By Father Michael Panicali
My already-large family was very recently blessed with an Easter-time gift: my grandniece Rosalie, whose birth in a Staten Island hospital thankfully went without event, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc on our local health facilities. Rosalie’s middle name, Santina, was my late mother’s first name, and she would be her fourth great-grandchild.
We can be reminded every time we gaze at Rosalie Santina not only of my mother’s spirit and goodness but also, on a deeper level, of the eternal truths of our faith: that amid death, life triumphs. That we can pray for our beloved dead, and take hope in seeing them in eternity. That Jesus’ Resurrection overcomes the power of death and disease in this world and triumphantly opens the path to eternal life for every one of us who profess faith in His Name and eat and drink of His Most Precious Body and Blood.
Indeed during this pandemic, the eternal truths of our world are presenting themselves as they always inevitably do….but perhaps now, the difference is that we are taking greater notice of them. I talked in my Easter Sunday homily of the strange juxtaposition between the death, sorrow, and tribulation that we are experiencing, and the glorious song that the natural world continues to sing this vibrant and beautiful spring. What was once dormant, has come to life. What was thought of as dead, has been renewed. The birds are singing and flocking in droves, the lilies of the valley (my mom’s favorite flower) are budding, and the fragrances and palette of springtime are capturing our city streets.
We the faithful can use this time to dwell on the eternal truths that we take for granted—that can seem to be lost upon us as we go about our lives on a very peripheral level. A quote from a book I’m reading on celestial spirits recently caught my attention, and so in my Easter homily, I also referred to this gem from Father John Horgan’s “His Angels at Our Side: Understanding Their Power in our Souls and the World:”
We waste so much time each day letting ourselves be bombarded by information, imagery, and entertainment of all kinds that has no lasting value and may even be harmful to our faith. We can easily let our minds and our souls become desensitized and coarsened, weakening our free will and losing our appreciation for spiritual truths as well as our ability to examine and protect the experiences of our lives in the light of faith and eternal truths.
Critical thinking (in the positive sense), our sense of humor, and even our sense of music can all become debased and isolated from who we think ourselves to be. We must look within ourselves honestly and bravely to purify our minds and hearts (p. 57).
Perhaps a blessing, a grace, in this terrible time of loss, anxiety, and mourning, is that we can look to cease living on a peripheral level, and focus, rather, on the things of God, the things of above, the things that are unchanging, holy, and true.
Father Panicali is the parochial vicar of St. Mark-St. Margaret Mary in Sheepshead Bay.