'I Am With You. Always' (Mt. 28:20)
Extraordinary Time. “A time,” as Ecclesiastes says, “to refrain from embracing.” A time when priests set up drive-through confessional lines in parking lots. A time when one could drive through Nashua on Easter morning and see a local pastor standing alone in the middle of a traffic circle holding up a monstrance containing Christ’s body, while people honked in approval, blessed themselves and shouted “Happy Easter, Father!” A time when some of us have been quarantined in tight quarters together and others lived for weeks without seeing another person. A time when so many have lost so much more than words can convey.
The palms we never waved in reverent triumph on Palm Sunday were put into dry freezers. We watched on screens as Easter Mass was celebrated in churches nearly as empty as the tomb. We imagined ourselves walking with a companion to Emmaus — six feet of distance between us. We discovered renewed empathy for the disciples in lockdown inside a crowded upper room on Pentecost.
Amid all of this and in the struggles still to unfold, Jesus offers us the abiding promise: “I am with you always.” (Mt 28:20) In this special issue of Parable, we have done our best to bring those five simple words to life in the images and voices of New Hampshire Catholics who share their experiences of the past several months. In telling their stories, doctors, nurses, priests, parents, counselors, outreach workers and elders reach from these pages with encouragement and hope.
Want to read more about being Church in extraordinary times? Please click here to learn how you and your parish can receive Parable.
Dear Father Kerper
Dear Father Kerper: I was taught that church and state are completely separate in the United States. Neither should interfere in the activities of the other. This is why I am very disappointed that we Catholics have tolerated government interference during the COVID-19 pandemic. How can the state prohibit us from practicing our faith? How can we follow state regulations that force us to violate the Third Commandment, “Keep holy the Lord’s Day”? I also have read that lay Catholics have a right to receive the sacraments. I deeply am concerned that our Church and nation have entered into a new and scary relationship that includes way too much government interference. What are we supposed to do?
Your comments, which some other Catholics certainly share, touch upon three key matters: the delicate relationship between church and state; the legitimate right of baptized Catholics to receive the sacraments; and the proper understanding of the Third Commandment.
First, we Catholics live within a very large nation whose people adhere to a great variety of religions. Moreover, many Americans now profess no religious beliefs at all.
Religious liberty, a pillar of our free and democratic system of government, requires that we distinguish between the “religious” and “public” sectors of life.
Matters such as worship, selection of Church leaders and the absolute confidentiality of confession all pertain directly to the religious realm. Here the state has no authority whatsoever.
However, religious practice happens within the broader society and necessarily has consequences for other people. As such, the state can — and must — promote a fair and proper balance between the needs of religious groups and those of society. This happens in many ways. Churches, for example, must abide by zoning rules, fire prevention regulations and so forth. These “state interventions,” though perhaps cumbersome, ultimately serve the common good.
Want to read more of Father Kerper's response? Please click here to learn how you and your parish can receive Parable.
Simcha Fisher (second row, left) and her husband, Damien (standing behind her), shown here with nine of their 10 children at their home in Marlborough, N.H. (Photo by Matthew Lomanno)
Out of Darkness Comes Light and Life
By Simcha Fisher
When social isolation began in earnest, first we started staying home from Mass, then school, then everything else. The thing that brought me up short, though, was when it dawned on me we wouldn't be back to normal in time for Easter. It seemed so terrible not to be present in church for my favorite day of the liturgical year, such a loss.
Then my father died suddenly, and I had to adjust my views on loss.
It was a strange thing. All through the Easter Vigil, livestreamed on a laptop, I kept reminding myself that this wasn't ideal. We should be inside the actual church, actually receiving Christ's body and blood, and instead we were crammed into our living room watching a tenor singing out into an empty building.
And yet, I couldn't stop smiling.
Like what you see? Want to read more of Simcha's article? Please click here to learn how you and your parish can receive Parable.
Other Columns in the Current Issue
Bishop's Message - Good to See You at Mass Again!
Dear Father Kerper - Can the State Stop Us from Practicing the Faith?
On Call With Dr. Pepe - Healing and Hope on the Front Line
Being Church in a Time of Pandemic:
‘I Am With You Always.’
Father Marc Drouin: ‘God is Still Here.’
Father Ray Ball: Now, More than Ever, We are Called to ‘be Church’
Father Jerome Day, O.S.B.: Tending the Flock from 6 Feet Away
‘I will Fear No Evil, for You are with Me.’
For CMC Doctors, Faith is Their Rock in the Storm 16 Virtual Learning, Virtuous Living
The Invisible Threads that Connect Us
Out of Darkness Comes Light and Life
Catholic Charities Report - Catholic Charities NH Brings its Healing Touch to the COVID-19 Crisis
Keeping Faith With Teens - Pride and Prejudice
Special Report - Racism. What Does the Church Have to Say?
Your Faith - What is Jesus Asking You to Do?
Calendar of Events
7 Days a Pastor: Reflections from Father Andrew Nelson - Hope. Will. Prevail.
Mission Moment - Hospital's Interpreter Services Mean the World to Patients