“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
We live in the unknown every day, and today we are challenged to trust in the mercy of God more than any time I can remember. Three weeks into the Lenten Season of 2020, we found ourselves making sacrifices we never thought would be necessary. Lent had barely begun when we were asked to pray for friends who were quarantined on a cruise ship outside of Japan due to a virus. At the time, no one realized how serious this was, or how quickly life would change around the world. We offer some form of sacrifice during the 40 days of Lent to prepare us for Easter joy, and I am quite certain this Lenten journey will be one we will always remember.
We had planned a retreat day for young families from our parish with an outdoors Way of the Cross, and catechesis with the different liturgies during Holy Week. We decided to cancel because of three confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported in Indiana. Three days later we received the news regarding the suspension of all Sunday and weekday Masses due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the vulnerability of our world became real, very fast! Conversation about social distancing, cancellation of large gatherings, and even the empty store shelves seemed reasonable with the threat of this deadly virus with no cure. But, the thought of not being able to celebrate Eucharist or go to church never entered my mind.
I read a passage from a daily devotional book written by Patrick Madrid, titled: “A Year With The Bible.” In one passage he wrote, “Thanks to the Holy Spirit, the universal Church is always the Church. … The essential guiding principle is immutable, and it remains so while the Church advances on all fronts, like an army using every weapon, but led by a single plan.”
On March 17, the Feast of St. Patrick, I walked out of the church with a few tears after our last celebration of the Eucharist for an undetermined period of time; and so did others. The next morning I began to witness an army appear, and the soldiers seemed motivated by an essential guiding principle ... to be the Body of Christ to one another. Isolated in the confinement of their homes, the plans of this legion began to emerge. The Church is full of life, and troubled times stimulate the spirit in all of us. I am witnessing real heroes using their gifts to lift up the Body of Christ. I see the familiar faces of priests in our local parishes celebrating live-streamed Masses on social media, prayers and words of encouragement are posted everywhere, and children are calling grandparents with FaceTime to pray together. A friend sent me a video of her family reciting the readings of the weekend Mass with their children, and her young son wrote and delivered the homily. A young mother with four little children recites a live rosary on Facebook, which she shares every evening at 9 o’clock. My grandson made a perfect replica of St. Francis and Clare Church out of beads, which I have on display, and enter with prayer every morning until I can attend Mass again. Once this scare is over, I believe Catholics will appreciate their Church even more. Maybe a true Lent in the desert is what we needed after all. I pray for those who have suffered great loss of life and health, and I pray we never forget how quickly precious gifts can be taken away. Amen!