With less than two weeks from Easter, it's clear worship in sanctuaries across North Texas will not happen.
Social distancing and stay at home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic mean Holy Week and Easter, one of the biggest times of reflection and celebrations for Christians, will be very different this year.
Diocese of Dallas Bishop Edward Burns understands the pain the faithful must be feeling.
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"It was an excruciating decision [to initially close churches]. At the very core of who we are as Catholics we celebrate the body of Christ and the celebration of the Eucharist is so necessary for us," Bishop Burns said. “But when I heard what county, state and other health officials sounding the alarm, I knew that as the shepherd I had to protect my flock. So to make that decision was difficult, but it was out of love."
President Donald Trump has extended social distancing policies to combat the spread of the virus to at least April 30. Changing the timeline meant changing holiday plans for everyone. Burns said there is something about North Texas that is special; especially during crisis.
"It's been said that Dallas is a city with a soul. There is a faithfulness about Dallas and the people of Dallas,” Burns said. “It’s the belief that we need that ultimately indicates that whatever we experience. Sin, evil, suffering and death. It will not have the last word.”
Burns said he knows the heartache so many different denominations are feeling, but it’s important to find solace in knowing we are in it together.
"What we see in the moments like this is that we need our faith to help calm the storm inside of us and surrounding us. A sense of peace is what we long for in our relationship with God and our faith. And our faith is a source of consolation during these days," Burns said.
He also shared his thoughts on the season of Lent and the irony of this pandemic sweeping the country during it.
“Lent by nature is a time for a deepening in our humility and finding ourselves close to God. While this Lent the humility is so very real. What we are finding is that there is a desert experience that we are having right now. It’s also necessary to know that God saves through the darkness and out of the darkness do we find that Christ is our light. That we have to go through the pain and suffering and yes even the death, but there is hope and there is life our God calls us to,” Burns said.
Burns said his prayers are of course for us all in these days, but especially for the community working diligently to save lives, while risking their own.
"I am and I will forever remain grateful for all of those in our community working so hard during these days of pandemic. I'm thinking about doctors, nurses, medical personnel. I am thinking about all the nurses in nursing homes where we are separated from our loved ones, but they are in there working feverishly and they are doing it all with a sacrificial love," Burns said.
He said if he could give one message during this difficult time, it would be simply this:
“For all of us, I think it’s necessary to know everything will be OK. We just have to be patient and calm. We just have to ride this out and there is going to be a great gift of life on the other side," Burns said.
Masses throughout Holy Week and on Easter Sunday will be held online.