Sunday, 21 February 2021


Having trained in the years after Vatican II, with its emphasis on the community and participation, especially in the Eucharist, I always felt that a priest celebrating Mass on his own was a no-no. What was the 'point', I would say to myself.  Well, the pandemic has had many, many consequences, but one has been that I have now been in situations where it has been helpful to indeed celebrate Mass on my own. I don't mean on my own in the church being joined via webcam by loads of people - I mean literally on my own.

Take today. It was Fr Andy's turn to celebrate the 'public' Mass at 10.30 in the church here at St Brigid's, and it's good sometimes to concelebrate.  But I have also on quite a few occasions celebrated on my own on the dining-table in the presbytery, as I have just done now this evening.  With the world outside silent on a Sunday lockdown evening, the silence seems to fill the room. It's not an empty silence - the needs of the world find their way in, and, more importantly it's a silence that in some mysterious way enables God to be more 'free'. As I make my way through the well-known prayers and the readings, he feels very. very close, around the table with me. And this makes the silence even more potent, so that after the readings or after Holy Communion or at the end, or at all three points, I have to stop to just sit there and be...

I am finding that this experience is filtering into my public celebrations too. I seem to be even more aware of God's presence - and the presence of the people whether in the church or at home - than ever before. I'm coming to realise that this may be an example of what more and more people are talking about as the hidden graces or benefits of this terrible situation in which we find ourselves. 

On the day when the Gospel tells of Jesus being led into the desert by the Holy Spirit, into the place where we are on our own, we discover that, of course, we are not really on our own. And if we can really enter into this situation, just God and I together, we can gain a much deeper understanding of who we are - and who is this God who is with us there.

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