Keeping the faithful in church

By Father Sudhakar Bhastati
Special to The Message

Editor’s note: Father Sudhakar is administrator of St. Peter Parish in Montgomery. 

On March 25, I got an email from Amy and Jim Schroeder, parishioners at Holy Redeemer Parish in Evansville, where I previously served, in which they shared an article from the website “6 Creative Ways the Clergy Continue to Minister During This Coronavirus.” As I was reading through this article, I was impressed by one of the creative ways – taping pictures of parishioners to church pews. Without wasting any time, I sent an email to the Faith Formation Commission of St. Peter Parish. They were very excited about this project, and we announced the plan on the weekend of March 28-29. When I went to church the following day for Mass, I was so happy to find some pictures in pews already!

Many of our parishioners were ready to volunteer to execute this project; but due to the present situation, we limited it to two people. Beth Kirsch and Louie Kavanaugh III taped the pictures, and they did a wonderful job.

Parishioners Beth Kirsch and Louie Kavanaugh III volunteered to tape photos from members of St. Peter Parish in Montgomery to the pews of the church to show the parish family’s symbolic presence at every Mass and liturgy celebrated by parish administrator Father Sudhakar Bhastati. Photo courtesy of St. Peter Parish, Montgomery

It was a bit strange for me to celebrate Mass and preach without people in the church, and I am sure it’s the same for all my brother priests. But now, my church is full of pictures of my parishioners all the time. It looks beautiful and, above all, it’s a symbolic expression of their presence in the house of God – though not physically.

Thanks be to God for the technology that we priests can use to reach out to people with sacraments and traditional prayers like the Rosary. There is always hunger for God in every one of us – as it has been affirmed by St. Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

As part of preparation for the Holy Triduum, I came across a reflection for Holy Thursday by Dk. Michal Lubowicki of Poland. I was very impressed by it as he contextualized the Gospel of St. Matthew (26:18) to the present situation:

“Meditating on the Palm Sunday Gospel, I was struck by this phrase pronounced by the Lord Jesus: “I wish to celebrate the Passover in your house with my disciples” (Matthew 26:18). Take this phrase as if Christ were personally addressing it to you. This year, Jesus wants to organize the Passover in your house.

“This spring full of trials, your house is going to become your church. This is what happened during the first centuries of Christianity: Christians gathered to pray and celebrate in their homes. They didn’t have churches; their homes were their churches. Even a Roman basilica, as its name suggests, was the home of a prince. The term ‘house’ has come to be used to describe the largest house in which the faithful gathered to celebrate the Eucharist, ‘Domus Ecclesiae,’ ‘House of the Church.’”

Let’s lift up our hearts to Jesus! Let us prepare our home as a domestic church. Let God be the center of our lives and let our homes be the House of God. For we know whatever comes the future is safe in the hands of God. God bless America!