A tweet recently went viral that said, “Honestly hadn’t planned on giving up quite this much for Lent.”
It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, the timing of COVID-19, right in the middle of Lent, in which millions of people suddenly find themselves giving things up — whether they wanted to or not.
Giving things up is not easy, sacrifice can be painful. Some of you may be giving up the final months of your senior year and the rituals that surround that, a sports season, the production of a musical or recital that you’ve put hours into preparing, the peace of mind that comes with routine, the safety that is provided from your school environment, time spent with friends, jobs, vacations, the feeling of security that your health is not immediately threatened by a new virus.
Perhaps most profound is that in the midst of Lent, a time when we are called to deepen our prayer lives, to draw closer to the Lord, we have also been asked to refrain from attending Mass, we have been asked to sacrifice receiving the source and summit of our faith, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our dearly beloved Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
And for what purpose?
To protect the sanctity of life.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, what your thoughts are about how it’s being handled (or not handled), the reality is that the vulnerable members of our society are at risk. Not just the elderly, but those who have cancer, auto-immune disorders, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, asthma, are pregnant, etc. We have a civic duty, and more importantly, a Christian duty, to protect them. In the coming weeks, when we grow tired and despondent from self quarantining, we must remember that human life is at the center of this, even if it is not our own life that is in imminent danger.
Faced with fear, or inconvenience, we can unite our suffering with the cross and offer it up for the souls who will be most affected by this, for children who will have to go without meals provided for them by their schools, and for all medical personnel who are working more tirelessly than they already do.
This experience is new to all of us. In that, I find solace. Though we may be physically separated, we are in this together, we will journey together, pray together, grieve together. This will require an abundance of patience, flexibility, kindness, the ability to think beyond one’s self, but I am confident that we will move forward.
Though we may not be able to receive Eucharist, there are still ways we can come together and be the living Body of Christ. The Catholic response in the face of adversity, hardship — and yes, even plagues — has not been to turn one’s back to the world, but instead to embrace the words Jesus taught us: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; “Love your neighbor as yourself”; “Greater love has no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends.”
Now is an especially important time to practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Here are some ideas:
- Call your local Catholic Charities or Church. Ask them what members of your community are most in need and how you can be of assistance.
- Check in with elderly neighbors via a phone call or from a safe distance (six feet apart and only if you are well). See if you can drop off a box of food and paper products for them. It is VERY dangerous for people over 70 to be out and about right now and many stores have been.
- Call your loved ones who might be lonely. Nursing homes have limited visits in many cases. Most hospitals are no longer allowing visitors with few exceptions. Take a few minutes out of your day to make a card or two and send it to your local hospital or nursing home.
- Donate to food banks (including toilet paper if you have a large stash). Many, many single parents and hourly workers are beginning to find themselves in need of extra support.
- Offer up inconveniences and anxiety for the sick and the souls in purgatory.
- Pray a daily Rosary as a family, asking our Mother to wrap us in her mantle of protection.
One final thought – “this is the time that Saints are made” has been a constant thought of mine. This is not the first time in its 2000 year history that the Church has been faced with an epidemic, nor will it be her last. Saints rise up in the face of adversity and hardship, they transform the culture around them by the light and peace of Christ. May we have the grace and courage to be the hands, feet, and heart of our Lord Jesus Christ during this unprecedented time.
P.S. Many Saints who have gone before us were unable to receive the Blessed Sacrament. They often made a spiritual communion. Until we can receive the Eucharist again, I encourage you to pray this prayer daily:
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.