Hope you are all ok and well prepared for the Christmas Feast.
You'll be aware from the email I sent on Tuesday night (and/or from Facebook or announcements on the live-streaming) that Fr Mark had been for a covid test and so we were both self-isolating. The test came back positive and so we must continue to self-isolate until midnight on Sunday (ten days after he became ill). Our first thoughts are naturally with Fr Mark and we wish him a speedy recovery. Thankfully, at present, I have not developed any symptoms.
The legal requirement to self-isolate means that we cannot celebrate Mass with other people present in the church, which is why we had to adjust things for Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning at quite short notice. I had held off as long as possible in the hope that we might get a negative result before the Mass on Tuesday but that was not to be.
Thankfully, we are alright for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses. These will be said by my vicar general colleagues (Mgr John Daly and Fr Peter Hopkinson). They each have assistant priests which means that they are able to step in and help us out but this is nevertheless a very generous commitment on their part and I am very grateful to them.
I have decided that we should then keep both of our churches closed over the weekend and I will stream Mass on Saturday evening (6.30pm) and on Sunday morning (11am). I am able to do that provided it is behind locked doors with nobody else in church.
Although Fr Mark and I come out of isolation on Sunday night, I think it best to wait until Tuesday to resume Masses with people present. Monday of course is the Bank Holiday and we don't normally have Mass on a Monday anyway. Given that it is the week between Christmas and New Year, we had already decided that the Mass would be at 12noon each day but in different churches, according to the days we would normally have Mass in that church. So:
- Tuesday 12noon at St Luke
- Wednesday 12noon at St Luke
- Thursday 12noon at Ss Peter and Paul
- Friday (New Year's Day) 12noon at St Luke
- Saturday 12noon at Ss Peter and Paul
- Then the usual Saturday evening and Sunday morning Masses and we should be back to the normal Mass times for the following week (except that for the Wednesday (the Solemnity of the Epiphany) we will also offer an additional 6.30pm evening Mass at Ss Peter & Paul (although, as you know, there is currently no obligation to attend)
This is not a situation that any of us envisaged and I am just grateful that, thanks to my colleagues, we do not have to cancel any of the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Masses. I am also grateful to those who have run the booking service, our stewards who will enable these Masses to go ahead and those who have stepped in at the last minute to act as keyholders, sacristans and live-streamers. Those latter three are roles which, since the original lockdown in March, have had to be done almost exclusively by the priests! It has been a strange year!
Finally, I attach the Mass sheet for the celebration of the Christmas Masses. Don't worry if the priest saying any particular Mass doesn't follow this exactly; there are a selection of prayers and readings to use at different Masses of Christmas depending on the time that they are celebrated.
With best wishes to you and your families for our Christmas feast (and the octave!). I look forward to being with you (virtually, of course) at the weekend.