"Be Not Afraid!" Sent 3/24/2020
People of Saint Martha Parish,
Wow. Today is an historic day. At a minute after midnight, in the dark of earliest morning, Governor Whitmer's executive order 2020-21 took effect. Subject to a lengthy list of carefully drafted exceptions, "all individuals currently living within the State of Michigan are ordered to stay at home or at their place of residence."
Nothing like this has happened in the years since this state was founded in 1837. Nor did anything like this happen during the earlier days of the Northwest Ordinance, or during the still earlier days when these beautiful Great Lakes were governed by the British, the French, the Chippewa, the Ottawa, or any who came before them.
And yet we know that our ancestors faced far greater challenges than this. Back in our lines of ancestry are the men and women who faced down two world wars and the Great Depression. Men and women who weathered the Spanish flu and the other plagues that have swept across continents in years past. Unless we are of 100% native ancestry, we stand on the shoulders of those who, voluntarily or involuntarily, left everything behind to cross an ocean and begin a new life, having no real idea what awaited them, knowing only that they were unlikely ever again to see their home or family of origin.
So here we find ourselves, with our boots on new ground. We blink our eyes and look around. Yet we know that others have seen far worse. And, on the eve of the great feast of the Annunciation, we know that the Lord always is bringing something new into existence. Amidst the hardship and challenges of these strange days, He continues to make all things new. He is already preparing us, in ways we can't yet imagine, for things to be different when the days are warmer and we have emerged from this.
Angels are God's messengers, and their consistent message, whenever they have appeared to men and women, is Be Not Afraid! Before Gabriel began with Mary the most important conversation in the history of the universe, he started her out with that simple reminder. And whether we are called upon this day to do great things or, as Mother Teresa loved to say, simply called to do ordinary things with great love, we cannot accomplish anything if we operate in fear.
As we traverse the days of this unique spring, let's first set aside any thought that these are days of enforced idleness. Indeed, some in our community now have much more to do. May God bless those in every sector of health care. Not only have their responsibilities increased, but they fulfill their duties in the face of significant risk to their own health and, by extension, the heath of their families. Those in the grocery supply chain -- everyone from the farmer to the check-out clerk -- as well as those in energy and other vital activities will guard us against the wolf of chaos. And, dear Lord, please bless those in law enforcement, first responders, and all working in public safety.
Most of us do not work in the vital professions that are still going to work as before. So we work from home. We study at home. If retired, we live our daily routine at home. But, again, this should not be for anyone a time of idleness.
In normal times, each of us has a daily routine. That routine is now altered, but let's be intentional and purposeful in establishing the elements of our new routine. Even if we are not going anywhere, let's continue to get up at a particular time, perhaps setting an alarm clock to make that happen. Shower, dress, prepare to meet the day. A "rule of life" is a phrase from religious life, but it can apply to each of us. What time shall we begin the day? What time is morning prayer? The morning period of work or study? Midday break? Afternoon period of work? Late afternoon activities? Dinner? Evening reading and family time? Bedtime?
As the weather warms, our daily schedule should include full usage of one paragraph of the Governor's order: "Individuals may leave their home or place of residence, and travel as necessary: . . . [t]o engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual's household." So let's absolutely get out for fresh air every day! You don't need me to outline the health benefits of a brisk walk or other such exercise -- you already know it will be essential to maintaining physical and mental health as we go through these days.
In the video message I recorded earlier this morning, I suggested that we take the time to place several phone calls each day. Texting and email are wonderful things but many -- including elders in our family -- cherish the sound of our voice. Call persons in your family, including those out of state. Certainly call neighbors, including those who may be fearful or have particular needs. Is there anything you can do to help? Extend words of calm, of support, of prayerful peace.
Remember, the first thing Mary did after the Annunciation was to "set out for the hill country in haste" to check on Elizabeth. Gabriel had spoken amazing words to Mary, but the news upon which she so quickly acted was that her kinswoman might need some help. So the first step of Mary's incredible life journey was toward a person in need.
Please pray daily for those in our community for whom these days stand as an economic catastrophe. Many of us in the Saint Martha community have material blessings that will need to be tapped, as we accompany brothers and sisters through these days. Please be generous if the occasion presents itself.
As mentioned, tomorrow, March 25, is the Annunciation. A young girl, sitting home one day in Nazareth, was startled by the appearance of an archangel. They talked. She took a chance and said yes. She agreed to begin a life journey that would take her to lower and higher places -- infinitely higher in the end -- than she could ever have dreamed were possible. The Lord is calling us, also. How should we use this graced time? What does He have in mind for us today and in the weeks to come?
Finally, here is a brief note regarding one of my favorite representations of the Annunciation.
Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.
Sent 5:47 pm on Friday, March 20, 2020
People of Saint Martha Parish,
Blessings and prayers in this time of great challenge! First off -- some excellent news. Bishop Boyea will be presiding at the Saint Thomas / Saint John Outreach Mass for at least the next few weeks. So please watch Mass on Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. on WLAJ Lansing TV53.
Let me now offer a few general observations. Then I will talk about family as the domestic church. And I will conclude with some practical suggestions as we work our way through the current situation.
A bare two weeks ago, life was somewhat normal. The coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic was in the news, but so were a lot of other things. Then, over the course of a few days, many of us were ripped from our normal daily routines.
For some, the disruption has meant that a familiar lunch spot has closed, a gym has suspended its hours, and a paycheck is being received for using a laptop at home rather than for using it at work. For too many others -- particularly those formerly employed at those lunch spots, gyms, and other shuttered sites -- the disruption has been a financial earthquake.
So far, the medical news in mid-Michigan has not been dire, but as the experience of other nations has taught us, things can change quite quickly. And certainly, the other news remains fast-moving -- as I type this, governors are joining the "shelter in place" movement, even in one large state where the death toll stood at four as the announcement was being made.
What are we to make of all this? In human terms, there are epidemiological, medical, economic, societal, legal, political, interpersonal, and many other elements that will be sorted out in the months and years to come. Imagine an international "debriefing" of this disaster in 2021 by knowledgeable, compassionate, truthful, apolitical men and women seeking only to uncover how this happened and how to minimize the chances of a recurrence.
But none of that is our concern today. Regardless of what we think about recent closures -- whether we think they are too little, too much, or just right -- not one of those decisions is within our control. What is within our control is how each of us personally handles the present situation. Right now, how are we caring for family, for the workplace (if still open) and for neighborhood and community?
In this message, I'd like to focus on family. Let's begin by not allowing news sources and social media to panic us. Perhaps a good rule of thumb for the coming weeks would be to check just one or two (reputable) news sources, and to do so no more than once in the morning and once in the evening. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people with an economic or political interest is moving us toward being semi-addicted to endless updates on the latests news and speculation.
Above all else, this should be a time to think about the family as the domestic church. This concept, rooted in the timeless teachings of the Church, seems particularly applicable as we go through this. The core of the idea is to follow the model provided by the Holy Family of Nazareth. Jesus spent his first thirty years there, living under the authority of Joseph and Mary. Those were hidden years of which little is recorded. Yet we know that -- before the Mass, before the Sacraments, before the Gospel -- the fullness of Godly living was happening in a simple home (perhaps even a cave house) in a tiny town at the edge of the vast Roman Empire. With only prayer and the Hebrew Scriptures to guide them, those three were able to live in faith, in hope, and in charity.
A few paragraphs up, you saw a brief reminder of the many elements of the current situation (scientific, economic, etc.). I guarantee you, moreover, that there is a vast amount going on spiritually, as well. Every day, each of us grows closer to God or farther from God. Right now, what is happening in your family? What does the conversation sound like? Perhaps, as you consider that last question, think more about tone then about substance. No matter what is being said, how is it being said? Do the people in your home sound angry? Worried? Or, insofar as they can be, in an environment with so many unknowns, are they at peace? And does the conversation focus just on the news and on the decisions being made by politicians? Or do you hear family members reflecting on the needs of elders and neighbors?
Let me offer a few more questions. How will your children or grandchildren remember this time? Again, something is happening in your home during this time. Is your family is growing closer together? Is your family's prayer life deepening? Is your family learning valuable lessons about what in this passing world is of lasting value?
There are lots of practical ways to move the domestic church to a closer union with our Savior. We can't go to Mass at the parish, but Masses that are reverently prayed and well-preached can be viewed at EWTN (on most cable and dish systems, four times a day) and through Bishop Barron's Word on Fire website (https://www.wordonfire.org/daily-mass). Masses are also being live-streamed from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame and from several local parishes, including Saint Mary in Williamston and the Church of the Resurrection in Lansing. And, as noted above, Bishop Boyea's Sunday Mass is available to each of us on WLAJ Lansing TV53.
Our own church at Saint Martha Parish is open daily from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. for those who wish to come pray. And it is the intention of our team to provide you, several times a week, a short video message in which I will offer a reflection on some aspect of all this.
I know we've said this many times, but please do go rummage around on Formed.org. It has movies, short videos, home studies and every other Catholic resource and entertainment you can imagine, things for every age and background. It will ask you your parish (Saint Martha Parish in Okemos, obviously). Then create a freeaccount by typing in a user name and a password.
Please, as a family, consider praying the Rosary together. It will get you over the hump of praying together, out loud. And it will allow you to teach family members how the great mysteries apply to the present situation. Remember, meditation is a guided exercise in having your mind wander. So, for instance, as the family prays the Joyful Mysteries, someone's mind might drift off to: 1. The Annunciation (what might God be introducing us to now?); 2. The Visitation (who might need additional care); 3. The Nativity (what is possible, even in hardship?); 4. The Presentation (what parts of our routines should we work hard to preserve now?); 5. Finding the Lord (for whose return to the Church can we pray?). Since different family members will be thinking about different things, you could discuss afterward what they were thinking of.
A long time ago, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, whose sisters were instrumental in founding our school, found herself quarantined in a cold stone building, far from home, with a dying husband. She and her husband used the time both to grow closer and to prepare themselves for his death. He came to the Faith, and she began the prayerful discernment that led to the amazing things the Lord accomplished through her as a foundress of a religious community and of many schools.
Well, then, you're a father or a mother, and your home is the domestic church. Reflect on what you should do as head of such a home church. Listen to the Lord. In the meantime --
Pray. De-clutter the house. Rediscover the burning love you have for your husband / wife. Tell stories to children and grandchildren. Go for walks. And pray some more.
May God bless you.
Sent 12:01 pm on Tuesday, March 17, 2020
People of Saint Martha Parish,
As the nation continues to shut itself down, we were told today that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will not be publicly celebrated, at least until Wednesday of Holy Week, April 8, 2020. In this regard, please read the words of Bishop Boyea:
As have seen, the only exception to the closure of public Masses will be for weddings, funerals, and Baptisms with only the immediate family present. We had already canceled nearly every parish event. However, we now must also cancel the 24 Hours for the Lord, which had been slated to run from 3:00 p.m. on Friday of this week through 3:00 p.m. Saturday. Thanks to those who volunteered for an hour of Adoration.
The Mass intentions will be applied to the private Masses that I will say each day in the Saint Martha rectory chapel.
Pending further direction, Confessions will be for one hour a week, from 3:30 to 4.30 p.m. on Saturday.
The Church will be unlocked and open for individual prayer daily from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. Please come and pray before the Blessed Sacrament, invoking the Lord's mercy on us all during these strange days.
There will be more sent to you in the coming days, regarding how to maintain a life of prayer and grace for your families. Those involved in the School or Religious Education are already hearing from Mrs. Patton and Mrs. Rosalez. Further aids and ideas will be offered as we go along.
As indicated, the Mass intentions will be honored. As I say those private Masses, though, know that I also will be praying daily that each of you be blessed and protected by the graces of the Risen Christ, whom no tomb could hold.
May the prayers of all the angels and saints join with ours, as we ask God's wisdom and courage for the doctors, nurses. care givers, researchers, and health officials who are dealing with this. And for the elderly, the vulnerable, and all those whose medical or economic situation is now at grave risk.
Meal Opportunities - Responses Requested
Lansing Catholic High School will be providing free breakfasts and lunches to any school-age children. This is NOT limited to our school students or even students who receive free and reduced lunches but is OPEN TO ALL students. During this state of emergency, families with school-aged children will be able to pick up meals. Meals cannot be eaten on-site. Parents or our students can pick up meals for all children in their household.
Filling out THIS FORM lets LCHS know how many to expect, there is no obligation. Meals will be available from 11 am to 12:30 pm on the following days:
• March 20 (8 meals)
• March 23 (6 meals)
• March 26 (22 meals to cover Mar 26-Apr 5)
Students or parents should park in the student lot and enter the main doors of the school. Meals will be distributed in the front lobby.
Filling out THIS FORM TODAY (3/18) so their Food Service Staff can prepare - they want to support our community families during this time.
Please let others know about this opportunity.
Free Online Magnificat for Everyone!
If you are feeling concerned about attending Mass, here is a help for praying the Mass at home. Click HERE to get a free online version of Magnificat, that provides you with the daily Mass readings, Meditations, Morning Prayers, Evening Prayers, and the Saint of the Day.
Sent 4:18 pm on Friday, March 13, 2020
People of Saint Martha Parish,
This is the fourth time in recent days that I have sent you a note regarding the coronavirus situation. Let's hope that we have reached an equilibrium.
This afternoon, Bishop Boyea wrote to the Faithful of the Diocese of Lansing. Please read his message that is available HERE.
In light of those considerations, we will be cancelling our Stations of the Cross until further notice. This includes this evening's, slated for 7:00 p.m. I regret the late notification of this change.
For any small-group parish activities that have not already been cancelled, please wait to hear from the appropriate member of the Saint Martha Parish staff. It is likely, in order to honor the goal of social distancing, that we will be stopping nearly everything except Mass (including funerals and weddings) and Baptisms. Daily Mass will be in the large church, rather than in the Creation Chapel, in order to facilitate distancing.
God bless you and your families as we move deeper into these challenging times.
Sent 9:44 am on Friday, March 13, 2020
People of Saint Martha Parish,
In this fast-moving environment, there are new developments. Surely you are already aware that Governor Whitmer has closed all schools, public and private, until Monday, April 6 at the earliest. Thus Saint Martha School is closed. Parents, you will be getting specific instructions from the school administration regarding the steps to be followed with regard to materials and instruction. Parent-teacher conferences for today are cancelled.
Other similar programs include our Religious Education classes and the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan. These two will be closed. For now, we will continue our 7:00 p.m. Friday Stations of the Cross. However, the 2:30 p.m. Stations for school children (which were open to everyone, of course) will be discontinued for a few weeks.
And, in light of the most recent developments, we will need to cancel the Friday fish fry gatherings until further notice. We are going to wait until things improve, so that we can later enjoy the fellowship that is a central part of a fish fry.
We place our trust in God. Please do pray for wisdom for all, and for all of us to be free of spirits of fear, anxiety, and discouragement.
Blessings on your family ...
A letter from Fr. Mike Murray 3-12-2020
People of Saint Martha Parish,
As we expect, the coronavirus situation continues to change from day to day, and hour to hour. In the past 24 hours, two professional sports leagues have suspended their seasons and the NCAA has cancelled its annual March basketball tournaments.
Here at Saint Martha, we continue to monitor developments and keep abreast of the instructions and guidance from the health professionals who understand this far better than we do. For now, we are taking a few extra steps, beyond those listed in yesterday's communication.
At our daily and weekend liturgies, we are suspending both the distribution of the Precious Blood and the Sign of Peace. The latter -- though nearly universal in normal times -- actually is an optional part of the Church's liturgy. Also, if it has been your custom to hold hands during the Our Father, please refrain during the current situation.
These instructions have been provided by the Diocese, as has another: If you customarily receive the Body of Christ on the tongue, you are asked to please receive in the hand until we get through this time. You do still have the right to receive on the tongue but, in charity and peace, you are asked to receive in the hand.
As always, let's use outstanding hygiene. Eucharistic ministers, please use the hand sanitizer that is behind the presider's chair. And all of us, for safety and charity, should stay home if experiencing symptoms of illness. In this regard, please remember that the Sunday Obligation to attend Mass is automatically dispensed (now and always) for those who are ill.
Finally, one other note: The Friday fish fry will be conducted on a take-out basis. Perhaps next week we will conduct it as a drive-through as well. For this week, though, please enjoy a delicious dinner that you can take home and share with your family.
Blessings on all. Please keep this nation and world in prayer. Let's succeed in protecting ourselves and our loved ones, so that we can emerge into a beautiful and healthy springtime!
Fr. Mike Murray