Inside Out — Faith Formation in the time of Pandemic

Just when I was worried about switching from giving up candy to giving up ice cream or watching television for Lent, the CROSS came crashing into my life and all lives. There is no sugar-coating this experience. It is scary and heartbreaking. Where do we find Life? Easter has come and gone, and we are moving toward Pentecost. What have we learned about ourselves, our relationship with God and how faith formation continues even when we cannot go to Church?

The resilience and adaptability of people is always amazing. Catechetical leaders, friends and families share that while this time is not easy, they find themselves desiring a deeper relationship with Jesus. There is a grace that comes when confronted with a totally new reality. We are challenged to see what is most important in our lives. Family, community, celebrations, time together, work and care for those who are sick and hurting becomes overwhelmingly important. What we miss, what we long for, what breaks our hearts reveals who we are. All these experiences are elements of faith formation. Jesus reveals himself to us in these events and at this time.

It seems that this is a turning point in our lives, an opportunity for conversion. We cannot deny that the church building, while particularly important, does not define us. We are discovering a deeper understanding of what it means to be church. Even in our isolation, it is evident that our Catholic Church is universal. We live our connection to one another as the Body of Christ and there are parts of this body that are suffering. While not being able to receive the Eucharist at Mass we experience the real presence of Christ in one another, in Scripture, at the table, in the good works that the “front-liners” around the world are doing in hospitals, grocery stores, food lines and warehouses. We are reminded that there is no resurrection without the cross.

In the Disney movie “Inside Out,” 11-year-old Riley is struggling after a move from Minnesota to San Francisco with her parents. The story deals with the profound importance of memory. The movie focuses on core memories that allow Riley to find joy in the past and ultimately allow her to move on. Memory plays such an important role in our life of faith. When we read Scripture, when we participate in Mass virtually or in-person, when we share a meal together, when we talk about what is most important to us, and when we share memories together and make new memories, we make Christ present in our lives. In remembering in our households, we form a living church. A living church teaches us how to be church. Living church changes us.

As Catholics, core memories always guide us. These core memories are found in the beauty of the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the church; in prayer and moral teachings; and in the call to missionary discipleship and service. When we return to whatever normal will be for us – when all of this is over – we will be different. This difference, if rooted in Jesus Christ, will be the result of faith formation with each other or alone at home. At this point we are being turned inside out, discovering that we cannot go out until we go deeper within. This time moves us to realize the importance of faith reflection in our lives and for each one of us whatever age we are. This enables the hope that we will be different when we move from inside to out.

“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).