Message from Bishop Jaime Soto - Coming Back to the Table
May 20, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ:
The Acts of the Apostles begins with the Ascension of the Lord to the right hand of the Father’s throne in heaven. Luke described the scene of Jesus being lifted up, “a cloud took him from their sight.” (Acts 1.1-11) The lingering, longing look of the disciples’ gaze fixed on the sky revealed their sense of loss. Their master had seemingly left them behind. As they stared up at the sky, two angels came to chastise the gloomy group. “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” The followers of Jesus were reminded that the Lord Jesus would return. With these words of encouragement, the disciples returned to Jerusalem. The scripture tells us, “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus.” (Acts. 1.14)
The cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic has hidden from our sight the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Lord Jesus offered in the Sacrifice of the Mass. We miss contemplating His closeness to us. We hunger to hear His merciful words entrusting Himself to us. We yearn with open hands and hearts to receive His most precious body and blood. Like those disciples in the Acts of the Apostles our gaze lingers with longing over the empty churches with silent altars waiting to fill our souls with the presence of the Risen Lord. I have much admiration and gratitude for all those who have “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer” with one another and with Mary, the mother of Jesus. The words of Jesus which conclude the gospel of Matthew give us confidence in our prayerful vigil, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28.20)
We have endured a long Lenten Season that was more penitential than expected. The Easter Season continues to test Christian patience. This has been a spiritual journey that has tried everyone’s faith. The Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, continues to assure us. Do not be afraid. With His rod and His staff, He will lead us through the “valley of the shadow of death”. He will soon set a table before us.
The difficult precautions intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus have been prudent and necessary measures. Lives have been saved and the health of many, especially the most vulnerable, have been safeguarded. This effort is still not over. Justifiable fears linger. Continued calls for caution should be heeded. The sacrifices made by those who have been afflicted and those who care for them, especially health care workers, should be honored by our sustained vigilance.
My brother priests and I are preparing to resume the public celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass. The date for lifting the suspension of public Masses has not been set but there are reasonable hopes that it will be soon. Much depends on the prudent, practical, personal measures each of us takes to maintain physical-distancing and other hygienic precautions. Returning to the Table of the Lord will incorporate these measures so that both the health as well as the holiness of the faithful can be nurtured. The steps to be taken have been outlined in the presentation, “Coming Back to the Table”. Please review this material. Prepare yourself both physically and spiritually for coming together around the Lord’s altar of sacrifice.
Join me, Bishop Weigand, and my brother priests in praying for the Lord’s mercy to end the pandemic. The sacrifices we make and sufferings we endure unite us ever more closely to the one saving sacrifice of Christ. May the Lord of tender mercies purify us and prepare us to receive the Bread of Life more worthily.
Holy Mary, mother of mercy and mother of the Church, pray with us and for us.
Bishop of Sacramento
Download the PDF presentation
Mensaje del Mons. Jaime Soto - Volviendo al Altar
20 de mayo de 2020
Mis queridos amigos en Cristo:
El libro de los Hechos de los Apóstoles comienza con la Ascensión del Señor a la derecha del trono celestial del Padre. Lucas habla del momento cuando Jesús fue elevado al cielo, “una nube lo ocultó a sus ojos.” (Hch. 1.1-11) La larga, ansiosa mirada de los discípulos fijada en el cielo nos habla de su sentir de haber sido abandonados. Les pareció que el Señor les hubiera dejado atrás. Mientras los seguidores de Jesús contemplaban al cielo, dos ángeles les acercaron para recordarles que el Cristo volvería. Con este consuelo, los discípulos regresaron a Jerusalén. La escritura nos dice, “Todos ellos perseveraban juntos en la oración en compañía de algunas mujeres, y de María, la madre de Jesús". (Hch. 1.14)
La nube oscura de la COVID-19 pandemia ha ocultado de nuestra vista el Santísimo Sacramento del Señor Jesús ofrecido en el Sacrificio de la Misa. Nos extraña contemplar Su cercanía a nosotros. Tenemos hambre de oír Sus palabras misericordiosas entregándose a nosotros. Anhelamos con manos y corazones abiertos poder recibir Sus preciosísimos cuerpo y sangre. Como aquellos discípulos en los Hechos de los Apóstoles, nuestra mirada permanece con ansiedad viendo los templos vacíos con altares silenciosos esperando llenar nuestras almas con la viva presencia del Cristo resucitado. El corazón de este servidor lleva mucha admiración y gratitud por todos que se han dedicado a la oración unánime con Santa María, la madre de Jesús. Las palabras de Jesús, con cuales se concluyó el evangelio de San Mateo nos dan confianza en nuestra vigilia ferviente, “Yo estoy con ustedes todos los días hasta el fin de la historia”. (Mt. 28.20)
Hemos sufrido una larga temporada cuaresmal, más penitencial que anticipada. El tiempo pascual también prueba la paciencia cristiana. Ha sido una jornada espiritual que nos pidió mucha fe. El Señor Jesús, nuestro buen pastor, sigue confortándonos. No tengan miedo. Con Su vara y cayado nos encaminará a través de esta cañada tenebrosa. Pronto, preparará una mesa para nosotros.
Las precauciones difíciles con la intención de parar más contaminación del coronavirus han sido medidas prudentes y necesarias. Vidas han sido salvadas y la salud de muchos, especialmente a los más vulnerables, han sido preservadas. Este esfuerzo noble no ha terminado. Temores justos todavía tienen razón. Hay que seguir tomando en serio las llamadas insistentes de cuidado. Los sacrificios hechos por los afligidos y por aquellos quienes les han atendido, especialmente los equipos médicos, merecen ser honrados y respetados por una vigilancia sustenida.
Mis hermanos sacerdotes y este servidor estamos dedicándonos a los preparativos para comenzar de nuevo las celebraciones públicas del sacrificio de la misa. La fecha para levantar la suspensión de misas públicas no ha sido determinada pero hay una esperanza que sea pronto. Mucho depende en seguir con las sensibles y prudentes prácticas personales de mantener la distancia-física y otras medidas sanitarias. Volver a la mesa del Señor incorporará estas medidas para que la salud igual que la santificación de los fieles sean bien administradas. Los pasos necesarios han sido delineados en la presentación, “Volviendo al Altar”. Por favor, revisen con cuidado esta información. Prepárense físicamente y espiritualmente para reunirse de nuevo alrededor del altar de Cristo.
Únanse con el Mons. Weigand, este servidor, y mis hermanos sacerdotes suplicando que la misericordia divina ponga fin a esta pandemia. Los sacrificios que hemos hecho y dolores que hemos vividos nos llevarán a una mayor comunión con el único sacrificio salvífico de Cristo. Que el Señor tierno y clemente nos purifique más y nos prepare merecer a recibir Su Pan de Vida.
Santa María, Madre de misericordia y Madre de la Iglesia, ruega con nosotros. Ruega por nosotros.
Obispo de Sacramento
Vea la presentación en PDF
Easter Duty Reminder
April 14, 2020
Catholics throughout the world are aware of the significance of the Easter Season. This joyous Season awakens in us the spirit with which we are to live the Catholic Faith throughout the year. Jesus Christ, who died for our sins upon the cross of Calvary, has been raised from the dead. He sits at the right hand of the Father and lives among us. He continues to shepherd His Church. The zeal and hope of the Easter Season should abide throughout the year.
While in this holy season, Catholics are reminded of the traditional Easter Duty. All the baptized are obligated to receive Holy Communion during this Season. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2042) For a just cause this precept may be fulfilled at another time of the year. The current suspension of public Masses is intended to cooperate with public health directives protecting against infection with the coronavirus. I pray God’s mercy will soon bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic but there is no predicting when that will happen. It will come about in the Lord’s time. When conditions permit us to safely gather as God’s people around the Lord’s altar and offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, we will all be able to fulfill the Easter Duty. May the Lord sustain our hunger and thirst for that blessed day.
Catholics are also obliged to confess one’s grave sins once a year. (Code of Canon Law, c. 989; Rite of Penance, #34) This precept is not confined to the Lenten and Easter Season, though many of the Faithful traditionally make use of this time of year to approach the Sacrament of Penance. Catholics may fulfill this obligation anytime during the year. They are urged to seek the grace of the Sacrament of Penance with greater frequency. If a member of the Faithful is unable to approach the Sacrament of Penance, I remind them to make an Act of Perfect Contrition (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1452) with the firm resolve approach the Sacrament as soon as they are able to do so.
These words of counsel are intended to guide and console the Faithful in the Diocese of Sacramento as we journey through this uncertain and agonizing moment for the State, the Nation, and the World. May we respond with faith and charity seeking always the presence of the Risen Christ among us.
Be assured of the prayers of Bishop Weigand, my brother priests and me. We daily offer the Sacrifice of the Mass for all the People of God, especially those in any way afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. May the intercessions of Our Blessed Mother Mary and the Communion of Saints be joined with our supplications for God’s mercy to bring healing for the infirmed; perseverance and protection for all those caring for them; wisdom for public officials working to eradicate the pandemic; eternal rest to all those who have died and consolation for all those who mourn.
Christ has risen. May His mercy kindle in our hearts the fire of His hope and joy.
Bishop of Sacramento
My Dear Friends in Christ:
The Lord God has awakened us to conversion during this Lenten Season as we more closely unite ourselves with our neighbors in California and around the world responding to the alarming pandemic of the Coronavirus, COVID-19.
The decision to suspend public celebrations of the Mass, along with the other necessary public health precautions, does not suspend the evangelical urgency of repentance and renewal during this Lenten Season. We are particularly called to give witness to personal repentance and renewal for the sake of our own salvation and the redemption of the world.
The outbreak has disrupted some of the habitual Lenten approaches and attitudes forcing us to re-examine our individual and ecclesial disposition to this Sacred Season. Our common baptism is a share in the royal priesthood of the Lord Jesus. St. Paul reminds all the baptized in his letter to the Colossians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” (Col. 1.24) Though the public celebration of Mass is suspended, all the disciples of the Lord Jesus need “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12.1) These words of Pauline wisdom should direct our personal and pastoral conduct during this difficult public health emergency so that the Lord’s healing mercy may continue to bear fruit in our personal lives and the life of the Church in Sacramento.
This public health emergency should make us reconsider the kind of prayer, fasting, abstinence, and charity needed for ourselves as well as the Church. God’s mysterious providence is working in the midst of the confusion among political leaders and public health officials. Though this moment may not be how we imagine Lent, heed the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (II Cor. 6.2) Let us practice the evangelical qualities of patience, prudence, gratitude, and joy. Pray that the Lord may grant us the clarity of faith to see the wise and merciful hands of the divine potter tenderly molding us into the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus.
May our Blessed Mother Mary stand together with us in the shadow of her Son’s cross so that we might come to know the joy of His glorious resurrection. May her tender intercession bring healing to all who are afflicted, eternal rest to those who have died, and comfort to all those who mourn. May her maternal affection cause us not to lose hope but to hunger more deeply for the Bread of Life and thirst more longingly for the Chalice of Salvation.
Bishop of Sacramento
With a heavy heart, conscious of the accelerating rates of coronavirus infection, also known as COVID-19, I am suspending the public celebration of Sunday and weekday Masses for the Diocese of Sacramento in California until further notice.
This pastoral directive cooperates with the increased public health precautions issued by local, state, and federal officials in order to protect vulnerable populations from contact with the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
As with the previous pastoral decrees issued on March 11, 2020 and March 13, 2020, this decree is especially intended to benefit those members of the Faithful who are sixty years of age and older as well as those with vulnerable health conditions.
The dispensation to all members of the Catholic Faithful from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday will also continue until further notice.
Parish churches will maintain the regular hours, especially on Sundays, to be open for private prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Priests are to privately offer Sunday Mass pro populo (for the people) and encouraged to daily offer Mass imploring the Lord’s mercy.
Priests are to provide scheduled times for individual confessions. Where possible the schedule should be expanded. Priests should continue the laudable tradition of being available for confession and the anointing of the sick upon request.
Weddings and Funerals may be provided but should be limited to immediate family.
Further directives and guidance will be provided to priests and deacons for the prudent and practical celebration of sacraments during this public health emergency.
It is recommended that Communal Baptisms be suspended until further notice. Pastors should exercise prudential judgment regarding individual pastoral cases.
I remind the Catholic Faithful to properly observe the third commandment, Keep Holy the Lord’s Day. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest.” (CCC, 2185)
I encourage the faithful to offer a rosary on Sundays for the intention of all those afflicted by the virus, COVID-19 as well as for the sanctification of the Faithful and Clergy during this Lenten Season. I recommend a family recitation of the rosary as a healthy and holy practice during Lent as well as throughout the year.
All the Faithful should seek with greater intention to consecrate Sunday, the Lord’s Day, with prayer and attention given to building up the family. Other pastoral and spiritual resources will be made available to assist in keeping holy Sunday, the Lord’s Day. Please refer to the Diocesan website, the local parish website, or make use of My Parish app.
I instruct the pastors of parishes in the Diocese to educate the faithful about this directive as well as other public health precautions to be observed in their parishes at this time.
Please pray for those afflicted with COVID-19, their families, and all caregivers. May the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary bring us the healing mercy and grace of her Son, Jesus.
Given at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Sacramento on this seventeenth day of March, in the year of the Our Lord, two thousand twenty.
Bishop of Sacramento