by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
“Ultimately, God is going to take care of us through this,” said Father David Simpson, O.Carm, in residence at St. Boniface Parish in Scipio.
“But we’ve got to keep saying to God: ‘I trust in you. I trust in you. I know you’ll take care of me and my loved ones.’” he added.
On March 17, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann canceled all Masses in light of the coronavirus pandemic currently spreading across the world. But priests and deacons throughout the archdiocese have already found ways for Catholics to keep their faith strong during this time of fear and panic.
“We’re in kind of unchartered waters here,” said Father David McEvoy, pastor of Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph Church in Leavenworth, “so it is important for Catholic families to realize the home is really the domestic church, and we need to pray at home.
“Archbishop Naumann has encouraged us to pray the daily rosary for an end to the pandemic, that people can stay safe, [and] that those that are suffering will be OK.”
While Masses in person have been canceled throughout the archdiocese indefinitely, Deacon Tim McEvoy of IC-SJ Church said there are ways to connect online or through television. Archbishop Naumann has celebrated live daily Mass on his Facebook page here and plans to celebrate Sunday Mass there, too, and you can tune in for Bishop Robert Barron’s daily Mass online here.
“You can watch the Mass, you can be spiritually nourished through the readings and the homily even though you’re not able to receive Communion,” Deacon McEvoy said.
Not being able to receive Communion is one of the most difficult parts of this experience for most Catholics.
“Not being able to go to Mass is a painful reality, but it also makes you more aware of the times you’ve taken it for granted,” Deacon McEvoy said. “Often in everyday life, we shuffle in and don’t get ourselves focused on what we’re participating in. So, maybe the good part [of this crisis is that it] makes us hunger for the Eucharist. I think in that regard, it helps us identify with those people joining the church.”
The Easter Vigil is not just the final celebration of the Triduum before Easter Sunday. It is also the time when catechumens and candidates all around the world join the Catholic Church. And even though catechetical instruction has been suspended, Deacon McEvoy, who is a former Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults instructor, said that’s not the most important part of their journey anyway.
“The catechumens and candidates for full communion should intensify their prayer life,” he said. “Deep prayer and spiritual union with Christ are the most important thing during this period, not catechetical instruction.”
Though the ability for any lay Catholic to receive Communion is unobtainable right now, this current crisis is something that the priests agreed could make this Lent even more meaningful.
“We’ve been hearing the word ‘quarantine’ a lot. That word literally means ‘40 days,’” said Father Bill McEvoy, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in Lansing. “I’ve never associated Lent with a quarantine, but this Lent has changed some of my thinking.
“Jesus ‘quarantined’ himself in the wilderness for 40 days, and now many of us are quarantining ourselves and — perhaps for the first time — have had to do some real praying in our inner room,” Father McEvoy continued. “Putting real trust in God, focusing on what is essential, feeling not so much in control, but placing ourselves in God’s hands while avoiding the temptation to make ourselves the exception to the rules.”
Father David McEvoy said this is an example of the cross all Catholics have to bear this Lenten season.
“Jesus says, ‘Pick up your cross and follow me,’” he said. “In Lent, we come up with different things we want to do that we think are going to deepen our faith and help us have a deeper conversion of heart.”
“But the [real] crosses that come our way are the ones I’ve always felt come out of the blue,” he continued. “They’re not things we choose. No one would choose to have to go through this, but this is what we have to do. . . . We have to realize that by isolating, we’re loving our brothers and sisters by not spreading germs to them.
“I think it really makes Lent probably more real for us, and we’re all in it together. This has no division based on economic background, political party, racial [or] ethnic background, rich, poor, or what country you live in.
“It really is something that unites us as human beings, and that’s something we can really think about during Lent.”
All agreed that it’s important to make sure everyone’s faith stays strong, including their own — through prayer, walks, connecting with loved ones and parishioners via phone or email, reading Scripture and more.
“I hope we can deepen our own spiritual journey, and I hope that we can become stronger Catholics, stronger spiritual persons, [and] stronger persons in general,” said Father David Simpson. “And we can really embrace the basis of the life of Jesus the Christ in being more loving of each other and self and society in general.
“It’s a great time for personal prayer — having some conversations with God and just sitting and listening to the depths of one’s heart.”