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Home for the Holidays

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Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I knew the holiday season was upon us when my parents pulled out the cardboard record jackets and turned on the over-sized console in the living room. The familiar sounds of Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis filled the house, though my favorite was the Carpenters’ “Home for the Holidays.” Maybe it was the idea of being “happy in a million ways” or the anticipation of “homemade pumpkin pie,” but that song told me the holidays were here. Even as a child, dancing along to these tunes with my brothers, I felt the comfort and security of being “home” and of the simple joys that came with it.

Over the years, returning home continued to be a comfort for me. Whether it was traveling back there in a station wagon packed with laundry from college or taking the train into New Haven from my first job 300 miles away, I saw the idea of going “home for the holidays” as more of a certainty than a privilege. The same music would be playing, the same people would be gathering, the same prayers would be said, and the same scents of pumpkin, cranberry, cinnamon, and pine would linger in the air. Home was a constant of family and faith.

As an adult, I see how beautiful and complex this idea is and how the definition of home has changed. The places are different, though the feelings we associate with them are not. In the past year, when the familiar became even more so and the appreciation for what we cherish seemed to multiply ten-fold, our homes became our refuge. And now, “home for the holidays” takes on an even deeper meaning as we realize it’s not only the most comforting place but perhaps the safest.

That reality has been tough to handle, breaking the traditions we all knew would evolve but couldn’t imagine being without. My husband and I took a walk around the neighborhood the other night, needing some fresh air as I was feeling a bit melancholy about my brother and his family not coming for Thanksgiving. Rounding the corner back onto our street, Patrick mentioned having to do something “when we got home.” I paused. Yes, when we got home. The structure was there, but more than that, the feeling was as well. Though I won’t be arriving in my parents’ living room with my husband and children decades after I danced there with my brothers, I can still play that same music – albeit digitally and not on vinyl, create those same scents, recite those same prayers, and see at least some of those same people (though virtually) in the place we have created as a constant for our own family.

It is a privilege to be home, and I am thankful for all the places that word has defined for me and for those with whom God has allowed me to share them. Though it may not be the occasion we expected, it still feels so good to say we’ll be home for the holidays.

By Emily Clark, in her column Collecting Moments

The power of the ‘chosen family’

Jesus Himself said “no prophet is accepted in his own town” (Luke 4:24). I have begun to realize this more and more. As I use my voice to speak out against the injustices I see, it is often the people that “knew you when,” that have the biggest problem with it. Perhaps it is our inherent nature to be resistant to change…to seek reliability in our family members, thinking that they are reflections of us instead of whole persons within themselves. Enter: the importance of the “chosen family.”

Jesus’ disciples were his “chosen family.” They traveled together, ministered together, shared conversations both difficult and deep, and became each other’s closest comrades. They had to leave their families behind in pursuit of their purpose, and I’m sure they faced a lot of backlash for this decision. There is power in these close bonds, formed through a shared journey, forged in adversity.

There is great strength in female friendship (don’t worry, there is absolutely a male equivalent as well, i.e. the “wolf pack,” but I can only speak from my own experience). We need these close friends who will offer us support, cheer us on, and not only validate us but amplify our voices. When I need reassurance, I know that I can turn to my “girl squad,” always and without fail. Some of these women I’ve known since I was in grammar school. We have seen each other through many life changes, through good times and bad, and our support for each other has remained unwavering.

In her book Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about the importance of holding these friendships close and cultivating these relationships. “My friends made me whole,” she writes, “as they always have and always will. They gave me a lift anytime I felt down or frustrated…. They grounded me when I felt the pressures of being judged…and they helped me ride out the big unsettling waves that sometimes hit without notice.”

There are many strong female friendships in the Bible, as well. Mary turns to Elizabeth when she finds out she is pregnant with Jesus, and they share their joy and take care of each other. Ruth refuses to leave her mother-in-law Ruth alone after her husband passes, vowing, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay” (Ruth 1:16). The women were the ones who stayed at the foot of the cross as Jesus was crucified. They held each other up and remained strong.

My friends and I have “friendsgiving” every year—a tradition where we all bring dishes and celebrate a Thanksgiving meal together sometime before we all celebrate with our biological and extended families. It is this time of year that my heart goes out to those who are estranged from their family members, or perhaps they have lost loved ones who were their closest allies. This time of year can often be a harsh reminder of the division they feel within their families, and can cause a lot of anxiety in and around upcoming gatherings.

My prayer for those people is that they can find support elsewhere—perhaps their “chosen family.” This year has been hard enough, may we practice love and acceptance this season. As Jesus sat and broke bread with his disciples; as he welcomed the outcast, the zealot, the wayward soul. Let us open our hands and our hearts, and set our tables.

What happens when we slow down?

The pandemic has forced us to slow down. For many, this has been a challenge, especially when we were still in a state of not knowing, unable to see family and friends, and unsure of what was to come.

Now that cases have gone down, we have slowly been able to gather in small groups again, especially outdoors. This has been a saving grace for many.

I don’t want to down-play the seriousness of the pandemic, and I recognize how fortunate I am not to have lost a loved one or a job or anything else of great importance to me. I feel grateful for that every day. I will say, though, having extra time to reflect and slow-down has truly been a blessing for me.

I have learned so much about what I truly value and what is important to me. I have learned that there were things in my life that were no longer serving me.

If I didn’t have this time, I probably would have just kept blindly going on without realizing that I was carrying things that I didn’t need to anymore.

I feel like God tries to tell us these things in small ways, but when we are too busy, we tend not to notice His messages.

When we don’t stop and listen and take stock of what we’re feeling, we can get caught up in things that He didn’t intend for us. Paths that He may not have cleared for us but that we forced our way through anyway.

I don’t know what life post-pandemic is going to look like. I’ve gotten used to wearing a mask. I actually kind of enjoy it because it provides a convenient disguise when I’m running errands in sweatpants and don’t want to be seen.

I’ve been able to take stock of where my priorities lie. The question of “do I really need to go there or do that thing?” or “is it worth risking my life or the life of a loved one for that particular activity?” have helped me cut my schedule down to what is more manageable for me, which makes me a lot happier in the long-run. Things that once required a drive and a meet-up can now just be a quick phone call or an e-mail, which leaves us all with so much more time to devote to meaningful connection (for all us, “that meeting could’ve easily been an email” folks, this is a welcome relief).

I know it’s the introvert in me speaking (I’m sorry extraverts, I know this time is probably ten times more difficult for you! I hear you, I see you), but I just feel like this slower way of life is more suited to intentional living.

I don’t think He wanted us to thrive in the rat race. I think He wanted us to live our lives with intention and purpose, taking stock regularly of whether what we are doing is serving Him or whether it’s just useless noise.

I turn to one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite saints, St. Francis de Sales (the patron saint of writers and journalists, which explains why he is very near and dear to my heart). He writes, “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”

The whole world does seem upset. And some of that is for very good reason. And there is a time to engage in that, for sure. We have a duty as members of society and humans on this earth. But we can always return to our inner peace. We can find that grounding within ourselves and go back there when it all seems to be too much. Because only if we begin with the steadying of our own selves, can we then go out and make a difference in the world.

God’s in the backseat

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Summer just isn’t summer in my family without at least one road trip. The bikes strapped precariously to the back to the car, the bagels atop our tote bags, and even the kids jostling for more space in the backseat signify “vacation” to us as much as beach days and backyard picnics. We delight in finding the unexpected and the unfamiliar as we drive forward together down the next highway or quiet back road. In addition to all the local color we found on our travels this summer, there was something else unfamiliar on the road – my daughter.

Having turned 16 in May during the pandemic, Abigail had her learner’s permit and driver’s ed classes postponed, though we knew her initiation to the road was inevitable. Didn’t one of those bikes just have training wheels? How could she already be asking, “Want me to drive, Dad?” Impossible.

With the permit finally in her hand and a few driver’s classes on Zoom behind her, Abigail begged my husband to venture out with her one Sunday afternoon on a whole new set of training wheels. Brave man that he is, he agreed, but not before I gave her a final reminder. “Dad’s in the passenger seat. Listen to what he says,” I advised. “But who’s in the backseat?”

“Well, no one!” she replied, incredulous. “I can’t even have Elizabeth or a friend until at least…”

“No, no, no,” I said, shaking my head. “Think about it. Who’s in the backseat?”

Suddenly remembering, she nodded and said, “Oh, right. God’s in the backseat.”

Like any parent who has traveled this rite of passage with a child, we knew we couldn’t do it alone. Our daughters know that God is always with them, surrounding them, protecting them, guiding them, and loving them wherever they are – including in the backseat of the car. We reminded Abigail of this as she drove us around the neighborhood, cautiously, steadily, keeping the requisite three seconds of space behind the car in front and positioning her hands at nine- and three-o’clock as though she knew God was checking on her as much as we were. And then she learned that He was not just in our backseat, but in everyone’s.

After a friend picked her up for dinner one night, an unexpected summer storm kicked in. Thunder echoed in the distance as bursts of lightning divided the evening sky. Though her friend was a responsible driver, worry gnawed at me. What if there was flooding, hydroplaning, someone speeding past them? Then the text came that they were almost home. When Abigail walked in, I tried to hide my concern, but the tight hug I gave her betrayed me. “We were fine! Tara is a very safe driver,” she said, then added, “and God was in the backseat.”

Scripture tells us that “God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you,” a passage that comforts me as much as I hope it comforts my daughter. As we all drive forward together this summer – the 16-year-old with her learner’s permit, the families on their road trips, and our communities battling this pandemic – it’s reassuring to know that we all have a backseat driver.

By Emily Clark

Learning about myself by giving back to others

Both Abigail and Jovanka are members of CREW, a leadership program at St. Peter’s in Danbury. Teens who are a part of CREW have been volunteering on Thursdays to help make sandwiches for Dorothy Day House, and on Sundays to help with registration for next year’s classes. Every other week, some of St. Peter’s high school and middle school teens participate in a private Mass just for them. Twenty teens are allowed to be present, and some are involved in the liturgy as lectors and ushers.

Below, they share their experiences:

Abigail Barahona

I am Abigail Barahona a Senior at Danbury High School. Being a part of the CREW leadership program here at St. Peters has brought so much positivity into my life. It has helped me build a stronger relationship with God along with giving me the opportunity to help those around me. CREW is an excellent leadership program that gathers teens together to help and serve others along with helping each one grow in their faith. Being on CREW you learn and develop leadership skills that not only are applied to CREW and the parish, but also on a normal basis in our everyday lives. I personally have learned a lot about my faith about myself thanks to being a part of CREW and by giving back to others. I enjoy being a part of this leadership program because I was able to find teenagers like me who share the same interests in learning about God and giving back to our community. These past months have been hard for everyone but we still wanted to give back to our community so we gathered together to make sandwiches for the Dorothy Day Kitchen. Everyone lent a helping hand, making the process so much faster and efficient. Some of us were in charge of spreading mayonnaise on to pieces of bread while others were in charge of adding cheese and ham. Once the sandwiches were made, we brought over to Dorothy Day and were able to provide meals for over 80 people!

Jovanka Ordonez

I’m Jovanka Ordonez a Freshman Danbury High School. I recently joined CREW, a leadership program at St. Peter’s Church. In this leadership program, we are focused on growing in our faith and helping others. We work with students and we often do service projects in our hometown of Danbury. CREW has helped me grow in with my faith and grow closer to God and have better leadership skills. In CREW we do lots of bible studies and ZOOM meetings. I feel that CREW has made my faith grow. We talk weekly about our faith and how we can improve our spiritual lives. I enjoy helping others because it makes me feel good about myself. I like seeing others happy and I feel that it brings deep joy to my life when I am able to bring that joy to others. In this leadership program, we also do service projects. Recently, we made sandwiches for Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen here in Danbury. There were five stations: putting mayonnaise on a slice of bread, two where you added cheese and ham, and one where you put another slice of bread and package it together. All together we made over 80 sandwiches for those in need!

If I could but carry your cross…

As a white woman I do not have the adequate words to explain how the Black community is feeling right now. So I wish to share some words of both mine and others, to hopefully bring to light different viewpoints and perspectives and create a place for healing and understanding. May we hear one another. May we listen. May we let the words change our hearts and guide our actions.

If I could but carry your cross…
How am I supposed to put words
to the pain that you feel?
I don’t know what it’s like,
But I wish I could take some
of the burden away from you.
Can I help you carry the cross?
Like Simon helped Jesus?
I will do everything I can.
I’ll read, I’ll watch, I’ll listen.
I’ll let your words change my heart and actions.
And tell others to do so as well.
I’ll sign petitions, I’ll vote, I’ll learn.
I will have hard conversations.
I will be open to discomfort,
And know that it will never be enough
To take your pain away.
But I will continue to walk with you.
Continue to be your Simon.
In hopes that some day
It won’t have to be this way.

Two voices have stayed with me, the first being Debbie Sims, a mom and parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport:

“How do we move on…we can’t. George Floyd’s murder broke all our hearts. It is a call to action, a call to protect the Black Community, the official catalyst for change for our country. What do we do? As an African American Mom, here is what I had to do: I had to sit down with my Black son, nephews and community sons once again and go over the rules of what to do when stopped by the police. I begged them to pray because being obedient is not enough. Even though their physical life is in the hands of the officers, the Lord has the final say. George’s murder is just one incidence that the world saw, injustices like that happen every day in our communities. I’m scared to death of sending my son outside because I’m fearful of the unknown of what lies ahead for him. Last week we hosted a conversation with moms, all hurting because George was everyone’s son, we are all outraged, disgusted, but hopeful. Psalm 139 is all about the characteristics of God. It brings me lots of comfort…we are never alone! As a people we will endure systematic racism, hatred, economic disinvestment, food, health and housing inequities, but it is not okay. ‘America…land of the free’ home of George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor and all people, because Christ our Lord said so!”

The second is our very own Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport. In his most recent Let Me Be Frank podcast, the bishop and Steve Lee of Veritas Radio discussed the troubling events going on around us these days and what we can do to work for a better society.

“We have structures in society that judge people by the color of their skin or the language they speak that do not allow them the same opportunities as others. The first step in any societal change is the conversion of my own heart. Before I worry about anyone else’s heart, or society, what about me? What about when I look in the mirror? Do I consider everyone equal? Do I have racist tendencies or bigotry tendencies or discriminatory tendencies in the way I speak, the way I act, the people I deal with, how I spend my money? Am I willing to look myself in the mirror and say ‘what do I believe?’ in the end and how do I live? Do I actually live what I claim to believe when it comes to justice and equality and fairness? Because if I don’t then I am contributing to the problem, I am in fact part of the problem. Because racial equality and equal opportunity is not just something society wants because it’s a human good—it is a divine mandate. It’s what the Savior taught us. And if we are going to claim Him as out Lord and Savior and have the same title He had, being a Christian following Christ the Lord, then don’t you think that it’s our own faith that should motivate us to change? And if it does not change us then our faith is not what we’re claiming it to be.” (To listen to the full Let Me Be Frank podcast visit our diocesan social media channels).

By: Elizabeth Clyons, Fairfield County Catholic

Exiting the spiritual desert

As what some might term a “cradle Catholic,” I did not spend much of my younger years thinking about the Eucharist. Sure, I attended parish religious education, bought the white dress at the tender age of 7, got my ears pierced at the mall, and had the party complete with a magician (did I mention that I am an Italian from New Jersey?) – but the Eucharist itself never occupied much of my thoughts. As I grew, studied theology twice over, and became a liturgist and pastoral minister, I deepened in my love for the Eucharist through the beautiful writings of the Second Vatican Council and my own experience of evangelization and catechesis. Suffice to say that I thought I had a handle on the Mass and the Eucharist and its role in my life – and then a pandemic hit the United States.

Suddenly, the Church (both globally and in this nation) found itself in uncharted territory. Parishes suspended public worship; dioceses developed plans and guidance; even the Vatican had to critically examine its norms and parameters. Amongst the chaos of protecting human life, the absence of the reception of Communion yawned ever greater.

As both an employee of the institutional Church and an arguably faithful Catholic, I was prepared to “enter into the desert” to protect my own health, and to avoid being a carrier to others. I passionately debated with friends and colleagues on the benefit of tight restrictions and graciously accepted the freedom returned to my Sunday mornings. My husband and I attempted diligence in “attending” virtual Mass each weekend; the great blessing we found was the ability to “visit” parishes we normally could not, and “hear” the homilies of many priests whose friendships we cherish. As enthusiastically as our presbyterate worked to provide a sacred liturgical experience through virtual means, it was simply not the same, and over time we found ourselves faltering in our commitment to the practice. At first, I missed the Eucharist desperately, but over time, the anxieties of the pandemic and the growing unrest in our nation forced that longing into a backseat in my mind.

And yet, when the opportunity arose to attend an outdoor Sunday liturgy, with processes and restrictions in place to ensure maximal safety, my husband and I were grateful to take advantage of the opportunity. We signed up for a 12 pm liturgy on a sunny, breezy June Sunday (exactly 3 months to the day since we last attended Mass in person – aptly, Trinity Sunday!), returning to the parish where we were married with our lawn chairs, hand sanitizer, and masks. We thought it would be a “nice” experience, with admittedly simple parameters of justification: the priests in residence are our close friends, the music is spectacular, and the spacing in the parking lot would be ample. However, I found myself profoundly, inconsolably moved from the first note of the entrance hymn until the Prayer to Saint Michael. (Gratefully, masks are both a necessary protective measure in preventing the spread of COVID-19 AND an effective way to hide my messy tears!) I knew I would be emotional, but I was unprepared for the opening of the floodgates.

Simply put: no study in theology prepared me for how truly hungry I was for the Eucharist. While I cherish my theological education for too many reasons to name, it can sometimes serve as a barrier to the fullness of a spiritual experience; it is easier to put up a wall of mental analysis of the historical Jesus than it is to simply be open to encountering Christ in the breaking of the bread. When we put aside all the divisiveness in the Church and in our nation, when we forget for a moment that we are anything other than one body, the profound nourishment we can receive is more than we knew we ever needed.

Secondary to that Eucharistic hunger was the deep yearning I didn’t even know I felt for the experience of worship. As a bit of a liturgical nerd, you would think I would have been more attuned to that desire! I found myself totally swept up in the magnificence of the music, hanging on each word of every prayer and more vociferous in my responses than usual (shocking for those who have had the misfortune of sitting next to me at Mass). While the laundry list of what sets us as Roman Catholics apart from our siblings in the Christian faith is lengthy, one that resonates with me is the sense of community. You cannot simply have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – and nothing else. It is our sacramental experience of community, bringing the joys and sorrows of the whole body into worship and prayer, which adds such richness to our faith. Although it was not in my preferred seating in the nave of the church (right-hand side, near the front, thank you), I found myself more connected to communal worship than ever.

Finally, the impact of the return to Mass has reverberated in my home ever since. My husband and I have adamantly agreed on the desire to continue to worship outside for the sake of safety, but we are no longer content with the occasional skipping of Mass due to “a busy schedule.” Having walked through the spiritual desert for 3 months to the day, this Mass was no “obligation” in the secular sense, but a filling of our own wells of spiritual nourishment for the week to come – and isn’t that what Mass should be for us all?

By: Nicole Perone

A Time of National Lament

The below reflection first appeared on the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality’s website and Fairfield University Email Newsletter.
Dear Members of the Fairfield University Community,
“We are brokenhearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.”
These are the opening words of the statement of May 29, from the Chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing national protests.
Repeated now so many times by civic and religious leaders from all over the globe, these and similar reactions to the senseless and brutal killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others, fill us with grief, with shame, with horror. How has it come to this? How has it been permitted —and permitted still — that black lives should be treated with such callous indifference and be subjected to such cruelty and violence? How is it that our black sisters and brothers continue daily to be subjected to humiliation, discrimination in every area of their lives? How is it that our flesh and blood — our sisters and brothers — are degraded and denied equal opportunity and dignity before the law because of the color of their skin?
We are receiving this wake-up call, this summons to individual and communal conversion at just the right time.
“Right time” in the sense that we dare not wait a moment longer; no more temporizing out of prudence or caution. We dare not continue to cast a blind eye to the atrocity of racism in our communities, our criminal justice system, our churches, our businesses, our schools and universities. In our personal relationships, in our hearts. “Right time” in the sense that these sins of racism, by omission and commission, have shed too much blood, caused too much misery, excused too much injustice.
“Right time,” in the sense that we find ourselves at the point in the liturgical year when Christians celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles as they gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavuot, or Pentecost. (Protestant and Catholics celebrated Pentecost last Sunday; Orthodox and Oriental Christian Churches will celebrate it this coming Sunday.)
To place what we are experiencing in a liturgical context is not to “spiritualize” —to abstract or distance ourselves from the painful realities of this moment. No, the more God’s Spirit fills our hearts and minds, the more vulnerable and honest we are, and the more attentive and responsive we are to those troublesome questions of truth and meaning, of right and wrong, of good and evil. Of life and death.
With the gift of God’s own Spirit, we more and more look at the world from God’s point of view. We are taken up more and more into God’s passion that all God’s children be free, be whole, and flourish. The more God’s Spirit takes hold of us, the more our hearts ache with the pain of those who suffer, and the more our voices rise in witness to the truth of human dignity and in protest at its violation. The more God’s Spirit lives in us, the more we are able to resist hatred and violence and embrace the long, hard struggle for justice that leads to the building of Dr. King’s “Beloved Community.”
The more the Spirit moves in us and changes our hearts, the more we find ourselves people of the magis, to use that familiar Ignatian term. As my colleague from Fordham’s Theology Department, Fr. Bryan Massingale, STD, explains, “the magis is:
… that inner longing, that restlessness for that which is always out of our reach, but that which beckons us and allures us, and entices us to reach beyond where we are now. It’s that inner dynamism of spirit that leaves us dissatisfied with the way things are and always calls us forward into the deep. Into the beyond.… It is probably the most subversive concept in the Jesuit lexicon because you can never fully put your arms around it because it is always going to take you someplace new. Someplace different. Because it is going to demand that your heart becomes broken so that you’re open to that which is beyond you, especially when we are looking at issues of racial justice or ecological justice.”
In this time of national lament and grief, of division and doubt, in this Pentecost season, may God send God’s own Spirit into our hearts, making of us, wherever we are, whoever we are, women and men of the magis, lured on in hope, fortified with courage, inspired by love to labor with all women and men of goodwill for that day, when, in the words of the Book of Revelation, we will be able to say:
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, adorned as a bride for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling of God is with women and men. God will dwell with them, and they will be God’s people, and God will be with them. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be morning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21.1-4)
In Prayer,
Rev. Gerry Blaszczak, S.J, Vice President for Mission and Identity at Fairfield University

This uncertain season calls for us to embrace waiting

As Christians, we are no stranger to waiting. The Israelites wandered 40 years in the desert. They waited for the coming of the Messiah. The disciples spent three days believing their friend and teacher was dead. We have seasons of Lent and Advent which are centered on waiting. Our whole identity, in a way, is built around waiting, for we are the people who believe in things that we cannot see.

Therefore, we know more than most that although waiting can be uncomfortable it is also necessary and formative. Especially when it comes to the health and safety of others, shouldn’t we embrace this time of waiting more than ever, instead of fighting against it?

Of course it is uncomfortable, of course we long to hold our loved ones close, of course we yearn for the day we can once again congregate together and receive Our Lord. But, as He said to us, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18: 20). He is still with us, no matter where we are. While we remain at home in order to keep others safe and healthy, He is still with us. While we patiently wait for this storm to pass, He is still with us.

As Bishop Caggiano has mentioned in his letters and online reflections, there are many things we can do deepen our spiritual communion and to make this time of waiting fruitful—nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies and spirit. I don’t know about you, reader, but I would rather embrace discomfort and remain at home than put one more person through the suffering that accompanies COVID-19. Wouldn’t we much rather live in this temporary discomfort than aid in bringing on a much more lasting and widespread discomfort?

How can we use this period of waiting in the best way possible? How can we embrace it for the betterment of ourselves and others? Luckily, we live in an age where there are so many resources available to us. Read that series you never had time to crack open, plant the outdoor garden you’ve been wanting to cultivate, use the extra down-time for prayer, spiritual reading, or exploring the outdoors. Connect with those in your household in ways you may not have been able to before, write a hand-written letter to family members who live far away.

This time is unprecedented. But instead of pushing for a return to normalcy, let us craft this new normal in a way that can benefit not only ourselves but those around us. What is He telling us we should be doing with this time? I can almost guarantee that all He wants from us is a little bit of our time—to sit with him, to reconnect, to let Him love us.

I would love to hear from you. Let me know how you are using this time! We’ve heard from so many of our parishes about the creative, loving and spiritual service projects they have undertaken.

Maybe we can continue to inspire each other to do that next thing.

My hope is that by the end of all this, we can look back and say we did everything we could to make it better for others. That we did what we could to ease suffering—small acts of staying home, wearing masks, and remaining six feet apart. That even though it was uncomfortable, even though it was difficult, we embraced this time of waiting and we were better for it.

By: Elizabeth Clyons, Fairfield County Catholic

Where is joy to be found?

Just a word… Sixth Sunday of Easter… May 17, 2020

Each of the six Sundays since Easter has called us to celebrate the joy of Easter, of Resurrection, of renewing the earth. To celebrate that joy assumes that we have it in the first place. Where is it to be found, and what exactly is supposed to give us this joy? If we have it, in spite of the circumstances we find ourselves in, why are we not all walking around in a perpetual state of bliss?

The readings of the past weeks give us an outline for pu,ng together an answer. It all begins with the discovery of the empty tomb. From there, the first disciples, individually and as a group, meet the risen Lord. “He is alive!” they shout for joy! It is easy to imagine their joy, but hard to recapture it. But recapture it we must. Because it is not enough to accept the Resurrec!on of Jesus with our intellect, we need to feel it in our flesh. Have you, have I, found the risen Lord, as a vibrant force in our lives?

Our gospel today tells us to look within, to find signs of resurrected life within ourselves. Listen again to the promise that God, as Father, Son and Spirit, makes to us — “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I in you.” This promise makes of each of us a temple of God, alive with the presence of the risen Christ.

But, of course, there are powerful obstacles in our lives that stand in the way of experiencing Christian joy. Try peddling the idea of joy to a family who has lost a member in this pandemic; or try telling someone who has lost a job, or a business, that they should be feeling joy. It can be discouraging and disheartening, craving that joy but being overwhelmed by the circumstances of our lives.

May I offer one sugges!on from personal experience? The joy of being alive in Christ is least likely to possess me when I think that life revolves around me… my frustrations, my hurt feelings, my disappointments. Joy returns only when I turn outward, as Jesus did, to others, especially to those less fortunate images of Christ… the suffering, the addicted, the poor, the sad and the lonely. When we become a life-giving source to others, we can begin to feel the presence of God working in us and through us, and slowly, a feeling suspiciously like joy, reveals itself.

By Dr. Eleanor Sauers

Parish Life Coordinator, St. Anthony Parish

Do not be afraid, God will always remain the Good God

Faced with this difficult period that the world is experiencing today due to coronavirus, many people have their opinion on the situation. Indeed they are looking for an answer. Given the different opinions and advice that circulate around outside, it would be easy for some people to sink into an atmosphere of fear and confusion.

It is obvious that every time the world finds itself in the presence of a catastrophe whether it is natural or initiated by man himself, many people make their opinions heard, and more often come to different interpretations. For example, there were people who attributed the Louisiana Flood by storm Katrina of 2005, and the earthquake of 2010 in Haiti that claimed more than 250,000.00 lives as a response from God to superstitious cults like vodou that people practice.

Those who often tend to pass blame when a natural disaster such as an earthquake or flood occurs forget that all scientific studies have revealed a change in climate that would lead gradually to its destruction if Man does not take care of nature. For example, the majority of the damage recorded by the earthquake in Haiti was not necessarily related to the earthquake, but the houses were not solidly built. That is why now all over the world building standards must be respected to minimize the damage in the event of such a future disaster. Which explains it is useless to blame God for the misfortunes that hit us whether personal or collective.

Since the world is world, if we are sincere to ourselves we must admit that one of the great problems of man is attention. Man in general does not listen. Jesus was aware of this fact when He called Israel, His people to attention: ‘Shema Israel: hear Israel.’ The question to ask ourselves: why blaming God? Why do we always want to hold God responsible for our personal misfortunes and those who come into the world? I suspect this happens when Man becomes powerless in the face of his responsibilities or in the face of threats that upset him.

God in his essence and nature cannot be the author of personal misfortunes and natural disasters that strike the world. This perspective invites me to open the door to the most popular Bible verse in Holy Scripture, John 3: 16: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. In sacrificing his only Son for men, God showed his greatness, love and compassion for humanity. A wise reasoning is to say such a God who did not hesitate to sacrifice his beloved son to save men, cannot at the same time be responsible for his misfortunes. This misconception of man towards God unfortunately engenders fear and discouragement in many people who are seeking God and want to serve Him.

When we pray, we do not invoke God under the title of bad God, but The Good God. Man’s tendency is to place God as the author of the catastrophes of the world. It is a mischaracterization of the image of God in our society. It is a great mistake and a great confusion to make believe that God is responsible for our misfortunes.

The three years of Jesus’ public ministry among men reveal the image of this Good God that I would like to testify here. In these three years, Jesus through his messages, his love, forgiveness, compassion and healings are manifestations of God’s love for humanity. All God’s actions for man through His Son Jesus are directed in one direction: the deliverance of Man and his salvation.

We cannot underestimate that there are trials that make some people better in life … indeed, the personal sufferings and catastrophes that often strike our world are events that should invite us to draw closer to God. It is time to pay attention to listening; to The Voice of Jesus who says to us: Shema…, listen!

For example, these days we witness sadly that a number of people get sick; and many of them died due to the coronavirus. For those of us who are lucky and still breathing, this may be the time to ask the question if Jesus is calling me today am I ready to meet Him? Am I able to even pay attention to his voice? From this perspective there is a soul searching to do. In this soul searching one can discover; what we thought were important in our lives are not. In the blink of an eye, we can leave everything behind; however what is true, deep will never leave us. I mean The Good God, the true treasure, the God of everyone. He is also a personal God who takes care of each one of us. This is why he reveals himself in the history of mankind as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Without any doubt it can be said that this is the most difficult time that many generations have experienced. It is very rare not to have a family member or friend who is not affected by coronavirus. Those people we watch falling through the TV channels by this scourge certainly makes us cry. Sadder still many of them are young fathers and mothers who have left small children behind. Even when we do not know them all, but we are all affected, because as St. Paul said, ” We, Though many, Are one body in Christ, and we are all members one another (Romans 12: 5).”St. Paul reassured us of the legitimacy of this one body in 1 Corinthians 12: 26 when he declares, ” If one member suffers, all members suffer with him…”.

In the face of the suffering and the dark hours of our world, we must be assure that God is a sower of good, but not evil. We must always believe that God Is Love. The Holy Scripture says it well: His love extends from age to age, it is eternal. One must never doubt his love for us. God always remains faithful to his love. This is the time for all Christians to take refuge in the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and to realize more than ever, the time is for prayer, conversion, mutual support and complete trust in God.

Face à cette periode difficile que vit le monde aujourd’hui due au coronavirus, beaucoup de gens s’opinent sur la situation. En effet ils sont à la recherche d’une réponse. Vue des differentes opinions et conseils qui circulent un peu partout au dehors, ce serait facile pour certaines personnes de se sombrer dans une atmosphère de confusion et de peur.

C’est évident qu’à chaque fois le monde se trouve en présence d’une catastaphe que ce soit naturelle ou initiée par l’homme lui même, beaucoup de gens font entendre leur opinions, et de plus souvent arrivent à des interprétations differentes.  Par exemple, il y avait des gens qui attribuaient l’innondation de Louisiana par la tempête Katrina de 2005, et le tremblement de terre de 2010 en Haiti qui a fait plus de 250,000.00 victimes comme une réponse de Dieu à raison des cultes superstitieuses comme le vodou que pratiquent les gens.

Ceux qui ont souvent tendance à passer des blâmes quand survient une catastrophe naturelle comme un tremblement de terre ou une innondation s’oublient que toutes les études scientifiquent ont révélées un changement de climat qui conduirait à sa décadence guaduelle si l’homme ne prend pas soin de la nature. Par exemple la majorité des dégâts enregistrés par le tremblement de terre en Haiti n’étaient pas nécéssairement liés au séisme, mais les maisons n’étaient pas solidement construites. Voilà pourquoi maintenant partout dans le monde en construant les normes doivent être respecter pour minimizer les dégâts en cas de telle future catastrophe. Ce qui explique, unitil de blâmer Dieu pour les malheurs qui nous frappent que ce soit personel ou collective.

Depuis que le monde est monde, si nous sommes sincères à nous- mêmes il faut avouer que l’un des grand problèmes de l’homme c’est l’attention. L’homme en général n’écoute pas. Jésus était conscient de ce fait quand il appelait Israel, son peuple à l’attention: ‘Shema Israel: Ecoutez Israel’.  La question à nous poser, pourquoi blamer Dieu? Pourquoi on veut toujours rendre le Bon Dieu responsable de nos malheurs personels et de ceux qui viennent dans le monde? Cela arrive quand l’homme devient impuissant face à ces responsabilités ou devant les menaces qui le bouleversent.

Dieu dans son éssence et son genre ne peut être l’auteur des malheurs personels et des catastrophes naturelles qui frappent le monde. Cette perspective m’invite à ouvrir la porte au verset biblique le plus populaire dans la Sainte Ecriture, Jean 3:16: Dieu a tant aimé le monde qu’il a donné son Fils unique, afin que quiconque croit en lui ne périsse point, mais ait la vie éternelle. Dieu en sacrifiant son Fils unique pour les hommes a mis en evidence sa grandeur, son amour et sa compassion pour l’humanité. Un sage raisonnement c’est de dire un Tel Dieu qui n’a pas hésité de sacrifier son Fils Bien-Aimé pour sauver les hommes, ne peut pas être en même temps responsable de ses malheurs. Cette misconception de l’homme en vers Dieu malheureusement engendre une peur et un découragement chez beaucoup de personnes qui cherchent de lui rapprocher pour l’aimer et lui servir.

Quand nous prions, nous n’invoquons pas Dieu sous le titre de mauvais dieu, mais du Bon Dieu. La tendence de l’homme c’est de placer le Bon Dieu comme l’auteur des catastrophes du monde. C’est une mischaracterization de l’image de Dieu dans notre société. C’est une grande erreure et une grande confusion de faire croire que le Bon Dieu est responsables de nos malheurs.

Les trois annèes de ministère de Jésus parmis les hommes révellent l’image de ce Bon Dieu que j’aimerais témoigner ici. Dans ces trois années, Jésus à travers ses messages, son amour, son pardon, sa compassion et ses guérisons sont des manifestations de l’amour de Dieu pour l’humanité. Toutes les actions de Dieu pour l’homme à travers son Fils Jésus se dirigent dans une seule direction: la délivrance de l’homme et son salut.

Nous ne pouvons pas sous estimer qu’il y a des épreuves qui rendent certaines personnes meilleurs dans la vie… En effet, les souffrances personelles et les catastrophes qui souvent frappent notre monde sont des événements qui devraient nous inviter de nous rapprocher d’avantage vers Dieu. C’est le moment de prêter attention a l’écoute; à la voix de Jésus qui nous dit: Shema…, écoutez!

Par exemple ces jours-ci nous constatons tristement que pas mal de gens tombent malades; et beaucoup d’entre eux arrivent à rendre le dernier soupire due au coronavirus.  Pour nous mêmes qui ont la chance de respirer encore, c’est peut être le moment de se poser la question si Jésus m’appelle aujourd’hui, est ce que je suis près à le rencontrer.  Suis-je en mesure de même porter attention à sa Voix? Dans cette perspective il y a une recherche de soi à faire. Dans cette recherche de soi on peut découvrir les choses qu’on pensaient qui étaient importantes dans nos vies ne sont pas. Dans un clin d’oeil, nous pouvons tout quitter; cependant ce qui est de vrai, de profond ne nous quittera jamais.  Je veux parler du Bon Dieu, le vrai trésor, le Dieu de tout le monde, mais qui est aussi un Dieu personel qui prend soin à chacun de nous. Voila pourquoi Il se révèle dans l’histoire de l’humanité comme le Dieu d’ Abraham, Isaac et de Jacob.

Sans nulle doute on peut dire que c’est le moment le plus difficile que connait beaucoup de générations d’aujourd’hui. C’est très rare de ne pas avoir un membre de famille ou un ami qui n’est pas affecté du coronavirus. Ces gens là que nous regardons tomber à travers les chaines de tèlèvision par ce fléau nous certainement fait pleurer. Plus triste encore beaucoup d’entre eux sont des jeunes pères et mères qui ont laissès des petits enfants derrière. Même lorsque nous ne les connaissons pas tous, mais nous sommes tous affectés, parce que comme St. Paul l’a dit: “Nous qui sommes plusieurs, nous formons un seul corps en Christ, et nous sommes tous membres les uns les autres Romains 12:5.” St. Paul nous a réassuré la légitimité de ce seul corps dans 1 Corinthiens 12:26 quand il déclare: ”Si un membre souffre, tous les membres soufrent avec lui…”.

Devant les souffrances et ces heures sombres que connaissent notre monde, il faut nous s’assurer que Dieu est un semeur de bien, mais pas de mal. Il faut toujour croire que Dieu est Amour. La Sainte Ecriture l’a bien dit: son amour s’étend d’âge en âge, c’est eternel. Il ne faut jamais douter de son amour pour nous. Dieu reste toujour fidèle à son amour. C’est le moment pour tous Chrétiens de prendre notre refuge dans le Sacré-Coeur de Jésus; et de réaliser plus que jamais, l’heure est à la prière, la conversion, au soutient mutuel et à la confiance complète en Dieu.

Fr. Marcel is a member of the Pastoral Care department of Norwalk Hospital.

Will We Ever Take These Things For Granted Again?

I’m an introvert. I love my alone time and I love my personal space. I enjoy having time in solitude to be introspective. But what I have learned during this time of social distancing is that the more I isolate, the harder it is to socialize when the time comes. I think that’s one of my worries in all of this, besides the virus itself. It’s a great challenge—to know when to push myself and when to give myself time to grieve what we’ve lost—the sense of normalcy.

As a creative, there is also this pressure to be extra productive in this time. But I’m finding that these conditions aren’t exactly conducive to healthy creativity. The more I ruminate, the further into desolation I slide—so I find that sometimes distraction is the healthiest thing at the moment.

I want to offer words of hope but I don’t really have any. So I search for the message in the smallest of things—affirmations written in chalk on our daily walks, finding positive stories to tell in the community, discovering a swing set we never knew was there.

I am left wondering, “What could we have done to have made the outcome different?” and “What can we do to ensure that this never happens again?” I want action, I want answers, I am uncomfortable in this waiting.

What we’ve lost in this pandemic is our sense of the ordinary; we are bereft of the loss of the myriad social and personal interactions that form our day and our sense of wellbeing, even our spirituality. There is a numbness, where there should be curiosity and engagement. Does it sometimes take something being taken away from us to realize how much it really meant to us?

Will we ever take for granted these things again?
The simple touch of a hand, a hug.
Having the choice to stay or go.
A sporting event, a movie, your grandparents’ house.
Now that all we have is time to reflect, to spend with one another,
Will the life we knew before be enough?
Will we remember that there was a time when we did have time…
To go for a walk.
The work still got done,
The world still went on.
It’s bittersweet, this time.
Because in one respect,
It makes us stop and take stock
Of the things that are important and the things that really aren’t.
But will we remember what it was like?
Will we let it change us,
The way we do things,
The way we live our lives,
The things we hold in importance.
Or will we simply return to the way we were,
Until something else makes us stop
And go for a walk.

But I have to hope that, because all times of waiting are uncomfortable, and because out of discomfort comes growth, something good will come out of this. Maybe it will bring the change we’ve all been yearning for.

We’ve seen people playing instruments outside their windows as a form of entertainment, we’ve seen creatives release comforting content, we’ve seen food drives and donations, and people stepping up to fill a need wherever they see one. Is it possible to hope that perhaps this is the reminder that we needed?

To see the good in each other. To have no other choice but to take a pause in our own busy lives to check on our neighbor, offer a helping hand or remember how much value is held in a simple hug.

Sometimes we get so busy in our lives that we forget to pause and connect. My hope is that, for however long this time ends up being, I don’t let it go to waste. What is the thing that I had been waiting to do but “didn’t have the time?” I have to hope that God is somehow guiding my search to find the good in all this, and that maybe He will help me notice the ways He works in my life once again.

Elizabeth Clyons is a columnist for Fairfield County Catholic and is the Communications Associate for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

You make all things new, Oh Lord

Dear Jesus,

As I sat at mass on Ash Wednesday at St. Johns, I never anticipated that I wouldn’t be able to physically be there at the Easter Vigil. To me, the Coronavirus seemed just like anything else at the time – something that would quickly pass. Boy was I wrong. In mid-March, after a series of government ordinances, the Bishop announced that all public masses were suspended until future notice. I couldn’t believe the news. I look at the picture I took of the last weekday mass I attended at St. John’s on March 17th at 8:00 a.m., and I long for the day when I can be there again. Virtual masses have been great and I’m very appreciative that I can still participate in the sacrifice from a distance, but nothing substitutes for receiving Your body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. What a gift You have given us…a gift that I have often taken for granted.

I marvel, though, at how You work…because in this time of physical separation, I desire You more than I ever have before. The fifth reading for the Easter Vigil expresses this sentiment so perfectly: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts,” (Isaiah 55: 1-11). While we may never know if there is a reason for this pandemic, it’s given all of us an opportunity to reflect on the fragility of life and our own mortality. Sometimes it takes a complete shaking up of the universes that we construct for ourselves to remind us that we are not ultimately in control. There is a God and we are NOT Him.

For as Christians, we believe that death is NOT the end but rather a passageway unto eternal life. Just as a baby must exit his mother’s womb after 9 months to be born into the world, so we too must leave this world at the end of our earthly lives to enter eternity. And eternity is FOREVER. What a sobering thought – one that should cause us to reflect on how we are spending our time on this earth. In the busyness of life, we often distract ourselves with work, sports, social media, music, TV, technology, etc. Why? Because it’s hard to face the truth – the reality that we are imperfect, dependent, and not in control. And yet that’s precisely where You come in, oh Lord. One of the greatest blessings of this pandemic has been an increased opportunity for silence. You’ve given us the gift of time, to be used well. As I’ve sat in adoration over the past forty days, I realize how desperately I was trying to put together the puzzle of my life. I was speaking to You, but I wasn’t allowing You to speak to me in and through the silence. And what did I start to hear through this silence? I heard You asking me to trust in You, to receive your love. I told You at the start of Lent that I didn’t feel worthy of your love. I didn’t understand how you could love me in my weakness, constantly struggling with the same sins and attachments. But in the silence, I heard You reassuring me that it was never You who didn’t love me, but I who never let You love me; that you came down from Heaven and died that awful death on the cross because we need a Savior, because we cannot do this life on our own; that the cross, which was meant for death and destruction, is actually the instrument of salvation; that our suffering (physical, emotional, spiritual) united to Your own is a means to eternal glory; that we must die to ourselves and to sin in order to share in your resurrection.

Thank You for loving us despite our infidelities; for never giving up on us and always providing new opportunities (perhaps in the most unexpected of ways!) to reorient our lives and draw closer to you. Yes, the Coronavirus is scary, but You bring a greater good out of everything. Just as the Exsultet that we heard on the Easter Vigil proclaims, “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” You make all things new, Oh Lord. Transform our hearts and minds so that one day, we may enjoy eternal bliss with You.

I love you Jesus, my Love. I am sorry for ever having offended You. Never let me offend You again. Grant that I may love You always, and then do with me as You will.

By: Diane Kremheller

Hopeful Anticipation

DANBURY—A Reflection for Holy Week from St. Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Associate, Devon McCormick:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

My husband, Mikey, and I often talk about how we spend too much time on our phones. In fact, one of our “family rules” is to minimize screen time, and as Rilke so magically puts it in the poem above, be present to one another and to what is happening around us. We make sure to be intentional about our phone-time, and hold one another accountable when necessary. However, I’ve found myself scrolling through my phone much, much more lately. With all of the panic, uncertainty, and fear floating around with the COVID-19 crisis, I feel the need to bury myself in what others are saying, experiencing, believing, and how they are all coping. These times are unprecedented—I have no doubt that I will be telling my grandkids about these days of quarantining and social distancing. I’m scared—I’m unsure of how to care for my 16-month-old, or how we are going to stay put in our house with a dog who constantly wants to go on a 3-hour hike.

There is another feeling lingering within me, though. Anticipation. I’m constantly checking my phone because I am constantly anticipating finding or reading something—news of another confirmed case, an order to shelter-in-place, or maybe even something positive like a magical cure. I’m always waiting for something to come, and I really don’t know what it is, but I, along with so many I suspect, feel suspended in time. It feels like we may never leave this time of uncertainty. It feels like this could just become the new norm—living with the fear of being near to others and stock-piling supplies because we just don’t know what could happen tomorrow.

Perhaps this is how it felt on Holy Saturday for all of Jesus’ friends and family. Did they feel paralyzed by the never-ending waiting? Did they shelter in place because it just felt better to be at home than anywhere else? Did they stock up on bread and milk and supplies because they weren’t sure if they were next or if it was safe to go out? Where they all of a sudden thrust into a new normal that they never signed up for? Did they feel this same weight of uncertainty and anticipation… like what they really wanted to happen may never come?

For some reason, Holy Saturday has always been my favorite day of the Triduum. Unlike Holy Thursday there is no Mass celebrated; unlike Good Friday, there is no prayer service. There is no music. There is no joy or sorrow—there is just anticipation. Holy Saturday night we come back together in joyful praise at the Easter Vigil, but until then, we wait. For me, Holy Saturday has always held a sense of hope and peace. We know that Jesus has died… we know that our Savior has left us, but still, we wait. We gather our family together, begin shopping and preparing for our Easter meal, and together we enter into hopeful anticipation that Jesus will indeed rise, and we will join together again with our community to pray and sing and dance and rejoice.

Right now, our world is telling us to panic, stock-up, and stay 6 feet away from others. There is no Mass being celebrated throughout the entire country, just like Holy Saturday. Churches are dark and empty, just like the tomb. Holy Saturday calls us into hopeful waiting. It is peaceful. It is still. Right now, God is inviting us into an extended Holy Saturday—one in which we do not have to be productive or perfect. We can just be as we are in that moment. We can take time to listen to what God is telling us, as Rilke says above. We can let both beauty and terror happen to us, and work to find God within. We can just sit with our loved ones, cook food, play games, take walks, watch movies, and revisit what is truly important —all in hopeful anticipation that our Lord is indeed coming and that the sun will rise on a brighter day in which we can all be together again. We aren’t sure when that day will come, but until then, I am going to focus on being present, remaining hopeful, and lean into the anticipation for Easter morning, whenever it may come.

Wash your hands and say your prayers

The soap dispenser next to my bathroom sink has the following words printed on it: “Wash your hands and say your prayers because Jesus and germs are everywhere!” As someone who loves Jesus and has also cultivated a fears germs ever since she learned about them in first grade, I consider this item an essential part of my home decor. The dispenser has been getting a lot of use lately (even more so than usual), given the circumstances. I connected to those words in a new way this morning, as I went to wash my hands. Usually, they’ll make me smile or chuckle on the inside, but today they opened my mind to the very reality that Jesus is everywhere.

Around the world, in our own country, and even in our own communities, people are suffering from a virus that has never been seen before. In order to prevent its spread, things are being closed and cancelled left and right. So much has changed within a week, and even within a few days. All public Masses have been suspended through the end of the month. Schools closing, restaurants closing, workplaces shifting to work from home…all of these things have changed our lives and our world so suddenly. We’ve done our best to find solutions, to make do with what we have to work with. But no Mass? This one seems to hit more deeply (it has for me, at least). Not being able to worship God in community or to receive Jesus in the Eucharist leaves us feeling disoriented. We were created for communion with God. Not being able to physically attend and participate in Mass, where this happens in the most beautiful and profound way, seems contrary to what we humans were made for.

Right before I washed my hands this morning, I watched a live-streamed daily Mass from my parish’s chapel. The first reading is especially timely for our current state of affairs. Moses says, in imaging what the other nations will say about Israel, “For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). God is closer to us than we can imagine. He doesn’t come in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire; He in the “light silent sound” (1 Kings 19: 11-12). As the priest at my parish said in his homily this morning, “even though right now we’re in a time when being physically present at Mass is not possible…when we have to keep a distance from the greatest of all sacraments (the Eucharist), that doesn’t change the fact that God desires to draw close to you and to me. Our God desires to be near us” (thank you, Father Sam!). God comes to us and makes Himself present in the sacraments, but He does so in other ways, too. He is close to us no matter what. He desires to be close to His people, to each of us individually. He desires to come into our heart and guide us, encourage us, and show us His love. In a time where so much is uncertain, this gives us great confidence.

Our hunger for the Eucharist in this time when we cannot receive it is real, and it is out of love and longing for God Who gives Himself freely to us, in a way that is tangible to us. In our hunger, we not only are in solidarity with those Catholics around the world, for whom going to Mass is dangerous and potentially life-threatening, but it also allows us an opportunity to feed others with what we do have. We know that God is with us. Even though everything else is changing, that isn’t. We have this confidence, this faith, this relationship. Let’s feed other people with it. Let’s look around us to find those in our lives who are spiritually starving. We can bring Christ to them, in our words and actions (even if it’s through FaceTime). Everything else may be cancelled, but we can still do that.

By: Michelle Onofrio