I don’t know about you, but I need a haircut. I know whenever I find myself thinking about whatever it is that this pandemic is not allowing me to do, I try and find something that this pandemic has shown me. So while I may want to sit here and write to you about what we are not able to do at this time. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you what valuable lessons I have learned throughout our time in the shelter in place.
Firstly let me start by sharing the most pertinent lesson I have learned during this time. Families and extended families are the most valuable and essential. That may seem like a no brainer lesson, but I do have to say that this pandemic has definitely made my need for my family much more necessary to me. I thank God daily that I still have most of my family intact. However, I will say that I don’t think I understood how valuable it was before the pandemic, to be able to visit my Mom and Dad and my In-laws and to have my daughter to see her grandparents. Rest assured that I will forever pray for those of us who are not blessed with family nearby.
While I am on the subject of family, the other lesson I have learned is that true friendship is something to be cherished and nurtured. I cannot tell you how valuable my friendships have been to me. Even though I can’t see all of my friends in person. I have been able to keep in touch with them through the means available to me with the internet. I will forever pray for those of us who do not have friends nearby or cannot see their friends for whatever reason.
Like Bishop Mark mentions in his article, We are a Eucharistic people, we cannot live without the Sunday Mass. While I have been one of the very blessed to be able to be physically present at Mass during our recordings of them. It is not at all lost on me that the celebration of Mass is something not only to be cherished, but It is also essential to who we are as a community. Please know that I have been praying for all of our faithful during this time of the pandemic. Moving forward, I will forever pray for those who cannot attend Mass. While I am here in our Diocese, I will work to help those of us that cannot go to Mass.
Another lesson I have learned is that my ability to be able to eat when I would like is an incredible blessing I should have always valued in my daily life. I recently had the opportunity of visiting the warehouse for El Pasoans Fighting Hunger. During my time there, I was astonished to learn that there are a lot of El Pasoans literally fighting hunger daily here on the borderland. I will forever pray for those of us who go to bed hungry. For the rest of my life, I hope never to take for granted my ability to feed myself and my family.
All of the lessons above have helped to reshape my prayers for the rest of my life. I think, above all else, these lessons have taught me that I am incredibly blessed. These lessons have taught me that God is a constant presence in my life, and His presence is one that I know as a sinner I do not deserve. For the rest of my life, I will pray and work hard for those who do not have. I hope to continue to be of service to the community.
Over the last couple of days, I have had several conversations of what it might be like in ten or fifteen years when our kids come and ask about the Coronavirus pandemic of Lent 2020. How we will look back at this time during our history and discuss with our children or grandchildren, telling stories about being quarantined in our homes and how people in our lives persevered through this pandemic.
Immediately, my thoughts turn to our brothers and sisters who have lost or will lose something significant in their lives because of this pandemic. And while my heart is saddened by all of that, I can’t help but pray to our Lord: “How will you use this pandemic to make us more aware of your real presence in our lives? Who will you inspire during this time of despair and sadness? Who will you call forward as an example of your Son’s Passion to us during this great pandemic?”
Someday in the future perhaps we will speak of a Coronavirus Saint, who before the Coronavirus pandemic struggled with her Catholic faith. As a nurse or a doctor, or a first responder during these difficult times, she has witnessed the worst suffering firsthand and realized that she needed the Real Presence of the Eucharist in her life. As a result, as soon as the Church was able to begin to celebrate Mass in public, she became dedicated to Jesus in the Eucharist and became a modern example of living with Jesus in the center of her life.
I think in fear we tend to ask why God would allow such suffering. And while that is a valid question, I think the challenge I pose to myself during that thinking is, “How can I be a living example of Christ to those around me? Who needs my prayer more than ever now?” Because I can assure you, that our Coronavirus Saint is out there. She’s on the front line. She’s questioning her faith. She’s asking for God’s presence to fill her in her decision making, which is life or death for someone she’s caring for. She’s beginning to thirst for God’s presence in the Eucharist.
When I worry about not having enough of whatever it is that’s out of stock at this moment, I can’t help but think about St. Maximilian Kobe who stepped in front of Nazis to offer his life. I can’t help but think about San Pedro de Jesus Maldonado and how he was persecuted for his belief in Christ within the Eucharist. If it was not for the evil that was present in their time, we would not have their example of Jesus in their lives. And while I am not saying that those atrocities were necessary, I am saying that God always uses struggle to show us our need for Him in humanity.
So I invite you my friends. Think of our Coronavirus Saint. She needs our prayers. She needs us to come together as her family in Christ. May God grant her peace during this great struggle.
Let me start this letter with a simple greeting, may the Peace of Our Lord Jesus be with you. I wanted to write you this letter to give you some of my insight into Lent so that you can come back to and read as you get older in life. I begin with the simple Christian greeting to remind you that even though we are entering the season of Lent, Our Lord Jesus and the Peace he brings, is always with us.
When I was a small child, one of my earliest memories comes from this time of Lent. I must have been around 4 or 5 years old. One spring day, your grandparents took me to our church to see and be a part of a play of the Passion of our Lord Jesus. It was probably one of the scariest moments in my very young life to that point.
All of a sudden, your grandparents are yelling, “crucificalo.” Grandpa, dressed as a Roman soldier, was hitting Jesus with a stick. And then the unthinkable, at the end of the play, Jesus dies. I think I cried harder than I ever had. Your grandmother had to reassure me that this was all a play, that Jesus hadn’t died. I didn’t understand. I might have been a little upset with them that they were a part of Jesus dying.
Then came Easter Sunday, and as I walked into the church, there was Jesus. Very much alive, he might have even hugged me. I think I did end up crying again. My little mind was so relieved that he was alive. I think this was an opportunity for your grandmother to teach me that Jesus is always with us. No matter what we do to Him.
As I grew older, I can remember being a teenager or maybe even a young adult and struggling with not eating a hamburger on Friday, or giving up sodas for Lent. How frustrating it was that I had to stop doing what was a habit for Lent. How it all seemed like such drudgery, I don’t think the weather here in El Paso helped with that thought either, having all those windy and dusty spring days. They always seemed to happen over Lent. I had forgotten the relief I felt seeing the Risen Jesus on Easter Sunday.
But then comes Easter, and back to that one Passion Play when I was a little boy. How in our daily lives and our fragile humanity, we build habits that aren’t always the best ones, how those habits are lashes to the side of Jesus during his Passion. Lent is an opportunity that Jesus gives us to experience His Peace.
So Annie, let me leave you with this thought. Our Lord Jesus will always be with us, no matter what we do. No matter how often we deny him into our hearts, His Peace will persist. Lent is an opportunity for us to experience that Peace. And at the end of that Lent, there is Jesus always willing to give us that hug and reassure us that He is still present. I hope that the Peace of our Lord is always with you, sweetheart.