THE IMMACULATE HEART MARY CHURCH DOORS ARE LOCKED BUT OUR DOMESTIC CHURCHES ARE WIDE OPEN
(Dear Friends, I wish to share with you my experiences of these days on spiritual and social level)
These days there is a tremendous experience of pain of participating in the Mass remotely with the use of remote control by all the Catholics. It’s terribly unusual for all of us. What is more uneasy for me as a parish priest is to; offer mass in an empty church where I couldn’t see a single empty bench on Sundays before the lockdown.The sound of echo even without the mike with all the doors and windows closed, made me feel at once lonely and at the same time being united with God and the suffering people placed in every seat of this big church.
I’ve been missing people (parishioners). The promise made on 15th May 2016 on the Altar as I took charge as a PP was, “I will serve my parishioners and help them in their needs spiritual or otherwise”. But the lockdown has distanced me from the very people for whom I’m meant to be. This was a strong feeling. What helped me to overcome this innermost loneliness and helplessness was the service that is initiated to help out the poor around and far even beyond the parish jurisdiction and across religions with ration and food.
As I rang the bell ( which is rung to begin the entrance hymn) to disturb the silence, I began to imagine the familiar faces in each bench and every chair. Right at the beginning of the mass, I placed all the members of 6 wards, St Michaeal’s ward Dinne, Fatima Ward, Gottigere, St Francis Assisi Ward MLA Layout, Immaculate Ward Nobo Nagar, St Ignatius Ward, Hulimavu, St Joseph’s ward Kalena Agrahara and all the religious houses, NirmalJyothi, Mt St Joseph Salesian Fathers, Holy Spirit Sisters, Holy Mary Convent, Trinity fathers and brothers, FSI convent, Holy cross convent, AlvernaBhavan.
I sensed a connection of all since every week the parishioners felt at home physically with spiritual thirst, in these seats. What struck me most, was the interior feeling that my parishioners are spiritually and mentally present here being attuned to the Spirit. As I beat my chest with humble and contrite heart they too were beating theirs. So it was finding someone in their physical absence. With this, a sense of being alone disappeared and I was with my IHMC believing community offering mass for their expressed intentions and passionate petitions especially during these troubled times of global and human crisis.
Feeling someone’s presence besideoneself is a unique spiritual experience. We feel the presence of God whom we cannot see and touch, and yet, God is close to us than we ourselves are to our own self. During the elevation I did feel the heaviness even though the paten and chalice are so light. Maybe it was the suffering of the poor, greed of the Godless and heartless people and the goodness of many good Samaritans which made me feel the heaviness.
The exchange of peace was filled with mixed feelings of sadness and hope. A sense of assurance that Holy week is fast approaching and things might be better all across the globe. With these thoughts and feelings I could see all the benches with faces and greet them with the peace of Christ. Of course receiving communion was not an easy thing at all. Some had expressed over the phone that “I’m missing communion even on Sundays”. A deep sense of helplessness overwhelmed me that I could not bring Christ to people especially the bed ridden and the elderly. Yet the words: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed’ offered some consolation. I felt that, I too am not worthy but have chosen to be here, to represent IHMC parish faith community, to receive on behalf of them.
The post communion and final prayer helped me to feel that even though we are dispersed and locked up in our homes, through the eyes of faith we are able to see and connect with each other. Prayer can unite us and Christ is the binding rope who can bind us together. May this spiritual bonding continue till we really assemble and bond with each other face to face in persons.
Fr Arun Kumar
Parish Priest, IHMC
On a social level, I feel exhausted having to purchase or procure grocery and distribute to hundreds of people on a daily basis. You have been very generous in helping during this global crisis. At times I felt I’m a social worker busy with some of the MSJ young priests and 3 parishioners who were ready to take risk and reach out to people respecting the lockdown rules and personal care. It has been very disheartening to see some of the North Karnatakans and Nepalis who are migrants with least acceptance by the people who houses them and members of the locality. Being rejected at this humanitarian crisis is a worst thing to witness. Yet our parish has stood up to mitigate their hunger by providing ration to people of any religion and food for the elderly and children. The cooperation and generosity of the parish and MSJ community and the deep sense of satisfaction of those who receive help from the parish is what fills me with joy and gratitude. Thank you for being such a strong support and strength through your moral, monetary and material help. God bless us all.
(kindly remember me in your prayers. I feel tiered due to running around)
Fr Arun Kumar SJ