who have mailed your offertory to the church or used the diocese’s online link to make a donation. Your offertory is greatly appreciated! Mailing your offertory is easy, simply seal your offertory envelope and place a stamp on it. It is already addressed to the church. To donate online, please go to this link https://www.orlandodiocese.org/landing/ and click on the yellow button labeled “Donations to your Parish”. Then follow the prompts to make your donation. Thank you!

How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 9

March 27

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 She never mentions God, but Allyson Felix writes about “Hope.” One cannot have Hope or write about Hope without having a belief in a Higher Power who is benevolent. We as Christians call that Higher Power, “Jesus” who is the hope for the world. The article below is well worth reading and so I give it to you on this Friday the ninth day. I would also encourage you to listen to the song, “Jesus Hope for the World.”

This morning I am feeling alone, afraid and unsure. I, along with the rest of the world, learned that the Tokyo Olympic Games will be postponed until 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t know how that makes you feel – maybe the Games are a form of entertainment to you, maybe they give you that warm feeling that reminds you our world can come together around something good. Or maybe you’re a fellow Olympian and this news feels like a crushing blow. I’ve woken up every morning for the last 6,055 days, since I was 17 years old, relentlessly pursuing Olympic Gold.

At a time like this, it is hard not to focus on the loss, to not think about what could have been. That is something that can be hard about having audacious dreams. Sometimes, you believe so strongly in that dream that you begin to think that you have already earned it, that it is already yours. Until it is taken away from you. This has been a sobering reminder that we are not owed our dreams, those dreams do not come free and you do not accomplish them alone.

The last two years in my career have been the hardest, by far. They’ve required much sacrifice. My young family and I moved from Michigan to California for training. My husband gave up his job to be able to support my Olympic dream. My coach, Bob Kersee, has committed to commuting over two hours each day so that we can train closer to my home and 1-year-old daughter. I have so much help in the form of my team of trainers, doctors, agents and managers who all pour themselves into my dream. The sacrifices are real and I think that’s where a lot of the disappointment comes from

You might be sitting there reading this; alone, afraid and unsure because you’ve spent your entire adult life showing up to work every day and in the blink of an eye all that you’ve been dreaming about, all that you’ve “earned” is seemingly taken away with six words, “We have to let you go.” You might be a business owner who against all of the odds had a unique idea and took the risk and bought that food truck – chasing those audacious dreams – and now you’re sitting alone, afraid and unsure about how your business will stay open. You might be celebrating welcoming a beautiful new life into this world, but are feeling so alone, afraid and unsure because you have no idea what the world is going to look like six months from now. There is so much loss happening all around us and it’s hard not to focus only on the negative. We need to grieve our losses and collectively grieve the losses of others, but we have to hold onto hope.

Those 6,055 days ago, I was at my first outdoor world championship in Paris, France. I took 6th place in the quarter-finals and I’ll never forget the headline in the newspaper Felix Flops in Pro Debut. I was devastated and never wanted to feel that feeling again, but then the news came that the woman who won the 200m final, Kelli White, tested positive for use of a performance enhancing drug. I knew at that point that sports aren’t simply entertainment. I knew that I wanted to one day stand on top of that podium – the right way – with my head high, my heart full, my conscience clear and my hand covering my heart out of respect for the country I have the privilege of representing. I’m asked a lot what makes me want to continue on. It’s not gold medals or world records. I’ve woken up each and every morning for the past 6,055 days wanting to send a message of hope. Hope that you can accomplish your dreams, hope that you can make it through your deepest disappointment, hope that you can do things with integrity, hope that you can overcome — no matter what you are faced with.

Today is no different. Today, I’m 34 years old, and I am standing here with a message of hope. Right now things are uncertain, we are facing tremendous challenges and loss of an unthinkable proportion. But as a global community we have to commit to waking up tomorrow morning and finding a new way to relentlessly pursue our audacious dreams. I’m thankful to the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and USA Track & Field for leading our sport and the Olympic movement during this time. While the news of postponement is disappointing, you have without a doubt made the right decision for us and for the world.

I am not sure what the future holds, but my goals have not changed. I still hope to experience the feeling of standing on that podium in 2021 and I hope my journey to try to get back there will inspire you to keep moving forward. Stay safe, stay inside, wash your hands, lead with love, check on each other and be kind. We will get through this, together.

Allyson Felix owns six Olympic gold medals, the most ever for a female track and field athlete. She’s the most decorated track athlete, ever, at the World Championships: she owns 18 career medals.

Always, may God’s peace be yours,

Fr. Leo

Thank you to all those who have mailed your offertory to the church or used the diocese’s online link to make a donation. Your offertory is greatly appreciated! Mailing your offertory is easy, simply seal your offertory envelope and place a stamp on it. It is already addressed to the church. To donate online, please go to this link https://www.orlandodiocese.org/landing/ and click on the yellow button labeled “Donations to your Parish”. Then follow the prompts to make your donation. Thank you!

How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 8

March 26

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

From time to time, a staff member will provide an article or reflection. Today Kathy Morgan has provided an article/activity that might be helpful during this time.

Be the Difference for Loved Ones during Covid-19

Isolation from friends and family, job loss and death are challenges we’re all facing during these days of COVID-19. You are not alone. COVID-19 is affecting families across the world.

We encourage you to stay connected with your loved ones while practicing physical distancing. It’s important that you support one other during this difficult time, especially if your loved one may be facing a mental health concern.

Use tips from the (Mental Health First Aid) MHFA curriculum to reach out to someone who might need you.

  1. Treat the person with respect and dignity. Listen nonjudgmentally, and respect the person’s privacy and confidentiality.
  2. Offer consistent emotional support and understanding. In difficult times, we all need additional love and understanding. Remember to be empathetic, compassionate and patient.
  3. Have realistic expectations. Accept the person as they are. Tough times can make it harder than usual to do everyday activities like cleaning the house, paying bills or feeding the dog.
  4. Give the person hope Remind your loved one that with time and treatment, they will feel better and there is hope for a more positive future.
  5. Provide practical help. Offer help with overwhelming tasks, but be careful not to take over or encourage dependency. For example, offer to bring groceries over.
  6. Offer information. Provide information and resources for additional support, including self-help strategies and professional help.

Several tips for what not to do are:

  1. Don’t tell someone to “snap out of it” or to “get over it.”
  2. Don’t adopt an overinvolved or overprotective attitude toward someone who is depressed.
  3. Don’t use a patronizing tone of voice or a facial expression that shows an extreme look of concern.
  4. Don’t ignore, disagree with or dismiss the person’s feelings by attempting to say something positive like, “You don’t seem that bad to me.”

If you’re still not sure what to do, reach out to your primary care physician. This person can help you with determining the best next steps for mental health support strategies, resources or treatments. Thank you for choosing to #BeTheDifference for yourself and your loved ones during this difficult time.

Thank you to Kathy for sharing this important information.

Always, may God’s peace be yours,

Fr. Leo

Thank you to all those who have mailed your offertory to the church or used the diocese’s online link to make a donation. Your offertory is greatly appreciated! Mailing your offertory is easy, simply seal your offertory envelope and place a stamp on it. It is already addressed to the church. To donate online, please go to this link https://www.orlandodiocese.org/landing/ and click on the yellow button labeled “Donations to your Parish”. Then follow the prompts to make your donation. Thank you!

How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 7

March 25

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Regarding songs that might be helpful during this time of uncertainty, one of the teachers at our school wrote… “Stronger” by Mandisa is another inspirational song…”. Beautiful song, check it out.

I mentioned in one of the earlier emails about trying to maintain some prayer routine or prayer ritual during these unfamiliar days. One big help in doing so is by creating a prayer space or corner in your home. I encourage you to create a prayer space and use it now and on the other side of this uncomfortable situation we are all in together. I know that many of you already have created a sacred space in your home or apartment to pray. Our teachers at St. Andrew Catholic School have for years had a prayer space inside each classroom. Speaking of our teachers, they are about to embark on virtual learning for our St. Andrew students, so please keep them and their students in your prayers since this is new for everyone.

I can remember clearly when I was in seminary creating such a space in my room. Each room in the seminary had 10-foot-tall wooden closets that were relatively light weight. I moved mine in such a way that I blocked off a portion of the room which provided a semi-private space which I used as my prayer area. I put a cross on the wall and had various spiritual/prayer books that I placed within reach. This was my sacred space. You can do the same. Make a space for prayer, if you haven’t already, for you or for your family. What a witness that might be to your family.

Here is a “How To” list for your prayer space:

 Choose a religious focal piece: Decide what religious object or symbol will grab your attention as your walk by, as a reminder to pray: a cross, a crucifix, a statue, a rosary laid on a table, a picture, etc.

Pick the right spot: Find a spot in your home, such as a corner nook, big enough for you to be comfortable. A spot by a window is a good idea, or some other secluded spot in the home. Include chairs or a small couch or sit on the floor. If you have a family, try to keep this space special and set apart exclusively for quiet prayer and spiritual reading, if you are able to. Avoid using it for other activities such as checking email or playing games.

Gather items to your sacred space: Locate religious books, holy cards, spiritual material, a Bible, images of saints or of God, etc. and place them in your sacred space as a means for prayer and reflection.

The more you spend time praying in your new space, the more you will find that it becomes a habit to move into this space when you pray. Always, we prayer for one another, our nation and our world. We are in this together. Know that I am praying for you!

Always, may God’s peace be yours.

Fr. Leo

How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 6

March 24

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I hope the suggestions for self-care were helpful to you. It has been passed on to me by one of our parishioners that one way to be prayerful during this time is to pray a Hail Mary as you wash your hands for 20 seconds. I tried it and by the time I finished washing my hands for 20 seconds I was finished praying the Hail Mary. Thanks JM.

When you find yourself anxious, fearful or depressed about this current situation (which are normal feelings to have), try not to live in that space. After you have acknowledged your feelings, do something positive. During mass we intentionally choose music that will mirror the readings of the day or a situation that our community might be experiencing. One positive way of moving forward in this awkward time is to listen to music that positively influences your feelings. Here is a short list of liturgical songs that you can Google and listen to that might be helpful:

  • Be Not Afraid – Bob Dufford
  • Here I Am – Tom Booth
  • You Are Here – William McDowell
  • Falling on my Knees – William McDowell
  • I Surrender All – various
  • You Know My Name – Tasha Cobb
  • I Will Be with You – Roger Moore

And remember that you are not alone. All of us are experiencing this change collectively.

Peace

Fr. Leo

Romans 14:8

How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 5

March 23

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Our first weekend not in church was odd. I hope you found a mass online that was helpful to you. They are numerous. I said mass at my house and kept you in prayer. Let us continue to pray for one another, especially those who struggle with loneliness, depression and anxiety during this time. Remember all those who are sick and those who care for them. We pray for the scientists, health professionals, public officials, and all who are serving the common good in this difficult and uncertain time.

Kathy Morgan, our Youth Minister, found the attached article and passed it on to me. It is a very helpful way to care for yourself during these difficult times. Please make time to read it. Try to take one day at a time and not focus on the future since it is unknown. This is the day the Lord has made. We trust in the Lord for he is good and his mercy endures forever.

Always, may God’s peace be yours.

Fr. Leo

How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 4

Sunday, March 22

The Lord be with you.

Sunday with no congregation, no church, no music, just really stinks!! But it is real and it is where we are so we have to face it. The good news is that we never face anything by ourselves. God is with us so we need not grieve like the unbeliever. But we do need to grieve, because there is a certain sadness that’s unfolding in our lives.

My homily is included below. Please make time to read the Gospel, John 9:1-41 which is also in your Gospel Reflection booklet.

In addition to the Gospel Reflection booklet, you have the keychain Praying with the Mass, and so you know how to prayerfully read the gospel and follow along as you would do at mass. On the Diocesan website https://www.orlandodiocese.org/landing/ there’s information about Spiritual Communion so please be attentive to that. Also, because we cannot have a collection I would invite you to use the donation button on that website to make your offertory to the church. I do realize that for many of us who are out of work, making a contribution to the church at this time is difficult.

Please make use of Mass on the Internet or on EWTN https://www.ewtn.com/tv or CCTN https://www.cctn.org.

Also, a number of you have responded to my emails. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to do so, although it is not expected. If you are having a lot of stress and anxiety that is causing you alarm I will try to respond to your email.

Always, may God’s peace by yours,

Fr. Leo

March 22, 2020 The Fourth Sunday of Lent

Mass Intentions: Sinora Dorvil, Tany, Augustin Parador, Thomas Scaria, Semie Descopain, Josefina Rivera, Rosa Elvira Aquino, The Blanco Family, and in Thanksgiving for Frantz Dutes.

In every Catholic mass before we receive communion, the priest lifts high the host, the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, and breaks it. It is a reminder to him and all the faithful that we, the body of Christ, are broken, and the same way that Christ was broken on the cross, the people of God are broken, and all of creation holds a certain brokenness, a fragility that is precious to God.

Yes everyone is broken. Whether we talk about it or not. The good news is that today we have a beautiful gospel that reminds us of the preciousness of our brokenness, the holiness of our woundedness, for it is the passageway to transformation.

“Was it his sin or his parents’ sin?” This was the question from the disciples to Jesus as they see this blind man. It was a belief during this time, that any type of hardship, disease, brokenness, disability was a result of sin, either yours or your parents. So even though the disciples have been following Jesus for some time now they are still stuck in this death-delivering belief system.

But notice how clearly Jesus responds,

no parable

no metaphor

no analogy

no questions

just a straight, and clear direct answer:

“This blindness is so the works of God might be made visible through him.” The blindness has a deeper meaning so God‘s word can be made visible.

In today’s gospel this blind man’s disability is to give him a new ability. That is so God’s word will shine through him

In the same way the disciples are invited to believe that this man’s blindness is to work for God, we are invited to believe that our precious brokenness, that our pain and suffering also is to work for God so God might be made visible through our brokenness. That does not make pain or suffering go away but hopefully it’s not as heavy. We don’t have to cling to it. We can hold it with our hands wide open because it can have a deeper meaning. Can you believe this?

Can you believe that your suffering, your brokenness, is precious in the eyes of God and can have a deeper meaning than just the pain we experience?

Believe that your cancer, your divorce, your infidelity, your addiction, your suffering, your car accident, your bankruptcy, your been being laid off, your depression, your anxiety, that your brokenness and your suffering can serve a higher purpose!

Don’t be stuck in the death-delivering belief system like these followers of Jesus, believing that your trials and tribulations are because of your imperfections, your sin or those of your parents and somehow the God of love is punishing you, seeking revenge for what you have done wrong.

People do believe this. This belief leads to death. It will kill your soul. It’s not true! It has never been true and it will never be true. Why would Divine Perfection ever need to punish? We do a pretty good job of punishing ourselves and one another. God does not need to do that. Don’t buy into the death-delivering belief system.

A higher purpose. A deeper meaning. It takes a while for our eyes of faith to see with a greater clarity what might be the deeper meaning of our suffering. The man born blind comes to faith at the end of the gospel, but before then he is rejected, misunderstood, denied by family and friends and kicked out of the temple. His entire Community is stuck in fear, refusing to believe in a deeper meaning of his life.

Fear! If we’re honest, we’ve been there before, stuck in fear. Maybe that’s why we want to move so quickly from our own experience of pain or the pain of a loved one. Move quickly away before it can clarify our vision and teach us something new and beautiful.

The man born blind stays with his experience. He does not deny. He’s not distracted from it. He doesn’t even try to understand it. He continues to proclaim what he has experienced. “I was once blind and now I can see.”

For God’s work to show through us, requires a willingness to be faithful to our experience whatever it might be.

Now of course, if we experience something that’s positive, it’s easy to be faithful to it. We like to talk about it. But if we experience some pain or discomfort or embarrassment or shame, we want to forget, deny, distract or self-medicate.

Only by staying with our uncomfortable experiences long enough for it to teach us and begin to transform us, can we see with greater clarity how it might be used for the kingdom. Its deeper meaning.

Because it is great love or great suffering that have the energy to transform us. We would prefer great love over great suffering.

The man born blind knew great suffering in his blindness and in his sight because of the rejection he experienced. But through being faithful to his experiences he comes to faith. As he proclaims before Jesus at the end of the gospel, “I do believe Lord. “

Believe! Believe that in the midst of this virus, this dis-ease, this pandemic, that God is doing something new in our lives and the lives of our nation and the lives of all those living in this world. Believe that we are not being punished for sins. Believe that this time of grief and uncertainty, suffering and anxiety and fear can be used for a deeper meaning, a higher purpose. That God‘s work is being made visible through us during this pandemic!

We do not have to be stuck in fear! We will be fearful at times! But we do not have to be stuck. Be courageous like the man born blind who is healed and comes to faith. He mimics the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, always inviting us to know in our hearts, (because our mind cannot take us there), that God is working through this, in us, and with us, doing something new! And so pray to have the eyes to see it!

Be honest about your experience, and the pain of this suffering. Lament, complain, cry out, voice your own fear and anxiety and frustrations and grief to God. Because so much has already been lost. Lives, financial resources, security, jobs, education, the list goes on….

This is our experience, the experience of the world, of our nation, and of the St. Andrew community.

Like the man born blind, be faithful to your experience.

But hold it lightly and with great gentleness and compassion, knowing that the same God who sustained Jesus Christ in the midst of His lamentations and complaint in the Garden of Gethsemane, will certainly hear and honor our cry and lament and suffers with us.

And so, like the man born blind, we wait with faith, to see more clearly how our suffering, precious to God, can show forth the work of God.

How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 3

March 21

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In Psalm 46 verse 10 we are reminded that God alone is God and God is sustaining us:

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still

Be

May we know what our ancestors in faith have known, that even in our darkest or most difficult hour we are being sustained by a compassionate God who pains with us in the great act of solidarity and love who is Jesus Christ.

May we be in solidarity and love with one another and our world.

Fr. Leo

How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 2

March 20

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are quickly moving beyond the quasi-normal experience of preparing for a hurricane. We know when hurricane season begins what we need to do, it’s almost routine. We know that in a matter of days and sometimes hours we have endured another storm. But this is different.

The not knowing and waiting is new for most of us. Being anxious, having insomnia, and worrying, etc. is part of the challenge of this pandemic. It is unsettling!

Yet our biblical history is full of unsettling situations from which new life arose. From the Hebrew Scriptures to the New Testament, God has worked in the unsettling disruptions of life.

Amos, a caretaker for Sycamore trees, was disrupted from his task and was called to be a prophet (Amos 7:14). Ananias, who laid hands on Paul/Saul (Acts 9:10-16) makes his resistance known to God. But both of these faithful men ease into the disruption in their lives and in doing so allow God’s work to be done.

Life as we once knew it has changed and we do not know what the future holds. But we can take solace in the reality that God works, sustains and loves us through the disruptions of our lives.

So we move forward, perhaps in ways unfamiliar to us: taking a walk and enjoying the beauty of the day; cultivating a prayer routine with our spouse or family members; reaching out via phone or text. This is an important time and a great opportunity for all of us to see, experience and know each other and God in ways that are new and perhaps unfamiliar. Let us move forward into this disruption with faith and great compassion as we work with God to do something new in our lives. Below are some ways to move forward:

  • When my family lived in Okinawa on the Air Force base 55 years ago, we used to go on drives in the car, with no destination in mind. It was great family time. Gas is pretty cheap now so you may want to go on a leisurely drive.
  • Also, there are numerous videos online to help you move and exercise since the gyms and YMCAs are closed.
  • Here are a few Internet links that might be helpful and spiritually uplifting:

Bottom line, do something positive and don’t watch the news all day.

Always, may God’s peace be yours,

Fr. Leo

How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 1

March 19

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Day 1 of church closure at St. Andrew

Unfortunately, there has been and will be lay-offs for thousands of people; many who may worship here at St. Andrew. This is a hardship and can add to the already stressful situation that we are experiencing. Therefore, it might be helpful to develop a life-giving routine that provides you with focus and structure as we all wait for resolution. We each belong to a God who is always inviting us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and each other. This “free-time” can be used to renew, rebuild and reconcile relationships. A prayer, a note, a text, a phone call, each have the power to draw us closer, to one another and in turn to Christ. In the coming days or weeks, I hope to put together a day of refection or/and a daily prayer/mindfulness routine, something you can do at home, which may be helpful in your own spiritual development and growth. Be assured that I keep you in prayers especially when I offer mass.

There are a few announcements that I have received that I want to share with you today:

  • Please check out the Diocesan website with the message from our Bishop: www.orlandodiocese/landing/. It is pretty much the same as what was in the email you received yesterday from me. Just as importantly, below the Bishop’s message is a button for donations/offertory to the church. The Diocese has established this link because parishes still have to operate and pay bills and salaries, even though the church is closed. All of us are affected by this virus in one way or another and we do not yet know when we will be in the church and have the normal offertory collection. Therefore, using the donation link will be of great help during this difficult time.
  • The Pope has asked us to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary together at 4pm today. I encourage you to join our Pope and millions of others in praying the rosary asking the Blessed Mother in intercede for us.

Always, may God’s peace be yours,

Fr. Leo

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:1-5