My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
When we began Lent this year, many of us heard the words, “Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” Little did we know or realize that death might be possible for us during this Lent before we reach Easter. These words must never be forgotten, as, unfortunately, death is a reality for all of us. In times such as this pandemic, we recognize that for some of us, it might even be a near-term possibility. And so, we must prepare ourselves; we must spiritually be strong during this time of unchartered waters.
Never did we realize that churches would have to close because of the great risk of the virus spreading, and that there would be no Mass and no opportunity to receive the Eucharist, or to easily go to confession.
The practice of a spiritual communion is a long-standing tradition in the Church. When people were not able to receive the Lord sacramentally in the Eucharist, a prayer such as the one printed on this week’s editorial page could be used for a spiritual communion. The great saints, even when they had received communion earlier in the day, usually made a spiritual communion later in the day during a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. This temporary deprivation of sacramental communion, hopefully, will make us appreciate even more the great gift the Lord has given to us.
Never in 1,000 years would we ever imagine that this would be our situation in the world today. And more so that we might have a virtual Holy Week, experiencing the holy days on our TV, computer or phone screens, and that Easter this year will not be the normal joyful celebration. We are fortunate, however, in our Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens to have our NET-TV which offers us each day many opportunities for prayer and reflection. Right now, NET-TV has expanded the broadcast schedule to include Masses in seven languages daily. The schedule can be found on our website, dioceseofbrooklyn.org/masses. NET-TV can be seen in the New York City area on Spectrum (Channel 97), Optimum (Channel 30), and FIOS (Channel 48).
Our regular spiritual life may not be possible, but we may, in fact, increase our spirituality during this crisis because we have more time available to us each day. Remember, time is God’s great gift to us. Time belongs to God; however, we must give some of our own time back to God each day. We are adding programming on NET-TV to include more programs to enrich ourselves spiritually, such as devotions that will help us to pray each day during these uncertain times. And every night at 7 p.m., Currents News brings you the latest information on the coronavirus, from what you need to know to how it is affecting our Diocese. Rebroadcasts are at 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.
Yes, life is no longer normal for most of us, as, for the most part, our regular routines have changed. But what can we do? We must create a new routine for ourselves. We cannot sit around worrying about the future. We must live in the present. Deepening our spiritual life will help us both psychologically and physically. These realities of the human person come together at trying times such as these; however, at the heart of this is our spiritual life. Through this, our mental attitude will change and even give us the energy and courage to exercise a bit in our homes, even if we simply exercise in place.
We must remember what Lent is truly all about. It is about preparing ourselves for Easter, for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have the opportunity during these days to deepen our prayer, which is the most important part of Lent itself. We have new opportunities and new possibilities for prayer. This is especially true for family prayer. Children, unfortunately, are not familiar with the Rosary as much as the earlier generations have been in the past. On NET-TV, the Rosary is prayed three times a day, at 7 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. Family prayer, especially praying the Rosary together, could be a help in keeping the family praying together. As Blessed Father Patrick Peyton has said, “The family that prays together stays together.”
In addition, spiritual readings will help us during these days. Reading from the Bible or a spiritual book is recommended, as many of these readings are available to us on the Internet. So you see, we all have no excuse for not finding something that can feed us spiritually as we experience these uncertain days.
Fasting is another Lenten practice. Perhaps the normal foods we like to eat are not available at our supermarkets, especially since we cannot get out and do the normal food shopping. Simple meals will assist in making our food supply last longer.
Finally, almsgiving and care of the poor are important. Please do not forget that during these days your parish still needs your weekly donations. I am sorry to say that many parishes live from week-to-week and still need to pay bills, as you do. Some parishes may have to cut hours and/or lay off employees during this time of crisis.
On the other hand, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is investigating where they can obtain funds to at least assist families who are in need. Currently, we are investigating how we can be of assistance to families who are most in need.
As we live with the coronavirus, our prayer must be more intense. Archbishop Jose Gomez, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has composed the following prayer that I have asked be printed on this page so that everyone can take the time to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe, asking her to save us from this peril.
In the Middle Ages, we saw that the Church was a place for solace and refuge for those who were afflicted by the plagues and epidemics. It is our hope that as a Church, we can pull together and become the spiritual backbone of our Church and Nation. We must all come together and look at things in perspective and have the faith and courage to do what seems so difficult to do in isolating ourselves from others for the common good.
As we put out into the deep, wondering what this coronavirus pandemic will hold for us, and with the hope of flattening the curve so that fewer infections will take place, we entrust ourselves to Our Lady of Guadalupe and promise that each day we will recite this prayer to Our Lady. Mary is our hope in this valley of tears, she is the one to whom we go to as mother to save her children from death as we pray, Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.
Holy Virgin of Guadalupe,
Queen of the Angels and Mother of the Americas.
We fly to you today as your beloved children.
We ask you to intercede for us with your Son,
as you did at the wedding in Cana.
Pray for us, loving Mother,
and gain for our nation and world,
and for all our families and loved ones,
the protection of your holy angels,
that we may be spared the worst of this illness.
For those already afflicted,
we ask you to obtain the grace of healing and deliverance.
Hear the cries of those who are vulnerable and fearful,
wipe away their tears and help them to trust.
In this time of trial and testing,
teach all of us in the Church to love one another and to be patient and kind.
Help us to bring the peace of Jesus to our land and to our hearts.
We come to you with confidence,
knowing that you truly are our compassionate mother,
health of the sick and cause of our joy.
Shelter us under the mantle of your protection,
keep us in the embrace of your arms,
help us always to know the love of your Son, Jesus. Amen.
Follow Bishop DiMarzio: