Letter from Fr. Keith (June 26)

Dear St. Dunstan’s Parishioners,

Today, we enter Stage IV of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Beginning this Monday, June 29, Masses will be celebrated for a maximum of 50 people, with weekend Masses beginning next weekend, July 4 and 5. Registration will continue to be necessary. This requirement from Public Health is for the purposes of contact tracing, in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19. Records are kept here for one month, then destroyed.

Weekday Masses, for the present, will be celebrated downstairs in Glastonbury Hall at 9 am Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. This is to facilitate the necessary cleaning, and to allow the upstairs to be open for private prayer through the week. To register, follow this link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/o/saint-dunstans-basilica-30565390440. Those without computer access may telephone 902- 621-1988, 902-367-7829, or 902-894-3486. If no immediate answer, leave a message including your name and phone number. The deadline for registration is the day prior to the Mass at 4 pm. We are phasing out our email registration address. Please no longer use it.

There remains some discussion with the Chief Public Health Office regarding numbers for weekend Masses in large churches like ours. We should have particulars and registration information by Wednesday of this coming week. Check the parish website. Registration access, beginning mid-week, will be the same as for weekday Masses, above.

We are inviting the support of parishioners to assist with the numerous requirements we will have to meet as we resume our public worship. Help is needed with cleaning seats and other high-touch surfaces after each of the Masses. People are invited to help with checking names as parishioners come into church. Guiding people to seats will also be needed. If you would like to help, please email saintdunstans@gmail.com or call the parish office 902-894-3486. Thank you for your consideration. Thanks, too, to the group of parishioners who has been meeting to get things organized. Many hands will make light work!

These past days, our first reading at Mass has been taken from the Second Book of Kings. These scripture passages have recounted the story of a tragic era in the history of the Jewish people: the Exile. It began in 587 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, besieged and eventually destroyed the city, and took many of its citizens away, leaving only a few behind.

The reaction of the people is captured in today’s responsorial psalm, 137: “By the rivers of Babylon.” Look it up in your Bible. Their grief was great. They poured out all their anguish and anger and fear and desire for revenge before the Lord, using words that might surprise us. Holding nothing back, they solemnly predicted the comeuppance due their enemies. Their particular anguish was the heartache for their city, Jerusalem. They couldn’t stop thinking about it. At the same time, every thought of its splendour, especially its now-ruined temple, and what they had relished in the past, filled them with such sadness they could hardly bear it.

The Lord received all their anguished cries and their honest expression. Through prophets, like Ezekiel and, from a distance, Jeremiah, he assured them all was not lost and that if they couldn’t come to the Jerusalem temple, God would come to them. Eventually, his advice was something like this: “You are in a difficult state of affairs. Not one of you would have chosen this set of circumstances. Still, it is reality. The best thing you can do is live your lives with faith, sincerity and hope, and carry on.”  (See Jer. 29: 5-7.)

These days, COVID-19 preoccupies a lot of our thoughts. Even if we try to forget it, something reminds us it’s still there. I was reminded of the virus and how it has impacted our lives, the life of the world, when this ancient story was repeated for us at Mass yesterday and today. Maybe we’ve sometimes felt exiled over these nearly four months. Surely, many have poured out the fear and anguish of their hearts, not always able to come up with flowery and polite words. As God long ago received the composer and first singers of Psalm 137, so does he receive his people and our cries today. And he answers much the same, now as then. “You are in a difficult state of affairs. Not one of you would have chosen this set of circumstances. Still, it is reality. The best thing you can do is what I encouraged to my people of so long ago: live your lives with faith, sincerity and hope, and carry on.”

Eventually, the strife ended. Exiles returned. One of the things that came about in their struggle was a deeper appreciation of their faith-heritage. All the stories of their ancestors—Abraham and Sarah and Isaac, Jacob and his family, Moses and Miriam, King David, the poetic music of the Psalms—these had been passed on across the eons by word of mouth. They organized it all and began writing things down. These writings became the foundation of their holy book, our Old Testament. Something wonderful was born of struggle and sadness. May it be so for us in 2020.

Our final livestream Mass will be this Sunday at 10:30 from SDU Place. Thanks to all who have been involved in this outreach over the past weeks. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/stdunstansbasilica

As we make preparations for the resumption of our public Sunday worship, the bishop’s most recent protocol was recently published. Please read WORSHIPSAFE: Directives for Church Services.  

I enjoyed my little garden’s first produce this week: a taste of Mesclun Mix lettuce. The watering can gets lots of use. This Saturday, my Mom turns 88.

I look forward to greeting more of you in person over the coming days. For those of you who are vulnerable because of age or illness of some kind, a reminder: the bishop has suspended the obligation of Sunday Mass until further notice.

Pray for our country this Canada Day. Pray for each other, as we learn to live in new ways.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith

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