Pictured above are the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary at my parish, Notre Dame (also my favorite prayer spot in the church).
In a worldly sense, interruption is seen as a bad thing. When we are interrupted during work, study, reading, prayer, or anything else of importance to us; we are often annoyed, sometimes even to an unnecessary degree. Sometimes though, interruption is necessary for a greater wake-up call.
Less than a week ago, I was with friends from the Notre Dame Life Teen core team in the parish rectory, registering for fall classes at Hofstra University. Similar to everyone else in the neighborhood, we were having a normal Sunday night. The news quickly took a turn as we were notified that classes would be canceled that week due to the Coronavirus outbreak. As the days went on, things drastically progressed for all of us, with the announcement that now there are no public Masses or parish programs until after Easter.
I don’t think any of us would have predicted this at the start of the new year. I certainly did not think I would be spending an entire semester online. But here we are: schools are closed, everyone is practicing social distancing, no reception of the Eucharist, no Masses to attend, and no Easter Triduum (in person at least).
This entire pandemic has interrupted all of our lives. As we have seen, things can dramatically change moment by moment. We constantly hear on the news about the dangers of the virus, the horrors in Italy, and how each day new intense directives are announced to the public. We are constantly reminded of our biological weakness and mortality.
Not too long ago, we all received ashes on our heads and were told: Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19). It seems providential that this pandemic is being permitted to happen during Lent. Quite literally in a modern sense, we have been taken into the desert. We’re used to running our own world and being free to do and go as we please, but this world has been swiped out from under our feet. If you turn off your phone and the news, there is more silence than many of us are used to.
I have had the privilege of learning much of what I know about my faith from my incredible pastor, Fr. Joseph Scolaro. In spiritual direction, he always challenges me to think about the here and now: If I were to die tomorrow, would I be ready to present my life and the state of my soul to the Lord? I know for myself, a college student, I have much more time on my hands. I don’t have classes right now and I work at a school that is not currently in session. Because of this desert we have unexpectedly been brought into, I cannot help but ponder on this question.
Not to be dark, but truthfully, we are all going to die one day. No one knows how, when, or where, but we all definitely will. I like to think that if I died tomorrow, I would have a decent shot at getting into heaven. However, the more I spend time in silent prayer, the more I realize how sinful I really am.
This isn’t problematic, it is actually the whole reason why we have the season of Lent.
“Consider what’s broken. What needs to be restored. What needs to be made right again. What part of me has become rusty and not attractive? What needs to be fixed? It’s Lent. So fix it.”
Why is God allowing this pandemic to happen? Why is God allowing Masses to be suspended? Why is God allowing our normal lives to be so drastically interrupted? Giving a thorough answer to that question would take a whole series of articles. I can give an initial thought though.
What if He wants us to go into this desert for our own sake? What if this sacrifice is meant to give us an opportunity to learn what really matters? Maybe this is our chance for a spiritual restoration. Why put the blame on God? Maybe we need this interruption to renew our ability to cooperate with and recognize grace.
Whenever things got too noisy or hectic for Jesus, he escaped into the wilderness to pray (Luke 5:16). Maybe we need to do the same. Turn off the news and put your phone down. Sit in the quiet. Let’s hear what He has to say.