It has been almost a month since Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis were dispensed of our Sunday obligation to attend Mass, and even less time since public Masses were suspended and we were told by state officials to stay home for two weeks. It seems longer, doesn’t it? It appears likely we will be asked to persist in this relative isolation awhile longer.
People are rightly concerned about the health of their loved ones, the most vulnerable among us and healthcare workers (among other “essential” employees). They are also rightly concerned about their livelihoods and the economy, their family’s mental and spiritual health, and how much freedom and control we are willing to sacrifice based on what evidence.
That’s a great deal of concern. It’s exhausting to carry, and people everywhere are asking, “When will things get back to normal?”
I am not sure they should.
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For years now, I have worked for the church, here and at Saint Andrew in Elk River. For years I’ve had the opportunity to be a daily communicant and have often felt called to do so. The biggest obstacle (and excuse for not doing so) has been finding time in the mornings and evening, around work and family commitments, to get ready, get to Mass, and spend that extra time with the Lord. Usually I managed to do it once or twice a week.
However, in the time since this quarantine began, my sons and I have attended Mass online daily. I am blessed to be employed and busier than ever—and still seem to have plenty of time for worship. Who knew?
For several months now, I have wanted to learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and to commit to praying Morning and Evening Prayer, at least, each day. The learning curve seemed high, however, and the same excuses applied: I’m a working husband and father; how can I justify the extra time in prayer?
At one of the last get-togethers we had with friends, I learned to pray the Hours, and for the past three weeks or so, my sons and I have prayed them daily. Again, I’m busier than ever—funny how prayers meant to sanctify time seem to yield the time you need.
Finally, one of my Lenten commitments was to weed out unintentional speech—the thoughtless, sarcastic, snarky or ill-timed things I seem to say throughout the day just to hear myself to talk. Early in Lent this was a struggle—but suddenly, with friends and family facing real concerns, it’s easier to talk sincerely about things that matter than to pretend to be large and in charge with a quick witticism.
People everywhere are commenting about spending time with family, cooking dinner and buying local. People are longing for the sacraments and demanding their freedoms. People are praying for the future of our Church and our country, and begging God’s mercy on the world. We are becoming more aware and appreciative of our many blessings—and we don’t want to lose them.
These are good things, but even they are not the best thing.
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The best thing—our Source and our Goal—is God Himself. We must not love the gifts more than the Giver, who has allowed this virus outbreak for our good. God is working—hard—on the world right now, and not just at the big-picture level of nations and economies. He is working on families and on individual hearts and minds, calling people into deeper relationship with Himself. We must answer His call, surrendering even the good things we have to Him in order to do His will.
So in the coming weeks and months, if you see me slipping into old patterns and habits of life, call me on it. We are being pruned to be more fruitful—no more business as usual.
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Blogger’s Note: This post first appeared as part of the Wednesday Witness blog series on the St. Michael Catholic Church website.