My Dear Brother Deacons,
To say this is a unique time in history would be an understatement. For the first time in our lives, American Catholics are not able to congregate for the Sunday Liturgies due to an invisible virus that can play havoc on our physical bodies.
I think; however, it is timely that we experience this separation during the Lenten Liturgical Year. Indeed, this quarantine from others offers us a time to recollect Our Lord’s Passion and Death on the Cross in an environment that more closely associates us with His Suffering.
But that does not mean we should sit idle in our homes and wait for this awful disease to pass us by. There are many things we can do from our homes. Here are some suggestions:
Use the telephone. How many times do you think about wanting to call all those families that came to you to have their child baptized? Now is a good time to contact them and see how the child is progressing, answer questions and invite them to prayer. Wedding couples too. You ministered to them in the Sacrament of Matrimony and sent them on their way as husband and wife. You have some obligation to check in on them and encourage them despite this time of isolation.
This is also true for all those new Catholics whom you taught in RCIA. You watched them grow in faith and now their faith is being tested. Your call would mean a lot to them.
Families of funerals you attended and annulments you have advocated are also people you can contact.
There are other things you can do as well.
If your parish has a food pantry, they probably need help. Find out what they need and start a phone drive to get food items delivered.
Prayer is very important during this time. Perhaps, there is a list of parishioners that are sick or elderly and need intercession. Suicide seems to increase during times of national emergencies. Pray for those who are struggling.
The prayer of Divine Mercy and praying the Stations of the Cross might be timely. Maybe a Rosary group on the phone will call others to action.
Spiritual reading is also important for your own spiritual health. Spending the time in a quiet place in your home each day just to ask for the Lord’s help and to listen to His Voice can be helpful. Archbishop Aquila recently recommended three books for spiritual reading for Catholics.
Journaling and spiritual reflections by email or blog might be a good source of interaction with some of your parishioners and will be helpful for your own relationship with God. A text message with a spiritual message to some of the men in your parish might be meaningful.
Fasting is routine during Lent, but perhaps some additional fasting with prayer might help bring to reality the bitter taste of Our Lord’s forty days in the desert. Walking that journey with Him might be a way of drawing closer to His Divine Heart.
Recognizing the time of Lent is a time of suffering, absence and dryness may also be important for your journey and may be helpful in your conversations with others. It might well connect us to those dedicated men and women in the poorer countries that only are able to celebrate Mass once over a long period of time. It may also help recall all those individuals who can only celebrate Mass while in hiding and are often sent to prison if discovered.
Recognizing what is absent in your life might bring you to a closer appreciate of what God has given you through family, friends, and faith. Call your Deacon brothers and their family members; especially if there are older and more vulnerable to the virus. Talk current events; but, also talk about spirituality.
Finally, this time might provide us with an opportunity to starting working on a ministerial program that you have put off due to time constraints.
Whatever you do, continue to pray for those who are sick from the coronavirus, for their families that are isolated from them, and for the health care workers that are working day and night to fight this disease. Pray also for the priests that are going out and anointing terminally ill and perhaps, contagious patients and for family members that must be away from their loved ones due to the illness.
But also, what is important to us in the Archdiocese, is that you stay healthy and safe. As Archbishop Aquila stated in his recent message to you, we need you, love you and appreciate all you have done for the People of God. But you still have a lot of work to do….so don’t get sick!
(for the website) Certainly, ideas for ministry are many. Perhaps you have some that you can include in the comments of this article. But please keep it in the context of what is permissible within the Archdiocesan guidelines.
God bless you for all you do.