As things stand with the pandemic here in Scotland, we are hopeful that the present restrictions will be eased enough to allow an increase of numbers attending Church services; currently limited to 20 people, the hope is that this will increase to 50 people. That isn’t an awful lot of people for a parish at the best of times – but even more so as Christmas is so close now.
I hope to be able to be present for the Christmas services – at least some of them – but I realise this is fairly unlikely. That said, I feel less sad about this than I did at Easter – the lack of Holy Week services, in particular, was very hard for me at the personal level. I know that for many, the inability to be present at Christmas will be hard to bear.
The news of the roll-out of an effective vaccine – and the promise of more to follow – is very encouraging indeed; the reality is that the effects of this will take at least several months to filter through sufficiently to make a real difference to life in general and, for Catholics, to the life of faith as part of a parish community.
Looking back over these past months, I perceive that we have had so very many opportunities to practice virtue – especially those of patience, forebearance and charity. And I have come upon many souls who have made good use of these opportunities. But I have also seen a widespread sense of the hope of a ‘return to normal’. I’m not sure I want to return to normal. To do that would indicate we haven’t really learned anything and we haven’t really changed; and yet, the pandemic has shown us just how much we did need to change, and in so many ways.
The Bishops of Scotland have just released a Pastoral Letter entitled ‘Light Shines In Darkness’ and it touches on the need for change at several points. It notes that – “With the arrival of a vaccine and other developments, it is now possible to see beyond the pandemic. Yet its effects will be deep and long-lasting” and it adds that “Just as the nations of the world have been required to collaborate to respond effectively to the virus, so too in our own society we must work together for a better future as we rebuild after the Pandemic.”
The post-pandemic period will allow us some time to look back, to reflect and to determine in what particular areas we need to consider our need for change – and then bring this about. And I think that applies equally to the world as a whole, to the Church and to the individual parishes.
To neglect to do so would be a sign of enormous failure.