Pope Francis presided over an “extraordinary moment of prayer” last Friday, March 27. The outdoor service was held in an empty St. Peter’s Square, where dark skies and rain matched the mood of the day, as well as the Gospel reading used at the service.
“We find ourselves afraid and lost,” the pope said, alluding to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In reference to Mark’s Gospel account of Jesus calming the stormy Sea of Galilee, Pope Francis said that, like the disciples, “we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.” He encouraged the world to “invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them.”
“On this boat are all of us,” the pope reminded the world. “Just like the disciples … we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.”
Here in the Diocese of Green Bay, as parish leaders have scrambled for ways to comfort and support their faith communities and neighborhoods, it is apparent that the pope’s words are being heeded: “only together can we do this.”
As a member of the diocesan Curia, and a witness to the outreach taking place in parish communities around the diocese, it is encouraging for me to see how unity can come from chaos.
Whether it is using livestream video online to celebrate virtual Masses, providing eucharistic adoration or confession in safe-distance environments, or packaging meals for children who often rely on schools for breakfast or lunch meals, creativity and extra effort help make the most of this challenging situation.
Parish leaders are also taking advantage of online groups, such as a Facebook “Disciples on the Way” community, where they share ideas for reaching families, the elderly and other vulnerable people who are home or alone during the pandemic. One outcome of the group’s brainstorming is a list called “Dear Lord, How can we be of service? Things to do from home.”
The list of 15 suggestions was created by the Office of Young Adult Ministry and is posted on The Compass website (bit.ly/compass-covid) as a PDF document. Among the suggestions:
- “Give those walking through your neighborhood an art gallery experience, and turn your windows into artwork. Look up a recipe for washable window paint and create your own masterpieces!”
- “Invite young adults you know to offer a virtual class for your parish community on using social media, virtual meeting platforms, and even sending text messages and email.”
- “Make a prayer banner and pray each day for people who are suffering, lonely, worried or sick. …”
In these final days of Lent, we have our virtual crosses to bear during this global health crisis. Yet many examples exist, showing us the way toward that Easter light. We also have words of hope from Pope Francis, given to us March 27 before his remarkable “urbi et orbi” blessing, during which he prayed while holding a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament.
“The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith,” he said. “We have an anchor: by his cross, we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross, we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross, we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love.”
Today, we carry this cross together. All of us