UPDATED: Guidelines for limited public Masses

Archdiocese of Denver
UPDATED JUNE 4, 2020

As the Archdiocese of Denver continues to work to balance protecting the health and safety of our communities with ministering to the spiritual needs of our faithful, we have released updated guidelines for parishes for celebrating public Masses during this current public health pandemic.

The Archdiocese has worked with health experts, elected officials, and our priests, deacons, and parish staffs, to develop these protocols.

How the guidelines are implemented will vary parish to parish based on a number of factors including parish size, available facilities, and county-specific health orders. Please learn how your parish is operating during this time before going to a public Mass.

These guidelines are effective June 2, 2020. Below is an updated Q&A on the revised guidelines.

Who

A dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation to participate in the Mass remains in place for all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Denver until further notice. Anyone who is in an at-risk health group or does not feel comfortable attending a public gathering should stay home. Even with the best health practices and increased efforts to clean the Church, there is a risk of infection anytime a person enters a public space. Anyone who is sick or has recently been exposed to the coronavirus should refrain from attending a public Mass as it is an act of Christian charity to safeguard the health of others.

When

Attendance at Masses is being incrementally increased but will still be restricted to ensure proper social distancing. Capacity for services will be determined by the number of people who can be safely distanced from each other in any space and will be capped at 25 percent of a facility’s fire code. Because the Sunday obligation has been dispensed, people are encouraged to take advantage of weekday Masses. Each parish will determine its own scheduling and attendance procedures to try and create a fair opportunity for every parishioner to attend Mass.  It is important that you stay connected to your parish via the parish website, email, Flocknote, etc. Catholics should continue to keep the Sabbath holy with intentional time in prayer including engagement in the readings for the day, which may be enhanced through watching a pre-recorded or live stream Mass and making spiritual communion.

What

Social distancing will be practiced at all public Masses, and everyone is asked to follow the guidance of any usher or posted sign. Parishioners can expect for rows/pews to be roped off and for there to be a structured dismissal by section. Families who live together can sit together, but should be spaced more than 6-feet from other families.

Everyone is asked to wear a mask (except children 3 and under), and parishioners are encouraged to bring their hand sanitizer and/or sanitizing wipes.

There will also be TEMPORARY liturgical changes similar to those implemented during the early stages of this pandemic back in February and March. For those receiving Holy Communion, please follow the instructions of your pastor for lining up and receiving in a safe manner.

Where

Archbishop Aquila has granted a ‘Dispensation of Place’ for parishes to be able to utilize other spaces for Masses including gymnasiums, parish halls and outdoor spaces. Parishioners are asked to avoid congregating in entry ways and should be mindful of social distancing in narrow hallways, bathroom entrances, etc., especially if multiple spaces are being utilized.

How

We all long for the day when we can gather as a full parish family, hug our friends, and praise the Lord together, but until that time comes, let’s continue to act out of love and charity towards each other, and all do our part to keep our communities as safe and healthy as possible.

Please be patient as your pastor and parish staffs do their best to implement this guidance, especially if you have to wait a little longer for your turn to attend a public Mass.

We have all made many sacrifices over the last several months to benefit the common good, let’s not have those efforts be in vain if we rush this process or look for ways around the regulations.

Let’s keep our trust in the Lord, to see this through until we can gather again in full.

READ THE UPDATED GUIDANCE (PDF LINK)

A LETTER FROM OUR BISHOPS

VIDEO 1:
Before you return to Mass

VIDEO 2:
When you return to Mass

 

 

COMING UP: St. Benedict’s wisdom for our times 

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“Let us get up then, at last, for the Scriptures rouse us,” the Rule of St. Benedict urges us. “Let us open our eyes to the light … and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out. … ‘If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts’” (Ps 95:8). On July 11 the Church observes the memorial of St. Benedict, and his words from 1,500 years ago seem perfectly fitting for our challenging and changing times.

The Rule of St. Benedict was written some time around 530, a time when the Roman Empire had collapsed and Christianity’s existence in Europe was threatened. Given our current cultural situation and its parallels with his time, I believe we can find fruit in St. Benedict’s teachings.

Saint Benedict grew up surrounded by a culture that was morally corrupt but with the grace of God lived a virtuous life. After spending some time in Rome for studies, he fled its moral decadence to pursue a more solitary life. St. Benedict lived the life of a hermit for several years before he eventually founded several monasteries, which became centers of prayer, manual labor and learning.

St. Benedict begins his rule by urging the monks to “Listen carefully to the master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart” (Rule, Prologue 1). For us, this means establishing a daily time to listen to the Lord, both in reading the Scriptures and in conversational prayer and meditation.

Our sure foundation during these trying times should be God’s will for each of us, not the constantly changing messages that bombard us in the news or on social media. For some, every online trend has become a form of gospel that must be adhered to with religious conviction. But the faith handed down to us from the Apostles is the only true Gospel, and only it can save souls. Although the times and technology were different, St. Benedict understood the importance of listening to “the master’s instructions.”

In his book, The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus, the preacher of the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, addresses the need for priests to arm themselves for battle “with the world rulers of this present darkness” (cf. Jn 10:12). At the heart of his reflection is the insight that “Jesus freed himself from Satan by an act of total obedience to the Father’s will, once and for all handing over his free will to him, so that he could truly say, ‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me’” (Jn 4:34, The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus, p. 36).

The question we must ask ourselves is, “Do I put the Father’s will first in my life in every decision I make and in all that I say and do?” If we place the Father’s will at the center of our lives and truly listen to him with “the ears of our hearts” as St. Benedict taught, we will be prepared for whatever happens and always give witness to the love of God and others. We live in a world that has removed God from culture. History, both salvation history and world history, shows clearly what happens when this occurs. When God is removed, something else becomes “god.” Societies decline and eventually fall and disappear unless they return to the true God and become cultures that promote a life of holiness and virtue.

There is at least one additional lesson from St. Benedict’s rule that is applicable in these times of societal disunity and division. The monks and sisters of the Benedictine spiritual family are known for their hospitality. The Rule teaches this virtue in this way: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Mt 25:35). Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims” (Rule, #53).

Let us make it our prayer to be able to see others as Christ himself coming to us, even if they are clothed in what St. Mother Teresa called, “the distressing disguise of the poor.” If we continually seek the will of the Father and ask in prayer for our hearts and will to be conformed to his, then we will be able to weather any challenge.