MILITARY ORDINARY OF AUSTRALIA
Bishop of the Australian Military Services
“0 Lord, listen to my prayer and let my cry for help reach you.”
(Psalm 101 (102))
Dear Chaplains and Faithful of the Military Ordinariate,
Our plans and aspirations for our preparation for the celebration of Holy Week and the Lord’s Resurrection are perhaps not what we expected they would be this year. Almost daily we become challenged by evolving measures that have been mandated to manage as best we can the pandemic of the coronavirus (COVID 19). This rampant and insidious infection has changed our lives in so many ways and has demanded that we behave quite differently. We even have to be aware of and thinking about the impulse to scratch our nose! Normal common physical gestures towards others are curtailed. The focus on these medical/physical distancing aspects also has an influence on our social attitudes. Governments are responding by directing that there be no non-essential contact and travel amongst other things. I am sure we are aware that this can easily morph into feelings of isolation, uncertainty about the future, and even distress. This is the reality in which we find ourselves as we approach this Easter and it is quite different from previous years.
In some places the news that we have had to close our churches and chapels for the time being caused great dismay and sadness and moved priests and the faithful to tears. It is heartbreaking. At times like this it is our faith that sustains us and comforts us. And so we need to remind ourselves once again that this gift of faith does not have physical or material boundaries. Of course we gain great strength from the physical expression of our faith including especially the celebration of the Mass together. When that is not possible in the way that we are accustomed to we find other ways to participate. Serving members are used to times when they cannot get to Mass and many have well-developed strategies for coping with that by spending extra time in prayer or by readings the prayers and scripture readings associated with the Mass that they are missing for example. Attending to private devotions like morning and night prayer, grace before and after meals, daily rosary, etc, have always been part of our Catholic expression of that faith and will sustain us during this time. We might have to be physically and socially distanced but that does not translate into spiritual separation – in fact quite the contrary.
One of the items Australians donated to the holy sites in Jerusalem is found in the church established in the Garden of Olives where Jesus spent the time between the end of Last Supper and his arrest. It is an iron sculpture of the crown of thorns surrounding a large stone that is said to be there when Jesus went through his prayer with the Father about His forthcoming passion “If possible let this pass, but not my will but Your will be done.” And so as we approach Easter this year we can enter into a spirit similar to that of Jesus’ experience – including his separation from his disciples during that dreadful time. After His passion and death came Resurrection!
Even though we cannot celebrate together Holy Week and Easter this year we can follow the time and ceremonies that will be available from local Cathedrals and Churches on line. I encourage especially families to watch the ceremonies together.
While this situation continues your priests will continue to pray the Divine Office and offer the Mass each day. Even though they are not able to celebrate with you they will celebrate/or you each day. I know your priests have a deep sorrow too during these days because they were ordained for your service. This might well be the time given to us all to renew our religious and spiritual sense of personal relationship and our need and support for each other.
The Lord does hear our cry for help and renews His promise of Resurrection and New Life. May we all enter into this time sustained and encouraged with the Hope that is His gift to us.
+Max L Davis