Dear Families and Friends of SJN,
Tomorrow, we, along with the universal Church, celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, when the angel reveals God’s plan of salvation to the Virgin Mary – that by the Holy Spirit the Lord would be incarnate of her, and become man.
The Lord has indeed taken on the reality of human flesh – all the way to the end. He suffered and died for us, but we must never forget that He rose that we might live, that we might have eternal life and blessedness! In baptism, the Lord has knit us into one – He has joined us to himself, so that we might all have life with Him. St. Paul tells us that we are all – and each – members of Christ’s Body… each with our own gifts. We have different roles and ministries to carry out at different times in our lives, whatever our particular vocations in the apostolate might be. And, as is so often the case, this reminds me of something from the monastery.
The Apostolate of Prayer
At Conception Abbey – and I believe other monasteries and convents do this as well – when a monk moves from the main cloister to the infirmary, that monk is not retired and left unassigned. Though he might no longer teach or conduct manual labor – or whatever his previous assignments and tasks were – he is still given an assignment. Each monk who lives in St. Stephen’s Infirmary at Conception Abbey is assigned to the apostolate of prayer. All the monks (and each of the monks) of the monastery pray daily for all the intentions for which they have been asked to pray. But the monks in the infirmary pray even more, and not only that – they offer their sufferings for those intentions and for those who have asked for prayers.
Though there is still plenty to keep each of us busy as we work from home and share more time with our family, this time also presents the opportunity to go more deeply into the life of prayer. I invite each of you, whether you are at home alone or with your family to join me in an apostolate of prayer. Prayer is so intimate, when we really enter into it, so this may look different for each person or family, or each person IN a family. Here’s my suggestion –
- first, each person and/or family prays at least one prayer [more are welcome] together each morning and each evening for someone or a group of people, e.g. a grandparent, or medical professionals, or people who can’t make their AA meetings, for Fr. Hammond who has been at home longer than most of us, or Fr. Maples who continues to serve people in great need – whomever you choose;
- second, each person or family offers to God their Lenten fast or abstention for those who are suffering – though the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is all sufficient, we can join to the cross of Christ our sufferings, frustrations and fasting – and we priests at SJN will be presenting you all and your intentions at the altar;
- third, each day, call, FaceTime, messenger, or write a note to someone outside of your household, or draw a picture, scan it, and email it to them.
I have no doubt that you all can come up with even more ways to expand this apostolate of prayer. By God’s grace, I pray that it is something that will last beyond this pandemic so that we might bear good fruit out of this trying time.
I have delivered a tabernacle to Father Bryce (he is the retired priest from the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. who often joins us for the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass) and I know that he is praying for all our parish – he has never felt so welcomed as he has felt here, and I have never seen a priest so appreciative as he!
Pope Francis has asked all Christians to unite in reciting the Lord’s Prayer tomorrow [25 March] at noon Rome time, which is 7:00 a.m. here – perhaps that would be a fitting time for us to begin together St. John Neumann’s apostolate of prayer.
Every day there seem to be changes and news, so this may all be different in a few days, but here are the updates as they stand right now.
Most of you are probably now aware of two developments within the last couple of days: first, that Bishop Stika has outlined how we are most likely to proceed with Holy Week without the physical presence of the faithful at Church; and, second, that the leadership of Knox County and the City of Knoxville have instituted a Safer at Home directive for non-essential workers and travelers.
The Church building continues to be open during the day for those who want to come in and pray, and Our Lord remains present in the Eucharist – He is there whether the Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the altar or reposed in the tabernacle.
We will likely offer outdoor Confessions again, but in order to have longer periods of availability and keep more social distance, the times will be announced through the MyParish app, email, and/or social media as in the last week.
Our awesome parish and school staffs are – as of today – working mostly from home, though some will need to return to the parish or school from time to time for essential tasks that need to be carried out onsite. I have been awed to see how quickly everyone has been able to pivot in such fluid circumstances. With Fr. Christopher’s help and expertise, we will have a video of the Stations of the Cross – with images and voices from our own beautiful Church – posted for you to pray this Friday. A daily Mass is offered online on Facebook at 8:05 a.m. The new SJN [combined School and Church] YouTube page should be up and loaded with some content later today. We will use the YouTube channel for Sunday Masses and post it on the webpage as well… again, thank you to Fathers Christopher and Mark and to Diana and Patrick for helping so much with communication.
I encourage everyone to make use of formed.org, which is an incredible resource. Formed has generously extended their platform to people throughout the country, but we have been blessed with it for over a year thanks to one generous benefactor who covered the cost of subscription for our whole parish and school family!
I am sure that there will be more news to come, so please continue to stay tuned to our various platforms. Fr. Mark has added a red button labeled ‘COVID-19 Updates’ to the church homepage so that you can easily find the most current information. We will share more updates across our platforms as they are available.
I love and miss you all. Let us all and each pray for all and each.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Joe Reed
Your Support is Appreciated – And Very Important
Thank you for continuing to support the parish during what is a difficult time for everyone. Your contributions enable us to minister to and serve our community, and the needs are great. Please continue to give as you are able so we can make up for the lack of collections caused by the coronavirus crisis. You can give online at sjnknox.org/give or mail your contribution to the parish office.
The SJN website, Facebook page, and MyParish app are the best ways to stay connected to the parish during this time. Thank you for contacting the parish office only by phone (865-966-4540) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) as the office is not open to the public during this time.