This article is based on a talk I gave for our region’s virtual Ultreya meeting, which is a gathering of those who have made a Cursillo weekend. To learn more about Cursillo and making a Cursillo weekend see this LINK
My faith life in this time of physical distancing …
No public masses. Social distancing keeping us from gathering at church. For a while, I was really struggling in my faith life because my spirituality is so centered on the Eucharist. Daily Mass, Adoration, short visits to the Blessed Sacrament… Those who know my story know the integral part that the REAL PRESENCE has played in my conversion back to church when I was in college. And for a while, cut off from receiving Communion, I felt very much adrift, like someone had cut the chain to the anchor of my boat …
Slowly I came to realize that even now, even in our isolation, we are not without the REAL PRESENCE of Christ. Yes, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is the most intimate way we have of communion with our God. But it is not the only way. We are not the first people to be without access to public Masses. I was thinking of places that normally do not get to see a priest, except maybe once a year. It does not mean that they do not have access to God! When I was in college, our campus minister was a Franciscan priest who was also a reserve Air Force chaplain … He would go to an Air Force Base in Greenland near the Arctic Circle every summer and then travel by dogsled to local Inuit village. There, he would offer Mass, baptize all the new babies, confirm kids ready for confirmation, witness marriages, etc. etc. They only got to see Father once a year, but they were not without God!
During this time, we need to find other ways to stay connected. Prayer has changed for me: I am more faithful in praying parts of the Liturgy of the Hours. It helps set a rhythm for the day. It is also a way to connect with others in prayer --- both spiritually, in knowing people around the world are praying these same psalms, readings, and also virtually, by praying vespers together with groups of friends over the internet.
And Christ is REALLY PRESENT in my friends. Relationships and friendships I was taking for granted have pushed themselves to the forefront. I realize that even the most casual friendships/relationships require effort: people you saw at work every day and people you saw at church every day now require that you make an effort to reach out. Relationships are more intentional. We aren’t going to see each other every day. We are not going to bump into people at church.
Similarly, I find that people who never talked about faith before, are sharing prayer requests. There is a new willingness to share our vulnerability. Maybe it's because we are not sharing face to face, but also because we realize that no one is okay. Everyone is struggling with this strange situation, which makes is somehow easier to say: “I am having a bad day today. Could you pray for me.” Because we are all struggling, it is okay not to be okay. Perhaps we can carry this learned vulnerability into the future when things go back to “normal,” even as we know that “normal” is going to be different than it was before.
Lastly, I think this situation has changed a lot of my priorities – trying to find a new balance between work/home and solitary lifestyle versus friends. Everything takes more creativity. It is one thing to be solitary as an introvert – I like my alone time … but I don’t like being forced to be alone. I think work wise, I have been focusing less on production than on learning new things, new ways and thinking about process rather than product. In a strange way, working from home has really made me think more about the fact that we only have one life. We are not different people at work, at home, at school, at church, at prayer. Rather we are one person and God is present to us everywhere and we should be able to be ourselves everywhere.
Thus, in a way, the REAL PRESENCE of Christ is present everywhere. Masses are continued to be celebrated and we receive the spiritual graces from the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. Heaven still touches Earth on the altar, but we must be creative in accessing those graces: through prayer, through friends, and out in nature going for a walk. When the churches open back up, we need to keep what we have learned during this time of isolation and allow it to broaden and deepen our faith and our relationships with each other and with Christ.
What I am praying about a lot these days is how can we take what we are learning in this time of isolation – whether technical knowledge, book learning or knowledge about ourselves so that when the world opens up again, we can be better disciples, and fan into flame a new Pentecost.