Fr.Hanafusa's Letter to the Parishioners
St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Kojimachi, Tokyo
March 13, 2020
+Peace be with you!
This year the Lenten season has become a time of test for us. The Archbishop of Tokyo has cancelled all the Masses and other activities until the end of March. Though we expect a revision of this decision(on continuing with the cancellation of the Mass etc.)on the 23rd of March, considering the pandemic nature of the present crisis, a complete recovery of the situation seems to be highly unlikely.
Even amidst such a crisis, it is important that we spent the Lenten season as a time of blessings for us. In order to help this, I would like to suggest the following points:
Reaffirm the Meaning of Mass( Eucharistic Celebration)
Most important duty of the Church is to offer the Eucharistic Celebration with the people of faith. As a parish priest, it pains my heart as I am not able to offer this most important sacrament with you. In a sense, this can be considered as the biggest crisis in the Catholic Church. Though we are not able to attend the Mass, let us make it a chance to reflect upon the very significance of it. As it says, we realize the importance of health only when we lose it. In the same way, let us try to re-affirm the importance of Mass and the Holy Eucharist; precisely at a time we are not able to receive them.
Prayers that can be used instead of Mass
It is possible to pray by reading the Bible, reciting the psalms and reflecting on the Word of God personally; and if possible try to match your prayer timing with the time you usually attend the Mass at the Church. Additionally, you can ask for special intentions as we do in intercessory prayers(prayer of the faithful) and then recite the Lord`s prayer. It is recommended that you read the Sunday liturgy leaflet fully, if that is available. Then make a spiritual communion instead of the sacramental communion. The spiritual communion is a prayer that invites Jesus to come to our hearts and then being thankful for this blessing.
Prayer of Spiritual Communion
My Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.
(Spend a few moments of silence as to allow Jesus to come to your 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
(Prayer by the Carmelite Order)
Along with reciting the prayer of spiritual communion, make sure that you have read the Gospel, said the Lord`s prayer and prayed for your special needs.
It is also recommended that those who have internet facilities may prayerfully perform the spiritual communion while watching the online Mass telecasted by the Archdiocese of Tokyo. Please follow the link here: https://tokyo.catholic.jp/
I will be uploading my Sunday Mass and homily in my personal blog. You can also access these sites to read the Gospel and listen to the sermon before reciting the prayer for spiritual communion. Please follow the links below.
Prayers that can be used instead of Confession
It is advised to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Lenten season as it is a time for repentance and conversion of hearts. However in this Lenten season, confession also will remain cancelled during the period of Mass cancellation. This is because the face to face conversation in the confessional might expose our elderly priests to an increased risk of infection.
Therefore, it is requested in this Lenten season to spent personal time of repentance and conversion. As we usually do before receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, first make an examination of conscience about your sins. Then read(and reflect) either the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24) or the story of the sinful woman.(Luke,7:36-50) Finally recite any of the following prayers with a heart of repentance and a complete trust in Jesus who forgives our sins.
O My God, I am really sorry for my offences and repent from the bottom of my heart. Through my faults, I not only made myself deserving your punishment, but also insulted the One who is boundlessly merciful and deserved to be loved most. Help me with Your Divine saving power to avoid sinful occasions and thereby avoid offending you again. O merciful Lord, forgive my iniquities.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (personal translation)
A prayer to ask forgiveness from God
O merciful God, You loved us so much that You gave us Your only begotten Son. Through Your death and resurrection You made us worthy to be partakers in Your life. However, my self-centered life caused me to turn away from You and to offend others through my sins.
Send Your Holy Spirit upon me and bless me with Your grace of repentance. Grant that I may hereafter follow Christ and live a life that fulfills sincere love.
From Don Bosco Press Prayer Booklet (personal translation)
Make sure that the above prayer is not recited just for the sake of it, but pray it while remembering one`s own sins with a heart that is remorseful on sins and hopeful on God`s forgiveness.
Let us also remember that during the era of Christian persecution, we had great examples of lay people who unwaveringly held on to their faith for 250 years, even without Mass, Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession. I honestly pray that instead of letting this Lenten season pass away meaninglessly; we may take inspiration from these great forerunners of our faith and turn this season into a chance to deepen our faith.
Wishing God`s blessings upon each one of you….
Fr. Ryuichiro, Hanafusa SJ