Letter from Denver bishops on the resumption of public Masses

Public Masses will resume in a limited way starting May 9

Archdiocese of Denver

To the lay faithful of northern Colorado,

Greetings in the Risen Lord!

On March 13, we joined our brother bishops of Colorado in making the difficult decision to suspend public Mass out of concern for the common good of the people of our parishes and the people of Colorado, i.e., their safety and health amidst the onset of the Coronavirus. At the time, 56 days ago, we did not foresee the suspension lasting as long as it has and have determined that it is now time to resume public celebration of the Mass in a limited and gradual manner.

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We know that this time of fasting from the Eucharist has been a particularly difficult burden on all of you, especially during Holy Week, Easter, and the Easter season. It has truly been a sacrifice, but as is true with any sacrifice, it has not been in vain. Regularly, over 210,000 people attend Mass each weekend in our state. As the Church is one of the largest organizations in Colorado, we have a moral obligation to do our part to protect the health of our members and our fellow citizens. Your sacrifice of not being able to participate in Mass and receive the Eucharist has aided the larger goal of substantially limiting the spread of the virus and its impact on the vulnerable.

In the Archdiocese of Denver, public Mass will resume in a limited way on Saturday, May 9. It is important for everyone to realize that the 149 locations where Mass is typically celebrated across northern Colorado vary in size and capabilities; they are located in various municipalities, and thus, how the public celebration of the Mass resumes will be different at each parish. What we can say is that extreme caution will be used, that strict physical distancing will be observed, and that pastors will consult the guidance issued by state and local health authorities. This, of course, will mean that access to the Masses celebrated over the next few months will be very limited. We will not go back to the way it was in early March when Masses were cancelled. It will be important to check with your parish website if Mass will be offered, when it will be offered and how to attend due to the limitations.

Since the faithful will continue to be dispensed from the obligation to participate in person at a Sunday Mass, those who make an effort to attend limited public Mass should not expect to do so with regularity and should be willing to attend on any day of the week. Important to note too: it is still recommended that those 65 and older and those with certain underlying medical conditions, shelter at home. This means some of our priests who fall into these at-risk categories and do not yet feel comfortable celebrating public Masses may refrain from doing so.

As we approach the Feast of Pentecost, let us all call upon the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the gifts, fruits, and graces we need to meet the challenge of resuming public Masses with great mercy and solidarity.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, S.T.L.
Archbishop of Denver

Most Reverend Jorge Rodriguez, S.T.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver

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.