By Kaelanne Jordan
Archbishop Jason Gordon believes that next year’s Carnival and Lent are going to be vastly different.
He said there is need to find “imaginative ways” of invoking the benefit of the juxtaposition of the two seasons.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced September 28 that Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival in 2021 is “not on” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Archbishop Gordon said that traditionally, faithful experienced the contrast between the high activity of Carnival Monday and Tuesday and the austerity of Ash Wednesday.
“Because from all the excess within moral boundaries you plunged them into the desert of self-denial, fasting, of almsgiving and of prayer. And that contrast really does an incredible work on the psyche of the soul,” he explained.
However, this “stopped working” when Carnival was continued on Ash Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the Archbishop said during CatholicTT’s Ask the Archbishop Live chat Wednesday September 30 via Facebook.
On the question of when churches are going to be reopened, the Archbishop replied: “Wait one second let me consult my crystal ball.”
He began, “Here’s what I do know: We’re in the midst of a pandemic and we have a lot of balancing acts that we have to do during this time. But we’ve done a lot of work and we understood a lot today than we did on Friday March 13, 2020,” he told host Tshenelle Bethel-Peters, CAMSEL’s Web and Social Media Officer.
It was on that day Archbishop Gordon announced the closure of all Catholic churches and schools. He also met with a group of consultants including two infectious diseases specialists “to make hard decisions” that Friday.
He mentioned he “stopped” Confirmation ceremonies because he felt they were “unsafe” when he saw the rate of the community spread.
“Because young people journey together for two years, haven’t seen each other for four or five months, you bring them together, what do you think is going to happen? Social distancing? Everybody keeping their hands to themselves? No hug, no kiss? …. once community spread starts, one mistake in a Church and you can have a super spread,” the Archbishop said.
On the other hand, he recognised people desperately need the Church during this time of pandemic.
“People need communion, they need the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. They need the real thing. They need to meet each other in common worship where we gather and we pray together so that we give solace, we give connection and we give a real sense of solidarity with each other to God because the isolation is driving people crazy. And that crazy is another major challenge to society,” he observed.
Ultimately, the Archbishop asserted his decision to sacrifice faithful’s right to congregate and worship is for the sake of the common good and of society. He, however, is cognisant that the spiritual health of the nation will be risk if the churches remain closed for much longer.
Since the closure of churches, the Archbishop has led daily morning Masses virtually. Commenting on this, he questioned whether faithful understood what it takes from a priest or bishop to prepare a homily of substance on a Sunday.
This, Archbishop Gordon said involves a lot of focus, preparation, dedicated time and a certain kind of energy.
A Sunday-type homily, as the Archbishop has been preaching daily, lasts between 16 and 22 minutes. A weekday homily, on the other hand is five to 12 minutes long.
“So the real stressor for me and it’s because this to me is a time where people have wanted something of depth. That’s what I realise in the first lockdown and I moved the homily to the Sunday homily type and length. It takes its toll. There’s a price to pay for it and it’s a price I pay happily….,” he said.
With Budget Day on October 5, the Archbishop shared his ideas on what the budget should emphasise. He believed there are two things a nation should do in difficult times: stimulate the economy and ensure the most vulnerable are cared for.
He warned, if we “grow the pie” and don’t care for the vulnerable an “eruption” can occur very quickly. If care is only given to the vulnerable then there would not be any resources available “to keep caring”.
Archbishop Gordon also shared his thoughts on the controversial pyramid scheme during the hour-long conversation. He firstly outlined the difference between a sou-sou and a pyramid scheme. The latter, he stressed is immoral and illegal. “It is designed for some people to make money off of a lot of people who will never get back their money…. it’s a fraud… Any time it’s too good to be true it is too good to be true,” the Archbishop said.
In wrapping up the conversation, Archbishop Gordon imparted some final words to faithful tuned in: Do not waste a good crisis.