Twice this past week, different friends compared the new reality that has beset our daily life in this time of pandemic to that of a monastery. One assured me that I was being prayed for from “here in our little hermitage,” while another priest friend described the situation of his parish as “accidental monasticism.” He pointed out to his parishioners that at the end of Compline, the last prayer of the Church each day in monastic communities, the superior prays, “May the divine assistance remain always with us,” to which the other monks respond, “And with our absent brethren.” It’s a reminder that even though there may be separation and distance between the members of the community, there is a communion that remains because of grace and the life that is shared through, with, and in Jesus Christ.
This is an important truth for us to remember, especially as we deal with the danger of the disease which is impeding us from being together at Holy Mass and the other moments that make up parish and parish school life. As sad as it is to offer Mass without your presence, I am heartened by the fact that when I and our priests are offering it, you and your intentions are also being offered to the Father, and the Lord is giving himself to you in power to sustain you. I encourage you to stay in touch with your parish by tuning into livestreamed Masses whenever possible, as well as visiting the diocese website at kcsjcatholic.org/coronavirus-updates for updates, pray at home resources, and a list of livestreamed/recorded Masses.
As of this writing, it appears that this time of separation might extend through the most important week of the Church year, Holy Week. If such is the case, let us unite our sacrifices with our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world which must endure long periods of time without Mass and the sacraments because of other impediments such as persecution or war. We face a different kind of cross, but a cross nonetheless, and we are called to unite ourselves with Jesus in taking it up. In doing so, we open another channel for God’s redemptive love to heal our world.
Along with our separation, in our accidental monasticism, we might be trying to adapt to more silence, time and solitude. For some this might be uncomfortable; for others it is a welcome gift. Over the weeks ahead, please use this time to pray, to turn to God intentionally from your heart, and to pray for others, especially those who will die from this disease, those who will become ill or separated, and those doctors, nurses and health care workers who will be working to care for the sick. If whole families are together, pray the family rosary or other prayers together. And, take the occasion to call others to ensure they are remembered and to see if they are in need of assistance.
And remember your parish and parish school. Your pastors will be working to keep things running while everyone is away, but they need your help, especially with the on-going expenses which don’t go away, even though collections aren’t being taken up on Sundays. Check with them to see how you can help. If you haven’t considered it before, now is a good time to explore supporting your Church through online giving or automatic withdrawals.
I cannot think of another time in which public Masses have had to be suspended, along with the dispensation of Sunday obligation, on this scale. Perhaps we might see with the eyes of faith a hidden gift: a sobering event on a global scale to punctuate this Lent, which began with the words of Jesus addressed to each of us: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). May we take this admonition up with firm intention. And, may the divine assistance remain with us, and with our absent brethren.
+Bishop James Johnston, Jr.
Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph
Catholic Key, March 27, 2020 issue
Pope Francis’ March Prayer Intention: We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity.
Bishop Johnston’s March Prayer Intention: For persecuted Christians around the world.
Pope Francis’ April Prayer Intention: We pray that those suffering from addiction may be helped and accompanied.
Bishop Johnston’s April Prayer Intention: For the protection of children and the healing of those harmed by sexual abuse.