MESSAGE TO THE FAITHFUL OF OUR PARISH ...
To the faithful of the Parish of Saints Antonio and Annibale Maria
Rome, March 8, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters of our parish,
this evening after 7pm Mass, I led the recitation of the Rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament, along with several people who remained, waiting for the decree from the Cardinal Vicar of Rome to arrive at any moment. When the decree came, it confirmed what we had already suspected: NO PUBLIC MASSES ON SUNDAYS OR WEEKDAYS, AND NO OTHER COMMUNITY CELEBRATIONS UNTIL APRIL 3RD.
I interrupted the Rosary and read the decree to the people in the presence of Jesus, in order to be able to accept this great test in a spirit of faith. These provisions are reasonable and we must observe them, out of a civic sense of duty and in good Christian conscience. They are intended to protect our most vulnerable brothers and sisters from infection. However, I do not hide from you that my heart, as a pastor, was dismayed and my voice trembled when I read those words .... "suspended". “Suspended until when?” I wondered, just as the psalmist cries "until when, Lord?" I have always said to people who did not want or could not go to Mass that the Eucharist is like oxygen for us ... it is like food, like water. And now how will we do without oxygen, without food, without water?
Maybe the time had come for us to realize what precious gifts we have had in our hands all the time, and wasted them, mistreated them, sold them off! Perhaps the time had come for us to appreciate the oxygen that has always been available for us to fill our lungs with, to consider better the "feast of succulent foods and refined wines" that the Lord has continually prepared for us and which we have declined so many times. Too often we have treated the Lord as the waiter of a restaurant or the manager of McDonalds from which to order and take, according to what suits us. But "the days will come”, says the Lord, “in which the Bridegroom will be taken away from you and then you will fast".
And the days of fasting have come! The time has arrived for us to experience hunger and thirst in the desert in order to discover how precious is the Bread of Life and the Living Water. I want to interpret this event in a spirit of faith, and I invite you to do the same: this Lent of total desolation is certainly a painful test; we might never have expected that such a Lent would ever come our way ... but we welcome it as a great opportunity for our lives. Many areas of the planet suffer for the faith and have no access to the Eucharist for months, sometimes for years. This Lent, although difficult and complicated, can only do us good ... to enable us to really rise again at Easter, or when the Lord wills. Let us not be discouraged ... "hope does not disappoint!" Fortunately, churches can still remain open and we will always find the Lord, real and alive, waiting for us in the Tabernacle. How many times has he waited for us ... even before any of this happened ... And now? Will we keep him waiting?! We, as a parish, have the grace of having perpetual adoration in our church. This practice will be maintained. In a period when other avenues are closed, it will truly prove to be an exceptional reservoir of water and air for our lives. It was already a grace before… Imagine what it can become now! Though it will be like being in the presence of our beloved and not being able to embrace them, I am sure that much grace will come from this desert if we welcome it with faith.
(Don Pasquale then gives some practical guidelines to parishioners regarding some of the changes that will come into place in parish life).
You will always find me, in the church or in the office, for any spiritual or material need, if you give prior notice.
Let us immerse ourselves in this long Good Friday in which the altars are bare and the "Bridegroom has been taken from us". We are sure that the Resurrection will come and will be wonderful! I bless you with immense affection, praying for you and with you.