Happy Easter brothers and sisters! I hope that you are continuing to find joy and hope in the resurrection during this Easter season.
In my column a few weeks ago, I mentioned that navigating the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge because we are experiencing something that is new to us. We find ourselves in an unknown land, and we don’t have a map to guide us.
In times like these, when we find ourselves lost, we must pause, examine our surroundings and return to the sources of stability in our lives.
The Catholic faith is certainly one source of stability in our lives. However, the current situation creates challenges when it comes to expressing our faith. Typically, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, would be a source of comfort in the midst of uncertainty, but because of the need for social distancing we must go without for a while. Though there are many options for people to participate in Mass remotely each day, we know that this is not the same as receiving the Eucharist. This is especially challenging during the Easter season.
Although we are unable to encounter the risen Christ in the Eucharist right now, there are some other ways that we can meet him this Easter season. One particular way is through reading and praying with Scripture. In particular, you might read the Gospel accounts of the resurrection and pray to see Christ in the world as the early disciples did.
I would also invite you to read the Acts of the Apostles, as it provides a stunning example of a group of people who were lost and grasping for answers after Jesus’ death, much like we are today. But by opening themselves to the Holy Spirit and following where the Spirit led, they experienced a stunning transformation that continues to be felt in the world to this day. We might ask the Holy Spirit to help us be part of the transformation that God is preparing during this time.
In addition to the Scriptures, we can also look to common symbols of our faith at a time like this. One symbolic act that has a long history within the Catholic Church is the ringing of bells. Ringing the church bells has often been used both as a call to prayer as well as a way to mark a victory over a common enemy. This is why I invited churches and individuals throughout the Diocese of Green Bay to ring bells at noon on Easter Sunday. The ringing of bells is a clarion call to hope reminding us that, although we are rightly shelter at home right now, one day we will be able to emerge victorious. It is a reminder to continue to persevere through present trials until “yesterday’s trials are behind!”
Finally, a source of stability for all of us right now is the power of prayer. Not only is prayer a way for us to share our concerns and worries with our Father who loves us dearly, it is also a way for us to be connected as a community.
Pray, in particular, for our health care workers who are working tirelessly and sometimes walking with people as they cross the threshold of death into the promise of eternal life! In particular, I invite you to join me in praying the Angelus at noon each day, or simply praying an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be. To remember, you can set an alarm on your phone. I bet you can even find one that sounds like church bells.
While we may not be able to participate in the sacraments right now, we can still lean on our faith to give us strength. There is no substitute for worshipping God together as one family of faith, but we can use this time to deepen our trust in God and grow in our faith as a result. And if we do, we will have a heavenly celebration when we are able to gather again as a community when all this has passed. May God give each of us the strength to persevere until that day!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter at @BpDavidRicken.