‘Our own experience during the lockdown can inspire us to appreciate the freedoms we possess’
By Bob Hunt
As I write this, the Church is approaching the celebration of our Lord’s Ascension. The week after, Pentecost Sunday, our diocese will begin to celebrate public Sunday Mass again, with some restrictions in consideration of social distancing and commonsense safety measures intended to decrease the chance of spreading infection. Our entire Easter season has been spent under the pall of the coronavirus epidemic lockdown. My prayer, shared by most I’m sure, is that the opening up of our society and our economy can be done successfully without sparking widespread infection.
The lockdown has had its own cost. Millions have lost their jobs, some never to be recovered. Businesses have closed, some never to reopen. Connections with loved ones have been stretched thin and sometimes even severed. It will take a while to discern the social and economic impact as well as the health impact of this pandemic and the lockdown adopted to manage it. But, safe to say, few of us have ever experienced anything like this before and, by God’s grace, will not experience it again.
Truly a great loss has been the opportunity to worship together and to be nourished by our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Watching Mass via livestreaming has been something of a comfort, and I don’t dismiss the grace of spiritual Communion. As well, we all appreciate the efforts of our pastors and associate pastors to keep us connected. But, there’s no getting around the fact that not being able to attend Mass has been a trial.
Nothing can replace being present for the Divine Liturgy, hearing the Word, praying the prayers, and receiving our good and gracious Lord in His Body and Blood. That being said, this might be a good time to reflect on the experience of our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world, especially in the Third World, where priests are few and Catholics are many and the opportunity to worship and receive the sacraments limited. Last year, bishops of the Amazon region met in synod to discuss the efforts they make to bring the sacraments to the faithful who live in remote areas. The report sent to the Holy Father was frank:
“Many of the ecclesial communities of the Amazonian territory have enormous difficulties in accessing the Eucharist. Sometimes it takes not just months but even several years before a priest can return to a community to celebrate the Eucharist.” Various ideas were considered on how to resolve this matter. I’ll leave that to the Magisterium. My point is that there are many Catholics who suffer lack of access to Mass and the sacraments, not just for a few weeks, but for years. Other Catholics endure months or years without the sacraments because of state or social persecution.
Too often, that persecution takes the form of violence against Catholics and other Christians who simply want to worship and practice the faith in peace. Christians in China and North Korea suffer official sanction by the state, and Christians in India and many Islamic countries are threatened by the prejudice of their own countrymen. Many martyrs testify to their efforts to keep the faith under great pressure and duress. Our own experience during the lockdown can inspire us to appreciate the freedoms we possess and recommit ourselves to hold on to them against a state that is sometimes too aggressive in pushing a secular agenda, and assist us in opening our hearts in prayer for those fellow members of the Body of Christ who don’t have the freedoms and resources we enjoy.
If you wish, you can offer part of your treasure as well as your prayers to organizations committed to protecting our freedoms here at home and that assist our confreres around the world.
Two such organizations are the Thomas More Society and Aid to the Church in Need. The Thomas More Society (www.thomasmoresociety.org) identifies itself as “a nonprofit, national public-interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty.” Aid to the Church in Need (www.churchinneed.org) is an international charity under the guidance of the pope to assist Catholics in remote and persecuted areas by training seminarians, building churches, and providing resources and comfort to Catholics who suffer persecution. Take some time to check them out. Perhaps the spiritual desert through which we’ve traveled can prove a spring of hope for the future of the Church.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Bob Hunt is a husband, father, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville and is a candidate for the permanent diaconate