EDITOR’S NOTE: The author of this article, Sherry Hayes-Peirce, appeared on Seize the Day with Gus Lloyd on Sirius XM’s The Catholic Channel as a follow-up to this piece. Listen to her interview here:
In just a few weeks we have moved from people being divided over the seriousness of the coronavirus to accepting that it is a confirmed pandemic. Our Church is being impacted directly, with significant changes in how we celebrate Mass during this Lenten season.
At this time of year I usually am immersed in spiritual practices like spending time in adoration, attending Mass more, watching the Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever daily reflection or listening to the #Pray40 series via my Hallow App. Each one draws me into a quiet calming state of mind. This year my sense of calm is akin to a sea anticipating a storm that will transform its veneer from still to turbulent.
When cares increase within me, your comfort gives me joy. (Psalm 94:19)
The barrage of news reports on television and online fuels anxious feelings and out right fear. But the Psalm reminds me that consolation only comes from God. Prayer for me is like donning a life vest. I am not a great swimmer so wearing a life vests gives me absolute confidence that I will not drown no matter how deep the water is below me.
At the first Sunday Mass in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines, there was no holy water to dip my finger into to bless myself, as I turned to my neighbor for the sign of peace and bowed to some while waving to others, and finally as I lined up to receive Communion there was no cup. Walking back to my pew to stand, I was compelled to kneel and prayed “Jesus I trust in thee.”
We had a two-day parish retreat led by Father Edward Beck the next day, and his messages were so powerful and pulled all who attended into deep reflection on our relationship with Christ in difficult times. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect! One of the songs selected for the retreat had the refrain “The way, The truth, The life, We believe you are” it was like a litany for overcoming the anxiety I was feeling.
In recent days some dioceses have suspended Mass entirely. What a sense of “yearning” this is creating for so many to be in communion and community with the body of Christ during this pandemic. The growing phenomenon of “social distancing” as a tactic for containment of the virus provides all of us with more time to be with family and focus on faith as other distractions are removed.
Finding faithful resources online during this very scary time are serving as a beacon of hope for me. Seeing posts from many of my Catholic leaders alluding to the Lord being in the midst of everything.
Even the call from the Centers of Disease Control to wash our hands more frequently inspired a post that now has me saying an Our Father during hand washing and offering the prayer for a different special intention at each washing.
Our parish has live-streamed our 9:30 AM Mass for years and it is comforting to know that if Mass is suspended in our Archdiocese I can still maintain my connection with my parish, pastor and associate priests online. Watching our Holy Father share a beautiful prayer to Our Lady, Health of the Sick to implore her protection against coronavirus gives me such hope. Download and print this prayer and pray with your family.
In the days, weeks, and months ahead let us remember to lean on the rich history and cultural practices of our faith as our life vests. Including praying to our saints, particularly those associated with other outbreaks like Sts. Damien and Marianne of Molokai or St. Roch who saved many afflicted with bubonic plague.
O Blessed Saint Roch,
Patron of the sick,
Have pity on those
Who lie upon a bed of suffering.
Your power was so great
When you were in this world,
That by the sign of the Cross,
Many were healed of their diseases.
Now that you are in heaven,
Your power is not less.
Offer, then, to God
Our sighs and tears
And obtain for us that health we seek
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saint Roch, pray for us,
That we may be preserved
From all diseases of body and soul. Amen
May the peace of Christ be with you and your family!
Copyright 2020 Sherry Hayes-Peirce