In his most recent book The Decadent Society, the NY Times writer Ross Douthat describes the speed of modern life as deceptive. The flash of news, he claims, tricks one into assuming progress. However, one would be hard-pressed to describe the pace of this last week other than as breath-taking. Just seven days ago, I was promising that, though public Mass might not be available, the church would remain open for private prayer. Now that is gone, too.
It has been a week of death by inches for couples planning weddings in the next month or so. It has been a sudden tsunami of business closures, and the pain which that entails. It has been a tightrope walk for our leaders trying not to fall into the abyss of healthcare catastrophe on one side and the chasm of economic disaster on the other side.
However, it has also been a time of small blessings. Our primary school’s instinct to think of others with an impromptu food drive. Parishioners getting in touch to see what they can do. Local businesses getting creative to see what might be possible. Online communities springing up, and old relationships renewed through people checking in on each other. And of course our healthcare workers, truck drivers, supermarket workers, and so many others just doing their jobs in trying circumstances.
One moment of grace was the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi (to the City and the World) blessing the other day. I would encourage you to find it online: I have linked to a summary of it on our Prayer Resources webpage. The Holy Father compared our situation to the disciples in the boat during the storm (Matthew 8:23-7), where they ask the Lord, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” For many of us, this is the question we bring to prayer, believing in a loving God, yet aware of clouds closing in. The Pope encouraged us to understand that we are being called in this moment to have faith. We must seek first the Kingdom of God, those truths that are eternal, those relationships that feed us, but, most of all, Christ among us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
We do not know what is coming next. We try as best we can to do right by our neighbours, ready to spring into action as soon as we spot the need and see how to meet it. We pray for those for whom the darkness seems overwhelming. We search out sources of light for ourselves and for others. (I do not know how many people sent me the video of the priest conquered by Instagram filters while doing Mass online.) We do all this, firm in the faith that the Lord has gone before us, and that our task is to wait in the path of his judgments (Isaiah 26:8).