I write you today, March 31, as the Church has entered what is called Passiontide. The Fifth Sunday of Lent, which was this past Sunday, begins the two-week period before Easter Sunday. It is during the two weeks of Passiontide that we deepen our union with the Lord Jesus as He approaches His Passion and Death.
Just yesterday morning, Bishop Deshotel sent a letter to the priests of the Diocese of Lafayette to encourage us as priests in these difficult days. With the gentle, yet firm voice of a father, he told us “not to give in to anxiety and discouragement. Rather, look to it with eyes of faith. See it as an opportunity to carry the cross with our Lord, following Him to Calvary and the certainty of the Resurrection.” The Resurrection is certain. It will come. The darkness and doubt will pass. Christ is the new day, the sun that will never set.
So what can we do as we wait out the coronavirus?
Certainly we can pray. And even if the events of the past couple of weeks have distracted us from our Lenten prayer, it’s not too late to take them up again. At St. Patrick’s we are reading chapters from My Daily Bread. Here’s a link to the reading plan that we are following.
It’s so wonderful that there are Catholic resources readily available. EWTN. Live-streaming of Masses and devotions (Rosary, Divine Mercy, Way of the Cross) over so many platforms. There are Catholic websites and online faith formation programs too numerous to list. Abundant faith-inspired movies, classic and contemporary, are available through subscription services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, to name but two.
I know watching Mass at home is not the same, I know. For us priests, celebrating Mass alone or for a virtual audience is not the same, either. But for now, and for the common good, it’s what we have. That said, I am convinced that there are incredible graces to be won in this time. The act of faith and devotion that brings us to participate only virtually in holy Mass, and to persevere faithfully in these hard days, may well win for us new and special graces for when we can return to the public celebration of the Eucharist. God will not be outdone in generosity. An ounce of faith and good will on our part, and He multiplies that thirty, and sixty, and a hundredfold!
So what else can we do to fill our hours well? Quoting a passage from a favorite spiritual book, They Speak by Silences: “Our little houses, like our souls, are occupied by Someone… He is the Master: He has a right to everything. He takes our hours, one by one, and fills them.”
Yard work, cleaning out closets, or attics … sorting through old pots and pans and junk drawers … organizing papers and pictures …even the most mundane tasks can bring us closer to our Lord. Ordinary life, done with an extraordinary outlook, the outlook of faith: this is the stuff of holiness.
“Wait for the Lord, be stouthearted and wait for Him” (Psalm 27).
Cooped up at home, we can learn how each of us carries a hermitage within, a place in our hearts occupied by Someone, sharing in part, for now, in the vocation of monks and nuns. Think of our Carmelite sisters right there on Carmel Drive in Lafayette … how they’re praying and working, filling their hours well and worthily (and praying for all of us, if I know them!).
How not to fill our hours? Excessive use of news media and social media. There is NO information about the coronavirus to be gained from any post on Facebook. People filled with worry and panic can resort to saying or posting or “quoting” the most dubious things, giving in to their worst fears. Stay away from this misinformation, from the worry and needless anxiety it can bring. The evil one, a spirit of fear, is waiting there to prey upon you and to draw you away from an ever deepening trust in our Lord.
Resist worry, fear, and anxiety. Find and do joyful things, simple things, wholesome and holy things. “And let the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
Here at St. Patrick’s Monica and I are observing reduced office hours – just enough to check the mail, return calls, pay bills, and deal with things that need immediate attention. It is a great help that we both work alone – and in separate buildings! So social distancing is not a problem. If it’s on your mind about how to give to St. Patrick’s in these days, see the link here on how you can do that via on-line giving. Naturally, a check in the mail works well, too.
Even if little St. Patrick’s is not equipped for a big online presence, still we’re reaching out to parishioners as we can. Last week a few volunteers made phone calls to about thirty of our older parishioners to check on them. All reports were good, and they’re following up with the ones who wanted to be contacted again. I’m preparing these emails and have finally figured out (rudimentarily) how to make updates to our simple website. I’ve also been phoning a handful of parishioners each day to check in and to offer an assurance of my prayers. So far, everyone we’ve contacted is in good health (though some are admitting to symptoms of mild boredom, go figure!).
Lastly, but above all, know of my prayers and love for each of you. I really look forward to seeing you all again, and please God, soon.
Yours in our Lord, Fr. Guillory