March 17, 2020
We find ourselves in a situation that we hardly could have prepared for, and I find myself struggling to find words to communicate hope and confidence in the midst of the insecurity I know many are feeling. While the actual impact of this new disease has not had serious health consequences on our parishioners, the precautionary steps intended to slow its outbreak have turned our lives upside down as we wait it out and see where this all goes. Our information age leaves us exposed to constant reporting and social media commentary that can threaten to agitate our spirits to the point where we feel even more helpless and vulnerable than perhaps we are. I suspect that this will bring out the best in most of us, even if it also brings out the worst in some.
Right now the most important thing for us is to work to stay safe and to keep others safe. The result is that the “social distancing” that has been imposed upon us comes at a time when our human and religious instincts leave us wanting to be more together than ever. Restricting our worship opportunities is an additional cross that will mark this Lent as one that will be forever unique in our lifetimes. This feels like an extended Good Friday. I started out this season suggesting that we all try to make this the “Best Lent Ever”… maybe “Most Intense Lent Ever” or “Most Difficult Lent Ever” would have been more on the mark.
I am most concerned about those who are physically isolated from others and those who are most in the “at risk” category. I encourage you to at least call those you cannot visit, those you know who are spending their days alone in their homes.
One person mentioned to me that he hopes this “social distancing” might allow families to grow closer as they spend more time together at home than they are used to. I couldn’t agree more. We can only watch so much television and play so many video games before we get tired of that. How can we make good use of all this extra time that we have on our hands? How can we leverage this opportunity to strengthen our most important human bonds? As we find ourselves with more time on our hands than we may be used to, let’s all look for ways to find some hidden “gift” in this isolation we are experiencing:
+ We may learn to pray better.
+ We may engage in the kind of reading that builds us up and draws us into deeper relationship with God.
+ Families could pray a daily Rosary together
+ Families could read the Bible together and discuss it
+ The blessing of family meals together (remember those?) might be rediscovered
+ Family board games and discussions and sharing might help to strengthen relationships.
As we experience aggravation related to being cooped-up, we might try to pull ourselves out of any self-pity by praying for:
+ those whose lives are upended more than ours
+ those who worry that their investments for retirement might not sufficiently rebound once this crisis is over and the markets recover
+ those who will lose wages and experience economic vulnerability
+ those who cannot avoid putting themselves in potential danger (I am thinking especially of health care workers and police and fire fighters)
+ those who feel trapped by their fear and anxiety
+ those who are currently sick with the corona virus
+ those who have relatives and friends among the most vulnerable to the effects of this virus
+ those who are working to find treatments and vaccinations for this virus
+ those trying to navigate through the experience of illness and death not related to the coronavirus, those who have to put off important medical treatments or families who have to postpone funerals
+ those whose weddings and other important life events must be postponed
+ those in countries that do not have the kind of medical response capability that we have
+ those who cannot not work, those in the world for whom not working means not eating: it occurs to me that only those with money can afford to “self-quarantine.”
Fortunately, there are many online resources for finding prayer and spiritual support while we are “sheltering in place.” Our parish website has a number of these, and I encourage you to start there. If you find helpful resources on your own, please feel free to pass them along to us at the parish, and we can expand on what we have already listed there.
“Fasting” from the Eucharist and the Mass is a disconcerting experience for many. Those of us who count on that regular form of communion with Christ will feel a new kind of hunger continuing to build and a sense of deprivation that is painful. I encourage you to pay attention to that, and perhaps pray to the Holy Spirit to help you find in this experience a renewed appreciation for that gift of Jesus, an appreciation that could manifest itself in an even more dedicated commitment to being together for this once it is restored.
I do know that the Lord remains with us, remains with the world, during this extended moment of uncertainty, confusion and suffering. Please be assured of my prayers for you and those you love. If there is anything that I, or our parish, can do to help you during this time, please let me know and we will do our best to respond.
Invoking God’s protection and guidance, and the intercession of Mary, we remain united in faith, hope and love-