Back in March, schools were closing, sporting events were being cancelled, everyone was sent to work from home, one hundred percent of the news and conversations were about COVID and it was scary. The state government sending people home was a really big deal, but when I saw the note that the bishop was postponing our Sunday obligation and church was closed, it really drove home the severity of the situation. The President and World Health Organization defined it as a pandemic.
I was doing my best to try to be calm and help my five school-aged kids see the bright side of staying home from school even though all their favorite activities were being cancelled and they could not see their friends. My senior was upset that his last robotics competition was cancelled. No spring band concert. Track season, which my three teens had already started practicing for, was called off. First Communion was postponed for my second grader. Every day was another disappointment and having to break the bad news to them broke my heart. What about graduation? Would my 16 year old be able to get her driver’s license? What about college in the fall? Not knowing what to tell them about the future was stressful for me. A parent should have all the answers for their children, or at least make them up, and I couldn't do that and risk more disappointment.
My job was such that every day in March and April we would have executive conference calls to discuss the changing situation and make and communicate decisions to employees. The uncertainty and stress of changing executive orders made it impossible to plan or know what to tell people, which was particularly difficult for a planner and control-freak like me.
Not being able to receive the Eucharist or go to Sunday mass was a part of that sense of loss and too much change all at once. Especially during Lent! Trying to keep my family and employees positive and safe was a challenge mentally. It was stressful, overwhelming and combined with my own fears of family members getting sick or running out of critical grocery items (you all know what I'm talking about!), often felt like too much to handle.
“Having faith does not mean you won't get tired, it does mean you have a place to rest.” Steven Furtick
So I turned to Jesus, just like we were always taught, right? Throughout my life, one way I've handled stress was exercise. It has always helped me burn off steam and keeps my anxiety in check. During the early days of quarantine, I started walking ...and talking to God. Every afternoon I would take a break from the conference calls and the press conferences, put on my tennis shoes and hit the gravel road for a couple miles. I would tell God about the particular situation or person that was on my mind, and pose my questions to Him. And thanks to the pandemic and the closure of the church, I had Father Dennis' daily mass video waiting for me on Facebook. So I added that to my walk every day during the remainder of Lent. I lost track of how many times Father's words in his homily spoke directly to what was on my mind that day. It was as if God knew exactly what I needed to hear and spoke through Father to me. I'm always amazed and humbled how much He responds when I truly turn to Him and put myself out there, asking for help.
In March when churches were shutting down, I remember hearing the recommendation that we turn our living rooms into little churches. So we took that to heart. We tidied up Sunday mornings before playing the live stream mass. We followed along in some hymnals that we borrowed from church. I remember the first Sunday feeling kind of awkward and there was a lot of nervous giggling in my living room. But for Good Friday, we pulled out the wooden cross my 10 year old had received for his first communion, and took turns kneeling and kissing it like we would have had we been at mass. There was something about the intimacy of sharing this ritual with my closest family members in our home during this somber time that helped me appreciate what it might have felt like to witness our Lord actually being nailed to the cross. I “felt” Good Friday like I've never felt before.
“When you are going through the desert, look up to the highest mountain for guidance” Fr. Joe Krupp
Over the past 4-5 months, we have been inundated with media stories about Coronavirus, social injustice, and the closer we get to the presidential election, the more political views seem to infiltrate the stories. It is still important to me to stay informed and up to date on the state of everything, but its getting harder and harder for me to trust anything that I see or read. But we as Catholics know there is one source of Truth. And so as I am feeling overwhelmed by all the news stories and opinions, Facebook comments and Twitter posts, I seek sources of His word. And thanks to the pandemic, I have not only the masses and commentary from MHT staff easily available anytime online, I also have our neighboring priests and religious staff, the bishop, and the famous Fr. Joe's "Quarantine Catechesis." All of these resources have been a blessing in helping me ...and likely many, many others....sort out what truly is important right now.
I've heard the saying: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I live off my calendar, checklist, planner and daily reminders. I always have to know what the plan is, and in places where I don't know the plan, I make one. So the biggest lesson I have learned, and keep learning every day, is that God is in control. I have to be humble enough to trust him. I've let go (somewhat) of having to know what is coming next, and stressing myself out over having a plan A, B and C for whatever might happen. And I'm trying every day to put my fears on Him, trust Him to put forth the plan and to let me know only when I need to. I find a lot of peace in Romans 8:28 “God works for the good of those who love Him.”
The last thing I want to mention is that for this family of 7, going to Sunday mass requires a little more work and planning than it did pre-pandemic. If we want to go to MHT's indoor mass, I have to sign up online, figure out which pew holds us all and which door we need to use. Everyone has to remember to bring their mask. But after 3 months of not being allowed to go to mass and take Eucharist, I have a deeper appreciation and respect for the opportunity. And I found that this extra bit of work has helped me not take this for granted.
Our relationship with God is not unlike our human relationships where the ones that are the most meaningful and desirable are the ones that require the most work on our part. So I guess it only makes sense that when we put in the effort to spend time with Him and live in His word and TRUST Him to do great things for us, He will meet us and bring us ever closer to Him and shower us with His truth and peace.