“God does not abandon us, he goes with us even now in this time of trial and testing. In this moment, it is important for us to anchor our hearts in the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Now is the time to intensify our prayers and sacrifices for the love of God and the love of our neighbor. Let us draw closer to one another in our love for him, and rediscover the things that truly matter in our lives. “

Archbishop Jose Gomez

These are interesting times we are living in to say the least.  I have been reflecting, discussing and praying this past week about how we are being called to live as Dedicated Disciples in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak and the world’s reaction to it.  In our stewardship initiative, we have defined dedicated discipleship as intentional love of God and intentional love of neighbor.  These unprecedented circumstances give us an opportunity to practice both in some unique ways.

Intentional Love of God

Jesus reminds us, “pray always without becoming weary.” (Luke 18:1)  No matter the circumstances we are in, dedicated disciples are people of prayer.  A daily commitment to speak and to listen to the Lord is foundational to loving Him.  If we were to simply profess with our lips that we love God, but not follow through with the action of spending time with Him, sharing our heart with Him and allowing Him to share His with us, our words would ring hollow.  Love is, first and foremost, an action verb.  What are some things we can do?

  • Since we are unable to attend Mass at this time, there are many ways you can access it either by audio or video.
    • The Sioux Falls Diocese Mass and other prayers
    • Some local churches already or will be posting a Mass either on their web page or Facebook page.  Keep an eye out!
    • Fr. Dillon, Pastor of St. Joseph’s in Gregory has been posting a daily homily on their Facebook page
    • If you have never memorized a Spiritual Communion prayer, now is the time!  
  • There are many other ways to pray at home.  In Catholicism, we have such a rich tradition to draw from, our prayer tradition is like a treasure chest waiting to be opened.  Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Liturgy of the Hours can all be prayed from home.
    • The Pastoral Ministries Offices are working to put together a page on the Diocesan website with resources for prayer and study at home.  
    • We are working to post resources for you daily on our Facebook page.
  • It’s not too late to sign up for the many resources made available for Lent.  Click here for ideas!
  • At the time of the writing of this post, churches remain open.  Consider a visit to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.  In silence, the Lord speaks.
  • Although communal penance services have been cancelled, parish priests continue to hear individual confessions.  Whether you have been away for a long time from this sacrament or go regularly, Lent is a most opportune time to receive God’s mercy in this sacrament.

Intentional Love of Neighbor

Time spent in prayer might reveal to you how God might be calling you to love your neighbor in these unusual times.  The Holy Spirit speaks, but often our ears are not attuned to hearing him.  Here are some things that you might bring to prayer:

  • For many people, the news coming at us constantly and the ever-changing circumstances of the past week or two causes a great deal of anxiety and fear.  But as St. John reminds us, “perfect love drives out fear.”  As Christians, we can continue to witness hope and faith to those who feel anxious.  We can share accurate information, we can listen with empathy, and we can reassure those who are afraid that God is always with us.  Lastly, we can encourage them to limit their consumption of media.  Newscasters have to fill the airtime, but we do not need to choose to constantly expose ourselves to the 24-hour news cycle. Is there someone who needs your reassurance?  Consider making some phone calls to those you might think are vulnerable to fear and anxiety. 
  • If you are well, perhaps you can offer to do grocery shopping for those who are vulnerable.  Perhaps an elderly friend needs their prescriptions picked up?  Consider reaching out to those who are home bound, elderly or vulnerable in your church community.  A simple phone call just to let them know you are thinking about them at this time is very important.  In Preparing Your Church for COVID-19, Wheaton college professors suggest that church communities develop a plan (perhaps using existing “phone trees” or prayer chains) to reach out to parishioners during this time and reassure them that we (the Church) are here for them in a time of need.   
  • Are there people in your community who might not be receiving good information about coronavirus and public announcements about the response to it?  Perhaps their is a language barrier or a lack of resources.  If so, can we help?
  • Are there people you know who work in essential areas like healthcare but suddenly find themselves without day care?  If so, can you offer to help?
  • One of my favorite inspirations is the Daily Decalogue of St. John XXIII.  I have written previously about it here and here.
  • Lastly, as the saying goes, “charity begins at home.”  I ran into a friend this week who said, “one blessing in all of this is that we are all together as a family!”  Her college students are unexpectedly home.  Younger students, too, are home unexpectedly.  Some of my children’s favorite childhood memories are from blizzards which caused a “snow day.”  This time can be a gift for families.  But it can also be a challenge if you are struggling to balance work and childcare or simply trying to keep your children safe and happy.  There are a wealth of resources for your family at: www.CatholicSprouts.com including resources for celebrating Lent at home. The Diocese, too, has posted additional resources for families here.  

Hope and inspiration

Dedicated disciples are rooted in the truth of God’s great love for them and for all of humanity.  We know that God can bring good from every circumstance (cf Romans 8:28).  This is an opportune time to shine His light into the darkness.  Let us encourage and inspire one another to find creative ways to do so.  St. Paul offers us this practical and sound advice, helpful at all times, including today:

“We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all.  See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.  Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good.  Refrain from every kind of evil.”
(1Thess. 5:14-22)

 

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