Well, a lot has been happening in our world and in our country especially in this last week. If you told me a week ago that I had a week of public ministry left before we go on lockdown, I would have struggled to believe you. “Not in Lent surely!” It’s not that I didn’t think it wasn’t coming eventually, I just didn’t really want to think about it amid the daily pastoral demands and there was certainly enough to keep me busy!
Friday morning came of course, and I celebrated the last public Mass for the immediate and foreseeable future – it was painful, to say the least. It was moving to have a fuller church for a Friday morning Mass, but that Mass will go on my list of the handful occasions where I felt that I would nearly not get through the Mass. The people of God were, as ever, encouraging and the reverence and prayerfulness of Friday’s Mass were beautiful, never-the-less it was a sad and painful occasion for all of us.
Now, however, we have to get on with things. The period that our Nation has moved into is unchartered territory. It seems to me, at least, that we have a choice: we can either moan, get angry and depressed and complain about the situation or we can learn to live with our new reality, accept it for what it is and learn how to flourish in these difficult times. Everyone will suffer in some greater or lesser way in the foreseeable future - this is happening to all of us. We need to let go of things that we thought gave our lives security, direction and meaning and use this time well to rediscover what is important and what is essential.
It’s not all doom and gloom: families will be forced in many cases to spend more time with each other. There is only so much TV and the Internet (if the broadband holds up) that people can cope with so at some point, people will have to relearn how to sit around a table and talk to each other, play games and read books! Of course, there will be many of us who are isolated, the sick, the elderly and those who, like me, live alone. So, it’s important that we connect with each other using all the technology and resources that are available.
As a priest I am struggling and will continue to struggle with the inability to do what my very life is given over to – the public celebration of the Eucharist and the public administering of the other sacraments, pastoral visits and generally all pastoral contact. It’s going to be difficult to be a shepherd to a virtual flock. Yet these are difficulties and struggles which all my brother priests and ministers are going to struggle with during this time and I feel a strange and new solidarity with my brothers already beginning to blossom.
As Catholics and as Christians the coronavirus time can be a real opportunity for us if we allow it. A time to foster a contemplative heart and re-discover and deepen our relationship with Jesus. A time to learn the value of silence, immerse ourselves in the Word of God and do all those spiritual things that we have “put-off” because we are just too busy.
There are lots of resources and courses online that can help us form our faith and nourish our relationship with Jesus, many are now being offered for free and at heavily discounted prices. Dr. Scott Hahn has put together The Quarantined Catholic Hub:
And David Payne at Café (Catholic Faith Exploration) is offering lots of courses at discounted prices www.faithcafe.org
I am also streaming live Mass and prayers and content from our Facebook page www.facebook.com/bmrcparish
(10 am daily and 11 am on Sunday)
These are going to be different and difficult times for all of us, but let’s stay positive and most importantly let us keep our eyes fixed on Christ! Jesus is everything! In this time of isolation, I pray that we can relearn the important lesson that all our hope and trust should be placed in Him! We have been overly-comfortable and self-reliant as a people and a nation for a long time – may we learn and re-learn dependence on each other and dependence on God. The coronavirus pandemic can be a great opportunity for all of us, and God will if we let him bring great fruit out of what to human eyes look like a disaster – and this, of course, is the substance of our faith. God brings hope out of despair, light out of darkness and resurrection out of death.