Novena is a traditional Catholic method of prayer. Derived from the Latin word – novem which means “nine” – it is a nine-day period of public or private devotion to obtain graces, make special intentions or pleas for special favours from God, through the Saints of the Church. Our Parish began broadcasting the Novena to St. Joseph since Wednesday, 22 April 2020 in preparation for the Feast of St Joseph, the Worker – our Patron Saint, on 1 May 2020 which will be celebrated via live streaming of Mass at 11.00am.
The first day of the Novena, was greeted with heavy rain and thunder storms in the evening and this interrupted the live streaming of the Novena, Adoration and Benediction from our Church which was scheduled to start at 5.00pm. Many waited patiently, hoping they would not miss out on the First Day of Novena of our Patron Saint and to participate in the Evening Prayer (Vespers), as well as in the adoration and benediction. Eventually, the broadcast took place at 6.45pm, after the 6.00pm live streamed Mass from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur. There were many who participated in the Novena and we received encouraging feedback including a few suggestions for improvements on the broadcast.
With regards to the coronavirus pandemic crisis – an official announcement was made on 23 April 2020, informing all of Government’s decision to extend the Movement Control Order (MCO) to Phase 4, commencing from 28 April until 12 May 2020. It has already been more than 6 weeks since the lockdown started and many issues have risen within our community, especially among the poor. Families are going through anxiety, fear, panic, unemployment, and a large number are going through starvation. They are practically helpless and only God can show them the way. Our Parish Ministry of the Poor (MOP) has been reaching out to these people to help them as much as we possibly can. The Holy Father said, “This is another pandemic, another virus: it’s a social pandemic.” He invited us “to pray for these families, for their dignity” hoping that the Lord will “touch their hearts,” (cf. From the Homily of the Holy Father, Pope Francis on the feast of St. George, the Martyr, 23 April 2020).
Since early March 2020 we have been for the most part confined to our homes. We have missed so many Masses and celebrations in the Church. I am so impressed with the creativity and gestures of our Catholic Parishioners in the way they celebrate Jesus in their homes during this time when the celebration of the Eucharist has been suspended in all our Churches. Many of our Parishioners have shared their experiences and photos with me on how they celebrate the Liturgy at home.
Here, I would like to share a few of their experiences with you. On Palm Sunday, many Parishioners decorated their homes with palms more creatively and placed them at their altars and at their front doors. An elderly couple also shared with me that how they washed each other’s feet during the live streaming of Holy Thursday Mass and according to them, this was the first such experience of their lives! A young wife and mother shared how her husband kissed both her and their children’s feet, and she was overcome with emotion at this gesture of his. At Easter Vigil, the Church would normally decorate the surroundings of the Paschal candle and baptism fond with flowers and plants. This year, many Catholics decorated their own candles and celebrated the Risen Lord in their homes solemnly. Some of them shared how they set up simple altars with lit candles in front of their TV screens while following the online Masses. I know of an elderly single mother who makes unleavened bread and during the Holy Communion, she consumes it as a sign of consuming the Eucharist spiritually, while saying the Act of the Spiritual Communion prayer. Since we started live streaming the Novena to St Joseph, a young mother shared that her daughter, Sonia Gabrielle Gill, a special needs child, would touch the images of St Joseph and Mother Mary when the images appeared on their TV screen.
With these and many other experiences, you are expressing your faith in Christ and in your Church. Since the lockdown, we have been spending more time praying alone and with our families. Although not physically not present in the Church, you have instead brought the Church to your homes and you are “pressing Jesus to stay with you” (cf. LK 24: 29). Today you can feel the presence of Jesus more and more in your homes. The saving grace of God is at work in your life. Just continue to keep the spirit up – together let us build the Church, the Body of Christ at home during this pandemic.
By Rev Fr George Packiasamy