The announcement on Thursday, April 29 of the closure of all places of worship as part of Public Health regulations to curb community spread of the COVID-19 virus was a disappointment to Catholic faithful. After settling into the routine of registering for Mass, sanitising, social distancing and reduced numbers, it was back to virtual Mass from April 30.
Against the backdrop of the highest number of COVID-19 cases recorded for 24 hours and since the pandemic hit Trinidad and Tobago, 328, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at a press conference listed several other places to cease business including restaurants, bars, gyms, malls and spas.
The Catholic News got the views of a few persons attending the 6 p.m. Mass at the Church of the Nativity, Diego Martin.
Jaque Charles said, “We knew it was coming because people [are] not doing what they are supposed to do; we all have to pay for what is happening right now. The only positive thing I could say is we probably get more of the Archbishop’s Masses which really feeds the spirituality of the people, so it’s not too bad. There is a downside and there is upside. I always look for the rainbow—the rainbow is people will get one consistent message and build their spirituality. Praise God.”
David Smith said he made sure to attend Mass with his family knowing it was the last Mass until the end of May. “I am very, very disappointed. I feel like if Trinidadians are sheep, we just follow what leaders say and it may not necessarily be the right thing.
Raphael Telfer was taken by surprise when asked his thoughts on the closure. He was unaware of the PM’s announcement until the CN writer informed him. He was visibly disappointed when informed of the change. “I was hoping that never happened again,” he said. He stressed that the RC churches were strict in observing health protocols.
“Whatever they say I accept,” said Richard Correia. He did not think he would be missing anything as Archbishop Jason Gordon would be on television doing Masses.
Sabrina Acham was very disappointed. “I am just trying to think positively and hope and pray that things go down so Mass can resume.”
Teresa Dookharan said, “people have not followed instructions and they have taken too many liberties and so the government has no choice but to institute another lockdown, unfortunately. And hopefully at this point people would have learned their lessons.”
The “gift” of the moment
Fr Urban Hudlin OP began his homily saying he was affected by the news. “Just when you think that we are holding things together, just when you think things are moving along alright and we will be able to battle through in our worshipping space as a faith community here we are again, having to be apart.”
He suggested the COVID-19 virus was a thing that cannot be seen or touched but was crippling the life that people knew. “Things seem to be passing away; it is a good counterpoint to hold in mind
that even the things we want to hold on, the things we think have value, the things we see and touch, even that seem to be passing away.”
The question he put to the congregation was: In this vastly changing environment what can we do?
Fr Hudlin said God had placed people in a world where everything passes away; the only thing that does not change is change. This is a hard lesson to grasp but helps persons to appreciate everything as “gift”. He continued, “People who take this moment seriously take every moment seriously. And those are the people who are ready for Heaven; the people who can cherish this moment as strange as it is, as daunting as it is, as distressing and disturbing as it is we still take it as gift.”
It was the last Mass until the end of May and he suggested it was a contemplative time. April 29 was the Feast Day of St Catherine of Siena. Contemplation can bring about transformation, even in the stillness. “Friends, yes, it is a very resting moment but let us take time, pause and we say thanks be to God for this unveiling…. for the people who are in our homes, the people we love and cherish. Moments are so fleeting but as I said before we take it all as gift.”
He asked for God’s blessings on all living in this uncertain time. “We take it as gift because we know God does not abandon us nor forsake us. We trust in the Lord who has loved us into life.”
A statement was read on behalf of Fr Christopher Lumsden, Moderator for the cluster of St Anthony’s and St John the Evangelist announcing that a parishioner who attended the 7 a.m. Mass on April 25 at Nativity had tested positive for COVID on Wednesday, April 28. The church was sanitised after the 7 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. Masses April 25 and after the 9 a.m. Mass on April 28. Professional sanitising and defogging took place on April 30. “All protocols and requirements were fulfilled to ensure your safety and wellbeing,” Fr Lumsden said via the statement. —LPG