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Choose the good in this time of crisis

Joseph F. Naumann is Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

The coronavirus pandemic impact on our nation and community continues to change and evolve each day. For all of us, we are in uncharted waters. St. Mother Teresa said often: “If you wish to make God smile, tell him your plans.”

The archdiocese continues to abide by and support the requests of our national, Kansas and local community public health officials.

Though we wish it could have happened in a different way, this epidemic has united all Americans in a common effort to limit the impact of the virus — caring for those with the virus, minimizing the number of those who contract the virus and assisting those who are suffering economic hardship because of some of the necessary measures taken for the common good. 

The church is committed to doing its part to protect the public health, care for the sick, comfort those who suffer the death of a loved one and to assist those who are suffering economically.

Please continue to support prayerfully and financially Catholic Charities and their continued efforts to assist the poor. The economically disadvantaged will be the hardest hit because they do not have the same access to health care and because they are least able to absorb the negative financial impact to our society.

We must do all that we can to help everyone in the community weather this storm.

Events like this pandemic make us realize how little control we have over our circumstances and how radically dependent we are upon God, motivating us to be more prayerful, entrusting our worries and burdens to our loving God, who revealed his compassion through Jesus.

Hopefully, one good that will come from this health crisis is a spiritual awakening for many Americans.

I have had to announce the cancellation of all Masses — both weekend and daily — effective March 17, until further notice. At the time this paper went to press, funeral Masses of 50 or less — including ministers — are still permitted. Funeral lunches are not. For details on this, confessions and the restriction of other activities, please go online here. 

Please, as an act of charity for others, do not come to church for any reason (e.g., confessions, funerals, etc.) if you are sick. If your immune system is compromised or your health is vulnerable because of sickness or age, for your own protection you should not come to church.

If you are ill and in need of the anointing of the sick, please call your parish office. While it is not the same as actually attending Mass in church, I encourage everyone to view Mass on your television or online via EWTN, or by accessing the livestreaming of Masses that is offered by some parishes. 

 I encourage individuals and families to pray over and meditate on the Sunday readings. Magnificat, a monthly publication that always provides the Sunday and daily readings as well as other meditations, is making its online version available free of charge during this crisis.

Lent is a wonderful time to read and meditate upon the Passion narratives in each of the four Gospels. This year on Palm Sunday, during the liturgy, we will hear St. Matthew’s account of the Passion and, on Good Friday, we always read the Passion from St. John’s Gospel.

Although all communal penance services are also canceled, our priests will try to continue to be available for confession during the regular times, as well as during the extended opportunities — e.g., Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. during Lent. I have asked them to hear confessions only behind a screen to protect both confessor and penitent from unnecessary risk. We need to do all that we can to keep our priests healthy and try to protect them from unnecessarily being quarantined.

Many families are experiencing a full house during this time. Most colleges have suspended in-person classes, and now Kansas has closed schools for the rest of the school year.

With professional and college athletics shut down as well as concerts and most other forms of entertainment suspended, this is a great opportunity for families to spend time with each other.

It is a great time to pray together, to play games together and to read great books together.

Pre-coronavirus, many families found themselves stressed by attempting to accommodate the exhausting schedules of each family member.

With the many limitations on our usual activities, this is a moment to get off the treadmill of our overscheduled lives and to focus our undivided attention on those we love the most. This a great time to enjoy family meals — not just eating at the same table but having meaningful conversations.

Shakespeare advises: “It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” Certainly, none of us would choose the coronavirus pandemic. I do not want to minimize the pain and suffering it is causing and will cause for many.

All of us are being inconvenienced by this national health crisis.

However, there are potentially some good things that can come from this adversity: 1) It is uniting our nation; 2) It is creating opportunities to help, care for and support the victims of this epidemic; 3) It can open our hearts to God more and make us more prayerful; 4) It can deepen our appreciation for privileges we can often take for granted — e.g., to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist; 5) It can strengthen families and friendships; 6) It can free us from some of our addictions to sports and other entertainment forms, allowing us to realize they are not necessary for our happiness.

We could respond to this national crisis by complaining about a loss of freedom because of the restrictions on our usual activities. However, the Christian understanding of freedom is not the ability to do whatever I want whenever I want.

The freedom that Jesus models for us is the ability to choose the good — Christian freedom is the ability to choose the noble, to choose to love. The beauty of this Gospel freedom is that no one and nothing can prevent us from exercising it. The current crisis actually affords us more opportunities to exercise this authentic freedom. 

The church is also impacted when fewer people attend Sunday Mass or when Masses must be suspended for a time. Your parish priests will be working hard to provide for all of the increased pastoral and spiritual needs caused by this epidemic.

Please pray for our priests that they can be zealous, selfless and prudent in their service of God’s people.

Finally, I encourage you to relieve your pastor of some of the burden and anxiety that he carries by continuing your generous financial support of your parish.

If you are in a position to be more generous at this moment, that will help to make up for those who are simply unable to give at this time.

God is with us. We are not alone. Relying on his faithful compassion and committed to assisting each other, we will make it through this difficult time.

Be not afraid!

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Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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