Directives, guidelines and suggestions to pastors, parish pastoral teams and religious congregations
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This is our second week of the province-wide confinement, and our hope is certainly being tested as we prepare to observe the richest liturgical season in our pastoral year: the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord. Nevertheless, the strength of the Risen Christ impels us to live the coming days with creativity and a sense of wonderment, discerning His presence at the very heart of our life, of our family and our neighbourhood.
A. A REMINDER OF EXISTING DIRECTIVES
I would like to highlight a number of directives that were sent to you in one or another of my four previous communiqués (March 18; March 20; March 24; March 26) and which are still applicable today:
1. All places of worship, offices and gathering spaces in parishes remain closed until further notice. The only exceptions are spaces dedicated to food banks or other services deemed essential for public health.
2. Only celebrations of Mass “in camera” (private) are authorized: maximum 2 or people present, including the celebrant, observing the required physical-distancing practices in place. Hygiene measures were outlined in the March 24 communiqué.
3. All church funerals and Liturgies of the Word in funeral homes are postponed. Burials of coffins or urns must be held with a restricted number of participants (2 or 3 maximum).
4. All marriages planned for April and May are postponed. (See the note from the Chancery office attached to the March 26 communiqué.)
5. The Anointing of the Sick: Permitted only in the case of anointing a dying person; in this case, follow the instructions presented in the March 24 communiqué.
6. Sacrament of Reconciliation: Due to the strict directives curtailing most public movement and because this sacrament must be celebrated with the penitent physically present, it is not possible to offer this sacrament at this time. For more details, see section 3 of this document.
7. For the same reasons, reception of Holy Communion is currently not possible, including the Viaticum. See section 3 of this document.
8. All catechetical formation activities are suspended until further notice. Where possible, encourage families to participate in online catechetical activities at home.
9. All baptisms – children and adult – are postponed until a later date, except for a person in imminent danger of death. (See guidelines in the March 24 communiqué.)
10. The baptisms, confirmations and first Communions of adults planned for the Easter Vigil are postponed to a later date, as are the scrutinies and other preparatory rites for the Christian initiation of adults.
11. The first Communions and confirmations of children, adolescents and adults scheduled for the spring are postponed until next fall-winter.
12. The directives concerning the chapels and oratories of religious congregations, dated March 20, remain in force.
13. Archbishop Lépine specifically asks all ministers – priests, permanent deacons, and lay persons – aged 70 and over, as well as those at risk because of their state of health, to stay at home.
B. ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES AND INFORMATION
As we approach Holy Week, here are some instructions, guidelines and suggestions to assist you in preparing for the upcoming celebrations and pastoral activities. All of these measures or initiatives respect a basic precautionary principle: we do not want to encourage gatherings, even indirectly; we, therefore, do not encourage the faithful of our parishes to leave their homes or to travel unnecessarily.
1. LITURGICAL SUGGESTIONS AND DIRECTIVES
a. Palm Sunday :
i. What to do in the parish?
Where possible, Mass is celebrated with a strict minimum of participants (2 or 3, including the minister who presides).
• As announced in the March 26 communiqué, according to a Decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Prot. 154/20; March 25, 2020), the liturgical celebration must take place within the church building, using the third form of the entrance rite for Palm Sunday provided in the Roman Missal, to the degree that this is possible. It begins with the singing of the Introit, which retells the story of the entry into Jerusalem, and includes two verses of Psalm 24. This exceptional form excludes the blessing of the palms.
• Therefore, there will be no blessing of palms in the parish churches, oratories and chapels of our diocese, nor a distribution of these at the doors of the church or elsewhere, in any way whatsoever.
• For parishes that have received palms, we encourage you to preserve them, as best as you can (cool, in their sealed packaging or in a damp environment), with the hope that we will be able to bless and distribute them later in the spring when, as a community, we celebrate the victory of the Risen One.
ii. What can be done as a family?
Families are invited to place an image or statue of Jesus visibly in a window of their home to mark the start of Holy Week. This represents an opportunity to proclaim our faith in the public square. On the diocesan website you will find additional suggestions and a proposed image, which can be printed and used for this purpose. (See details concerning the website in section 4 of this document).
iii. What is available for youth?
Although young people, youth ministers, their supporters and the people of God around them will not be able to gather this coming Saturday, World Youth Day remains the international day of celebration and prayer with and for youth! Join them live on April 4, at 5 p.m., on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygTbG11Y4kA&feature=youtu.beto follow Palm Sunday Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Lépine, and to appreciate their creative response to this year's theme: "Young man, I tell you, get up!"
b. Chrism Mass:
The Archbishop will preside at the celebration of the Chrism Mass “in camera” (privately) at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral on Wednesday, April 8 at 7 p.m.
All ordained ministers of the diocese are urged to follow the celebration live, to experience spiritual communion during the renewal of the episcopal, presbyteral and diaconal promises, which will take place during the celebration.
There will be a blessing of the holy oils and the consecration of holy chrism. However, the distribution of these oils is deferred until the restriction on public gatherings is lifted.
FOR THE EASTER TRIDUUM:
We propose that pastors and the People of God participate, as far as is possible, in simple, simultaneous gestures as a sign of our communion within the Church. We invite pastors and teams who plan to participate in these initiatives described below to notify the communications department (email@example.com ), so that they can direct news media to parishes where these initiatives are being undertaken. Those who have access to social media are urged to share these moments digitally so that a greater number of faithful can unite in prayer. To celebrate the Easter Triduum, in addition to the suggestions that follow, a simplified version of the liturgical celebrations will be sent at the beginning of next week, for those who need them.
c. Holy Thursday:
According to the Decree of March 25 previously cited, the faculty to celebrate Mass in memory of the Lord's Supper, without the presence of the faithful, is granted to all priests. They are requested to celebrate in an appropriate place, to omit the foot-washing ceremony and the concluding procession with the Blessed Sacrament.
A parallel, simultaneous gesture to take place in the parishes: Following the celebration of Mass, continue with an hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by the blessing of the neighbourhood. Following the celebration of mass, priests able to do so are encouraged to spend an hour in private adoration from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30, in the church or a place of their choice. Around 8:30 p.m., they are asked to go outside the main entrance to bless the neighbourhood with the Blessed Sacrament. This can also be conducted inside the church. After the blessing, the Blessed Sacrament is reposed in the tabernacle.
At home: the faithful in our diocese can join this adoration in spirit by placing a lighted candle in their window from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
To accompany this time of common prayer, suggestions for Prayers of the Faithful, focusing in particular on serving others along with meditations on the Gospel account of washing the disciples’ feet, will be published on the diocesan website. These and other suggestions will also be available early next week.
d. Good Friday:
A parallel, simultaneous gesture in the parishes: Erect a cross outside, at the principle church entrance. In memory of the Passion of Our Lord, pastors are encouraged to place a processional cross outside, at the principle church entrance from noon to 3 p.m.
At home, the faithful can venerate a crucifix and place a cross in their window, as a sign of confidence in Christ’s sacrifice for us and in the victory of Love over Evil, suffering and death.
To celebrate the Lord’s Passion (in camera: 2 or 3 participants maximum):
A special intention is included in the Prayers of the Faithful: for those in distress, for the sick and the deceased. A suggestion regarding the formulation of this prayer will be communicated at the beginning of next week.
Only the presiding minister venerates the Cross.
The collection for the Holy Land is postponed until September 13, 2020.
The traditional Archbishop's blood drive is cancelled. On Good Friday, Archbishop Lépine still encourages the faithful who are able to donate blood to do so but at a blood clinic close to their homes. Consult the Héma-Québec site to find the nearest site: https://www.hema-quebec.qc.ca/index.en.html
e. Holy Saturday:
In the early evening, before the Vigil: keep watch with Mary in the silence of Holy Saturday. All are invited to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary. Pastors who, through social media, can link their faithful to this time of prayer are urged to do so.
Some resources: Family Prayer in each home: https://www.diocesemontreal.org/sites/default/files/ressources/Foi%20catholique/prieres_courantes/Booklet%20-%20Family%20prayer.pdf,
by Archbishop Lepine
f. Easter Vigil:
A parallel, simultaneous gesture in the parishes: Welcome the Light of Easter. At 8 p.m., pastors are asked to light the paschal candle, placed as near as possible to the open doors of their parish church, to bless it and recite the Easter proclamation (Exsultet). This ceremony can also be conducted in the church interior
According to the decree previously cited by the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Easter Vigil can only be celebrated in cathedrals and parish churches.
After the Service of Light, pastors have several options: follow a simplified version of the Vigil, or join, via the various means of digital communications, one of the celebrations being broadcast.
A simplified version of the Easter Vigil liturgy will be sent to you next week.
For the baptismal liturgy, only the renewal of baptismal promises is retained.
At home the faithful are invited to place a candle in a window, at 8 p.m., to welcome Easter and express their faith in the Resurrection. Other suggested activities will be sent to you at the beginning of next week.
g. Easter Morning:
A parallel, simultaneous gesture in the parishes: Bells!
Pastors and those responsible for chapels are encouraged to ring the bells of their places of worship at 11 a.m. for 10 minutes. (Note that this is at a different time from the previous Sundays.)
At home: At the same moment, the faithful are invited to “ring bells” and to sing the Gloria and Alleluia to celebrate their Easter joy. Since Quebec has rediscovered Sunday as a day of rest during this pandemic, we encourage the faithful living under the same roof to take the time to enjoy a family meal together and to share the Easter joy with their loved ones by telephone or other means of communications. The Office du catéchèse du Québec is preparing a paschal ritual that can be incorporated into a family meal to use either at suppertime on Holy Saturday or on Easter Sunday. Details will be sent to you soon.
2. CRESCENDO OF THE BELLS:
The Archbishop wishes to thank all the pastors who responded to the invitation to ring their church bells at noon for 10 minutes on March 29. We have received many positive comments that the sound of the bells was a source of comfort for our fellow citizens. This initiative also had considerable media impact, thanks to the coverage provided by mainstream media and which circulated on social media. This underscores that the Church occupies an essential place in public life.
We, therefore, call on pastors and those responsible for chapels to ring their church bells once again this Sunday, April 5, at noon for 10 minutes, as a sign of hope, solidarity and abiding concern for those most-in-need.
Please inform us if you are able to participate in this initiative: (firstname.lastname@example.org). We also encourage all the faithful to spend a moment in prayer at the same time that the church bells are ringing (praying The Angelus, for example).
3. THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION AND HOLY COMMUNION:
We all recognize that the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist are vital for the People of God. Being deprived of these, as we are presently due to the pandemic, represents a big sacrifice for many of us. Let us hold fast to our belief that the Lord knows best how to meet our needs, even during this “sacramental fast.”
In this country, we have the privilege of gathering safely to celebrate the Eucharist, to receive Holy Communion, and to celebrate God’s forgiveness with a priest.
Let us benefit from this form of “fasting” to increase our desire, our thirst for the sacraments, the Eucharist in particular. On this subject, I invite you to discuss and share this brief commentary from the Archbishop with your network of contacts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8178udXElSg&list=PL1FW1Sj7s9W3ynBL2-1qChdr4Og3ebdIe&index=6&t=0s
It is also an opportunity to discover, or rediscover, other treasures within our spiritual tradition through which the Lord sends us his grace along with many other graces: the Word of God, the Liturgy of the Hours, contemplative prayer, the care of those most-in-need – these are all ways to encounter the living and life-giving God.
You might find a brief review of the following guidelines helpful:
Since it is not possible at this time to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, various other means of communication, such as the telephone, Internet, can be very helpful in listening, providing comfort, imparting a blessing and encouraging the penitent to obtain absolution at a later date when public-health conditions permit a sacramental encounter. We ask all pastors to inform the Body of Christ of the following instruction from the Apostolic Penitentiary: “Where the individual faithful find themselves in the painful impossibility of receiving sacramental absolution, it should be remembered that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God, beloved above all things, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness (that which the penitent is at present able to express) and accompanied by votum confessionis, that is, by the firm resolution to have recourse, as soon as possible, to sacramental confession, obtains forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. CCC, no. 1452).” (Note of March 19, 2020).
Since it is not possible to receive Holy Communion currently, we are invited to discover and develop the worthy practice of spiritual communion, a longstanding tradition in the Church. Those who administer Holy Communion are encouraged to share resources on the subject. Here is one: https://aleteia.org/2018/09/20/cant-receive-the-eucharist-heres-how-to-make-a-spiritual-communion/
4. COMMUNICATING TO NOURISH HOPE:
a. Archbishop Christian Lépine is preparing his fifth pastoral letter, which you will receive shortly
b. https://www.diocesemontreal.org/en/covid-19 : this page offers numerous resources to continue our missionary initiative together. You will find various “information blocks.”
i. Stay informed: up-to-date information regarding diocesan guidelines, press releases, important news, pastoral letters from the Archbishop;
ii. View video clips, “Care of the Soul” series, presented by Archbishop Lépine
iii. Pray at home with the Word of God: includes reflections on the Sunday readings (Magnificat) https://www.diocesemontreal.org/en/covid-19/praying-home-with-god-word
iv. Follow daily mass at home: daily mass is broadcast from Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal. Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. mass is broadcast live, courtesy of Salt + Light Television. It is then available daylong, beginning at 9:30 a.m., on the diocesan website. In addition, Salt + Light TV is currently available free, without subscription, on the main Canadian cable channels.
v. Eucharistic Adoration: live-streamed or archived.
vi. Children and families, in self-isolation but not alone: resources for children and parents: children and families living in self-isolation in a sane, holy way;
vii. Human and Christian solidarity: how does our parish, diocese, Christian, community and family network remain an open Church … when church doors are closed?
c. During the pandemic, Living with Christ is making readings for daily Mass available to nourish our prayer life: https://www.livingwithchrist.ca/index.php/intentions
5. SPIRITUAL SUPPORT:
The pandemic is creating many situations that cause emotional and spiritual distress; we see it everywhere. In the Church, as Easter approaches, many among us might feel a sense of confusion, desolation.
Let me review briefly a couple of suggestions that were made in the March 26 communiqué to you :
Where possible, we encourage our pastoral staff to take the time to dialogue with people by telephone, e-mail, or different forms of video-chat and to make an effort to contact isolated parishioners.
Leave an appropriate message on the parish answering machine and post it on the doors of the church and the parish office so that anyone in need, spiritual or material, will be directed to the proper resource.
Publicize the telephone number of the spiritual help-line that the diocese created to offer support during the pandemic: 1-888-305-0994. Also, refer people to the diocesan website to learn about other diocesan initiatives that offer a supportive pastoral presence.
To the extent possible, participate in one of these diocesan initiatives. Priests willing to offer a listening ear are urged to contact André Dupré: email@example.com, 514-272-4441.
6. NOTE TO FABRIQUES:
A new communiqué, dated March 30, was sent to all parish fabriques by Ms. Laura Rochford, diocesan financial director and bursar, pertaining to federal government financial support during the COVID-19 pandemic: https://mcusercontent.com/a433eb20c800445084b2a96b3/files/265bc57b-6e90-4920-8128-05b8f2bbd31e/MEMO_CERB_20200330.pdf
On the other hand, in order to appreciate the actual situation of each parish, very soon fabriques will receive a form to help them describe their current reality regarding the remuneration of pastoral and support staff, parish communication during the pandemic, and the status of pastoral activities.
We remind you that the diocesan offices remain closed until further notice. However, don’t hesitate to call 514-931-7311 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org, should you need additional information or have questions.
Brothers and sisters, during this trying time that puts faith and hope to the test, let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and hear him say once again to us:
“Take courage! I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33).
+ Alain Faubert, V.G.
Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal