by Father Mark Goldasich
A piece of art has been hanging in my home for almost 25 years.
It’s an original work by Suzi McCord, a former parishioner. In bold colors, it shows planet Earth and standing all around it are 10 children, dressed in attire typical for their region. Each of the kids is smiling and holding hands with one another. It’s entitled, “Friends Around the World.”
This coronavirus has reminded me that we all belong to one race: the human race. We’re all in this together, as this story can remind us:
Some missionaries in the Philippines set up a croquet game in their front yard. Several of their Agta Negrito neighbors became interested and wanted to join in the fun. The missionaries explained the game and started them out, each with a mallet and ball. As the game progressed, an opportunity came for one of the players to take advantage of another by knocking that person’s ball out of the court. A missionary explained the procedure, but the advice puzzled the Negrito friend.
“Why would I want to knock his ball out of the court?” he asked.
“So you will be the one to win!” replied the missionary.
The man shook his head in bewilderment. Competition is generally ruled out in a hunting and gathering society, where people survive not by competing, but by sharing equally.
The game continued, but no one followed the missionaries’ advice. When a player successfully got through all of the wickets, the game wasn’t over for him. He went back and gave aid and advice to his friends.
As the final player moved toward the last wicket, it was still very much a team effort. And finally, when the last wicket was played, the “team” shouted happily, “We won! We won!” (Adapted from a story in “Illustrations Unlimited,” edited by James S. Hewett.)
Never before in my life have I felt such an intense bond with my fellow human beings. Not being able to celebrate Mass publicly has sharpened my sense of those Catholics in many mission countries for whom weekly — let alone daily — Mass is a luxury.
The “stay at home” directive has made me acutely aware of what homebound individuals experience daily — a world limited to the confines of their house. Practicing social distancing has taught me the pain and isolation that many families feel in being separated from loved ones. The empty shelves of essential items in stores has highlighted what the “have nots” in our world experience each day.
This coronavirus has exposed the lie of the “self-sufficient” person. We need one another to survive. Naturally, we’re aware of and grateful for all of those in the medical profession on the front lines and those searching for a vaccine.
But there are also many people that are overlooked — the janitorial staff in hospitals, railroad workers, truck drivers, store clerks and stockers, those in the food service industry, those in the arts community, barbers and hairdressers. And the list could go on and on — whose service I will never take for granted in the future.
The other day I saw a letter from Jesuit Father Joseph McShane, president of Fordham in New York, addressed to the university community. In it, he quoted St. John XXIII from his famous “Moonlight Speech,” delivered the night the Second Vatican Council opened, to a group of pilgrims gathered spontaneously under his window in St. Peter’s Square. The pope’s words — here excerpted — seem especially apropos:
“Let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring. When you head home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them: ‘This is the hug and kiss of the pope.’
“And when you find them with tears to dry, give them a good word. Give anyone who suffers a world of comfort. . . . And then, all together, may we always come alive — whether to sing, to breathe, or to cry — but always full of trust in Christ, who helps us and hears us, let us continue along our path.”
And as one human family, may we finally emerge from these trying times, hand in hand, smiling and shouting, “We won! We won!”
Mark, most certainly words and sentiment that we all need to share at this time of uncertainty. May God shine down on you with all his blessings and protection. Though it’s probably been 40+ years since our paths have crossed, the mention of your name still brings a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart.