Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, the start of another Holy Week, the beginning of our yearly journey with Jesus through the last days of His life, as we remember His Passion, His Death and His Glorious Resurrection. Yet the journey this year is unlike any previous journey we have made through these sacred days. The pandemic the world is experiencing prevents us from gathering together in our churches to remember and to pray. However, this is the perfect opportunity to remember that the mysteries we celebrate this week aren’t to be confined to a specific building, but rather, are to shape the very way we live, no matter who we are or where we are.
The liturgy for Palm Sunday actually has two Gospel readings; the first one is at the beginning of Mass as part of the ceremony to bless the palms. This Gospel reading is one of the accounts of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday. The other Gospel reading takes place at the normal point in the Mass and it is one of the accounts of the Passion. What has always been most striking to me is that the crowds who welcomed Jesus as their King on that first Palm Sunday were the same crowds who on Good Friday called for His Crucifixion. I have often reflected on, in my private prayer in in my preaching, how we have the same choice in our daily lives: to acknowledge Jesus as our King by seeking to conform our will to His or to cry out for His crucifixion by our sins. I really do believe this is something that we need to remember and reflect on often; I know that for me, personally, these last few weeks I have realized how often in my life I have failed to welcome Jesus as my King and instead, in my pride, in my selfishness, in my sin, called out for His Crucifixion.
Having said all that, as I was preparing for Palm Sunday this year, I kept going back to the fact that not all those who welcomed Jesus as King called out for His crucifixion. There were some who remained faithful. I can’t help but to think of Our Blessed Mother, St. John, and Joseph of Arimathea. The other Apostles, with the exception of Judas who betrayed Our Lord, may have distanced themselves from Jesus out of fear, but they continued to love Him. We can judge them because of their lack of faith, but I have come to realize that, in their own way, they shared in the Passion that first Holy Week. Imagine how they suffered: The One in whom they had placed their hope was arrested, scourged and crucified; they had lost a dear friend; they had to live with the fact that in the end they failed to be there for Him; in the matter of a few days, their world came crashing down on them.
This year, just like the apostles, we are being asked to share in the Passion in a profound way. We may struggle with a lack of faith at times, but ultimately our love for Jesus must see us through. Fear is very much a part of our lives right now, but we know something that the disciples didn’t know: we know how the story of Jesus ends. We know that death was not victorious on that first Good Friday. Jesus rose from the tomb on Easter and the power of death was destroyed for ever.
As we walk with Jesus this year, we will be sharing in His Passion; we will know suffering, sacrifice, and death to self. Let us unite whatever suffering we have with the suffering of Jesus; let us pray for the Grace to remain faithful to Him; and let us find hope in the Resurrection and New Life that completed Jesus’ journey and awaits each of us.
You all remain in my prayers; please keep me in yours.
In Christ, Fr. Caruso
Holy Week will soon be upon us and I wanted to give you an update on what we have planned in our parishes. (Please realize that these plans are as of when I write this letter; so much is changing so fast that we need to remember that some plans may change at the last minute.) In my last letter I told you I had hoped that we would be able to open the churches on Palm Sunday for people to come, pray, and take the blessed palm home. We received direction from the diocese earlier this week that palms are not to be distributed at this time. They do not believe that we can adequately guarantee the health and safety of those involved with the distribution of palm. The diocese does say that the church can be open for private prayer; at this time, however, the decision has been made to not open our church building. The health crisis in our county is expected to reach its peak sometime around Holy Week. The risk to the vulnerable members of our community is too great.
Holy Week service will take place. Those in attendance will include the priest, a music minister, a lector and a server. No more than ten people are to be present. These services will be live streamed. The services in English will be on the Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter’s Church Facebook page. The services in Vietnamese will be on Fr. John Nguyen’s Facebook page: John Nguyen.
The schedule for Holy Week is as follows:
Mass in English — 8:00 AM Mass in Vietnamese — 9:15 AM
Mass in English — 6:00 PM Mass in Vietnamese — 7:30 PM
GOOD FRIDAY Service in English — 3:00 PM Service in Vietnamese — 5:30
Mass in English — 8:00 AM Mass in Vietnamese — 9:15 AM
I encourage all those who can to join us in prayer from home. To those who will not be able to join us remotely, I encourage you to take some time for prayer during the times of these services. We have included several pages of suggestions on how to keep our life of prayer strong during these difficult times.
I realize that this is not easy for any of us.These days are for us the most important of the year. To not be able to gather together, to not be in our churches that are so dear to us, is a heavy cross. I would ask that as we reflect the journey Jesus took carrying His cross that we will embrace this cross now offered to us, remembering that the end of the journey of the cross is, for Jesus and for us, Eternal Glory.
Be assured of my prayers for each of you during these holy days; please remember to pray for me.
In Christ, Fr. Caruso
I am writing to you to update you on what is happening at the parish. It seems like ages since this all began and yet it’s been less than two weeks. Things are changing from day to day and we are all struggling to adapt.
In my last letter I told you that the times for Confession that were scheduled would still take place. Since then the Bishop has cancelled the Light Is On night of Confessions scheduled for April 6th. I hoped and prayed that we could still go on with the other times, but having sought the opinion of other clergy, the staff, and lay leadership in the parish, I am sorry to inform you that we are canceling the scheduled times for Confession. We felt that it was impossible for us, with limited staffing, to adequately safeguard the health those coming to the church. If you desire to receive the Sacrament please call the rectory and we can arrange a time for you to come to the church.
On Tuesday we began to Live Stream daily Mass from the convent chapel at Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter. Daily Mass will be live-streamed Monday through Friday on the parish’s Facebook page: Our Lady of Pompei/ St. Peter’s Church. Sunday Mass will be live-streamed each week at 11:00 AM. There will be a different schedule for the live-streamed Masses for Palm Sunday and Easter; we are also planning to live-stream services for Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Details for all of those services will be in my letter to you next week.
Until last weekend I stubbornly refused to use Facebook; during this past week I have realized that it can be put to great use at a time like this. If you are already on Facebook I would ask you to check frequently on either the Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter or the St. John the Baptist/Holy Trinity Facebook pages. If you are not on Facebook but do have a computer, I encourage you to either join Facebook or to visit the websites of Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter. I am encouraging that particular site only because I have easier access to post on that site. I am still technologically challenged and will take whatever help I can get.
It is my hope that after we live-stream the Mass on Palm Sunday that we will open both churches and make blessed palm available to those who would like to come and bring some home. We are still working out the logistics for that to happen. Final arrangements will be in my letter to you next week.
Finally, while we are separated by distance I encourage us to try to be united in prayer. I have heard from many of you how much you miss being able to celebrate the Eucharist. I believe this crisis is helping us to focus on what is most essential in life. There are a number of opportunities to to participate in Mass remotely, either through viewing a live-streamed Mass or watching Mass on TV. I would ask that each of us that are not present in church for Mass to make an Act of Spiritual Communion each day. We can pray this at Communion time during a recorded Mass or as part of our daily prayers.
This is an Act of Spiritual Communion from St. Alphonsus Liguori:
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
I look forward to the day when we can once again join together at the Lord’s Table. Until then, let us continue to pray for one another.
In Christ, Fr. Caruso
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel brought to Mary the joyful news that she was to bear God’s Son into this world. In response to the angel’s greeting, St. Luke tells us that Mary was “greatly troubled.” That is when Gabriel tells her, “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid; those words may have been spoken by Gabriel, but they came from God. I have often assumed that those words were spoken to Mary for that specific situation (imagine an angel appearing to you and sharing the message that Mary received). I have come to realize that those words were spoken not just to strengthen Mary at that moment, but for everything else that was to follow: traveling to visit her cousin Elizabeth, the journey to Jerusalem, giving birth in a stable, the strange news brought by the shepherds and the Magi, the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, losing the young Jesus in Jerusalem, and then finally, the Passion and death of her Son. I am sure that in the midst of all those things, the Blessed Mother heard those words again and again: DO NOT BE AFRAID!
Mary is both a model and a Mother to us. We are going through a very difficult time in history and I think God is speaking those same words to us today: DO NOT BE AFRAID. The solemnity that we celebrate today is centered on the Incarnation, God made Flesh, coming to be with His people. He came to us in in Love and he has promised never to abandon us. We may have questions about what is to happen, but so did Mary. Gabriel assured her that God had a plan and then reminded her that “nothing will be impossible for God.” We must remember that ourselves and respond in Faith.
This is where I believe the that Blessed Mother is a powerful model for us. Having been assured that God has a plan and that nothing is impossible for God, Mary responds “May it be done to me according to your Word.” With these words Mary entrusted herself to God and committed herself to seek nothing other than God’s will.
So it must be with us. Though the journey ahead may be difficult, we can take comfort in knowing that God is with us, finding our strength in Him who says to each of us: “Do not be afraid; I am Emmanuel, God with us. All things are possible in me. Trust me. Love me as I love you.” May we respond as Mary did, with our words, with our actions, with our lives: “May it be done to me according to your Word.”
You are all in my prayers on this joyful day; please remember to pray for me.
In His Love, Fr. Caruso
In the Gospel reading for this weekend (John 9: 1-41) we have the account of Jesus healing the man born blind. In years past I have reflected on how we ourselves are often blind to the presence of God in our lives and how Jesus can restore our spiritual sight just as He restored the physical sight of the blind man. In my prayer this week I came to realize how blind I have been. Perhaps what I have learned about myself may help some of you in your own spiritual life.
I have been blind to the abundance of food that we have available to us. As many of you may have figured out, I do enjoy eating. Food shortages in stores, the uncertainty of the next few weeks, and a limited amount of food in the pantry have helped me to realize how generous God is to us in the abundance that is ours. While I have no fear of starving (like a camel I have a reserve store of calories - except mine is in front instead of on my back) I have come to appreciate more what Jesus taught us to pray -“Give us this day our daily bread”. God has aways provided for us; God will always provide for us. I may have been blind to that, but now I can see.
I have been blind to how God blesses me through those around me. I firmly believe that God uses those around us to bring blessings into our lives. However, I realize how often I have forgotten that. Sometimes I let the shortcomings/eccentricities/habits of those around me overshadow the blessing that they are. Being separated from everyone - family, friends, brother priests, employees, parishioners - has helped me to see that each one, though imperfect (as I am), can be an instrument of God in my life. I may have been blind to that, but now I can see.
I have been blind to the Grace that is to be found in the Church. That may be a strange thing for a priest to say, but, unfortunately, it’s true. I’m not saying that I don’t know what the Church teaches about the sacraments (I do) or that I don’t believe what She teaches (I do). It’s just that I realized this week that I had come to take for granted the great privilege of being able to celebrate the Eucharist. Most weekends I am pulled in multiple directions and running back and forth between the two parishes. While I try to prepare myself for each celebration of Eucharist, I realize now that many times I was just doing what needed to be done. Instead of allowing the Eucharist to strengthen me, I was fulfilling an obligation, a responsibility. There is a prayer that says: “Priest of Jesus Christ, celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass.” That should be true for each of us. The Eucharist is the great source of strength for us, the source and summit of our Faith. It is a great privilege to participate. I may have been blind to that, but now I can see.
I am sure that there are many other areas of my life in which I have been blind to the presence and work of God. I pray that God will remove that blindness and allow me to truly see. I invite you to join me in praying for the gift of spiritual sight to be restored to each of us. During this time of crisis we place our trust in Jesus; our hope is in following Him on the path that He has set for us.
Remember, we can’t follow if we can’t see.
I continue to pray for all of you; please pray for me.
In Christ, Fr. Caruso
On Monday before we dismissed the students from the parish school we gathered them for a brief assembly to explain in simple terms what was happening. At the very end I asked them if there was a way that we could all be connected even if we were physically apart. One student responded “texting”; another, “Facebook”. I acknowledged that they were both right, but there was another way, one that was most important in our lives. At that point one student answered, “prayer”. We then began a little discussion on how important it is to turn to God, especially at a time like this. At that point, one of the students (the one who had answered “texting”) asked, “If Jesus is always with us and loves us so much, then why did he send the Corona virus?” The buses where arriving so I explained to a 7 or 8 year old as best I could in a few moments how God is all good and He doesn’t send illness to us but that He is the answer to all that is bad.
I have thought a lot about that exchange over the last two days. The initial responses looked to the world around us rather than to Faith for the answer. We can try to dismiss that because they are children, but in reality their initial responses often mirror our own as adults. How often do we fail to turn to prayer, to bring to the feet of Jesus our concerns, to pray for those around us as well as for ourselves? At a time when the world around us is in turmoil and so many are filled with fear our response has to be centered in prayer: to pray for deliverance from this pandemic, to pray for all those who are ill, to pray for government officials, to pray for doctors and nurses, to pray for scientists looking to develop a vaccine, to pray for each other.
Perhaps some, most, or maybe even all of us struggle to pray at a time like this because we ask the same question as the one child, “why?” Great minds have struggled with the question of why in the face of evil, sickness, and suffering in this world. I don’t think we will ever have a completely satisfactory answer in this life. I am not a great mind, but in Faith I know that God is not the cause of this Pandemic but He can use this to draw us closer to Him. We can respond with fear, selfishness and a lack of concern for others or we can find strength in our Faith in a loving and merciful God and seek to respond to this crisis with Trust in Him, a spirit of generosity, and love for others. We can let this challenge bring out the worst in us or God to bring out the best.
We are all in this together; as difficult as it is, let us pray for each other that we will seek God’s Grace to strengthen us so we may all respond in Faith.
Please be assured of my continued prayers.
A LETTER FROM FATHER DANIEL CARUSO
This is a letter that I could never imagine having to write but these challenging times have led us to this place. By now many of you should have already heard that Bishop Lucia has suspended any public gatherings for Mass, prayer, and Faith formation. We do not know how long this will last. The Bishop hopes and prays that we will be able to publicly celebrate Holy Week and Easter in our churches. Please know that through this period of time I will privately offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each day for the intentions that have been previously requested and for all of you and your spiritual and physical well being. I will still be available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the normal time each week as well as for the times scheduled during the two weeks before Easter. You can find the schedule for Confessions at the bottom of this letter. Please be aware that confession will most likely not take place in the Reconciliation Room. Signs will be posted in the church informing you of the location of the priest(s).
We were scheduled to welcome Bishop Cunningham next Tuesday to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. That celebration will be rescheduled for a later date. We have also canceled a number of events that were scheduled to take place over the next few weeks, including the Poor Man’s Supper in Honor of St. Joseph, Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, the Friends Retreat and Holy Thursday Breakfast. The Basket Bonanza scheduled for March 28th has been postponed.
We will continue to post updates on our parish website ourladyofpompei-stpeters.org and on our Facebook page (Our Lady of Pompei/ St. Peter’s Church).
The parish offices will be closed for awhile; I don’t know for how long. I will be in the office everyday so if you call and I don’t pick up, please leave a message on the main voicemail. In case of an emergency, please feel free to call me on my cell phone at 607-743-7235. If you or somebody in the family needs to receive the Sacrament of the Sick please don’t delay in calling me.
I realize how frightening all this can be; as your pastor I encourage all of us to turn to Our Blessed Lord at this time. We are truly being asked to share in His Cross during this Lent. We need to turn to Him with our prayers, seeking His mercy, His Grace, and His Healing Presence. Please join your Brothers and Sisters throughout the Diocese of Syracuse in praying daily the “Novena Prayer for an end to the Coronavirus Pandemic”
O Mary, full of grace, Patroness of this nation and Mother of the Church, in this time of illness and worldwide need we seek your intercession for the human family before your Son’s throne of grace and mercy. We ask for strength in adversity, health in weakness, and comfort in sorrow. Help us, O Blessed Mother, to be filled with confidence and trust in the tender compassion of our God. Let us not be afraid, like our own Saint Marianne Cope, who entrusted her life and ministry among the outcasts of society into the care of our Divine Physician. Continue to watch over all who are sick as well as those who care for them and give wisdom to all who are seeking a cure. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
I believe that with a little common sense, a lot of Charity, and even more prayer we will make it through this challenging time. I continue to pray for all of you; please remember to pray for me.
We, the members of Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter, are called to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus. As our parish affirms its heritage, we continue to reach out to those in need, bring the gospel to all who will receive it, and be formed in the image of Christ through worship and prayer. We value the talents of each of our
members and feel it is the responsibility of all to contribute time, talent and tithe to our faith community.
If you are on Facebook or know others who are, please like our church page, Our Lady of Pompei - St. Peters Church. We will be posting updates there as well. Thank you!
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ALL MASSES CANCELLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE AS PER THE DIOCESE OF SYRACUSE
WHEN WE RETURN REGULAR MASS SCHEDULE
Daily Mass: Tuesday - Friday 9:00 a.m. in Convent
Daily Vietnamese Mass: Tuesday - Friday 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:00 a.m in Convent
Saturday Vigil: 4:00 p.m.
Sunday Masses: 7:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
Sunday Vietnamese Mass: 8:45 a.m.
Holy Day Masses as Scheduled
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