Dear Parishioners and Friends,
We hope that you are all in good health and virus-free! It pains us that, for the first time since the foundation of the Oratory here in Birmingham, we are not able to celebrate the ceremonies of Holy Week together. As we all know, participating in the Sacred Triduum is a great source of spiritual renewal and grace for priests and people alike. Our sorrow is added to by the fact that the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion are not at present available as the true source of healing and nourishment for our souls.
During the period of ‘lockdown’, we have live-streamed daily Masses and Rosary. We hope that those who are able to tune in to them have found them helpful. Although it is not the same as being able to attend Mass and devotions in church, a ‘prayerful watching’ and participation at a distance can prove to be a source of great comfort.
During this season of Passiontide, when all images in church are customarily veiled, we are poignantly reminded of how we are only able to be witnesses of our Lord’s Passion at a distance.
We are constantly reminded that the home is a domestic church, a place of daily prayer for us, whether as a family or alone. We do encourage you to use your missals and any other aides you have to live this Holy Week in as authentic a way as possible. Do try to pray daily the Stations of the Cross; most good Catholic prayer-books contain a version of this. You can say the prayers and picture each station in your mind’s eye. You can say the Holy Rosary, read the Mass readings for the day, and the account of our Lord’s Passion in the Gospels. It would be a good thing to revive the old custom of the ‘family/domestic altar’, where sacred images are placed in an honoured place in the home, where candles may be lit and the family gather around that shrine for their daily devotions.
We are not able to distribute palms on Palm Sunday, but they will still be blessed as is customary, and hopefully we will be able to make them available to you when it is safe to do so. We will not be able to celebrate the Sacred Triduum in the usual splendour that is customary in the Oratory Church. We will, however, be celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper according to a simpler form, Stations of the Cross at 3 o’clock on Good Friday and the chanted Gregorian office of Tenebrae on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. We will welcome the Risen Lord with the celebration of Easter Matins and Lauds on Holy Saturday evening, with Masses at the usual times on Easter morning and Vespers in the evening. (Please see here for live stream times: https://www.birminghamoratory.org.uk/holy-week-live-streams/)
The Fathers and Brothers wish you all to know that we miss you very much and keep you all in our prayers. We pray that we may all be given the strength to live through this time of testing and trial. If we occupy our minds with prayer and good deeds in a spirit of sacrifice, we will no doubt profit by it. Perhaps it will be help us to truly value the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – the most beautiful thing this side of heaven – and that when we are able to celebrate together once more, we will do so with greater devotion and love for our Blessed Lord.
The customary Easter duties of sacramental Confession and Holy Communion have been dispensed this year by many episcopal conferences around the world, including that of England and Wales. You are reminded that a sincere and perfect Act of Contrition in circumstances where it is not possible to confess is a means of forgiveness of sin; however, we must remember to make a good confession as soon as restrictions are lifted, and all mortal sins must then be confessed. (An Act of Contrition and prayers for a Spiritual Communion are available on our website: https://www.birminghamoratory.org.uk/prayers-for-spiritual-communion/)
You are reminded that Good Friday is still a day of fasting and abstinence from all meat. Please do try to observe this fast in all sincerity of heart as a means of uniting yourself with our suffering Lord.
We do hope that you are able to celebrate Easter in your homes and with your families by devoutly joining in prayer and enjoying a festal meal on Easter Sunday. We wish you all a peaceful and blessed Easter.