Sunday, April 14, 2024

Strength in Times of Suffering

As I look at the blinking cursor on my laptop, sitting at a desk in the convent since the Diocesan offices are closed and all of the IT staff are working from home, I ponder, “What should I say to you all about the circumstances in which we find ourselves? What spark of hope should I share? What would my ‘mother’s heart’ want to say to you all?”
The environment in which I currently find myself is quite different than my office at the Diocesan Center. I now have windows and am surrounded by plants. From the open windows, I can hear birds chirping, the din of distant traffic, and even the patter of rain. I wonder and challenge you to look out your windows and actually see the beauty of nature that is beginning to awaken all around us. The daffodils are out in full bloom! Forsythia, jonquils and many of the flowering trees are beginning to display their spring beauty. Birds are beginning to pair off. Life and beauty are all around us.
We can find this beauty echoed in the many ways that the Church, through the actions of the priests and bishops is caring for her children. Bishops, in order to protect their priests and the lay faithful, have made a very hard decision to stop public Masses. Even so, the priests are still saying Mass for us! Many parishes are either podcasting or doing live video through YouTube of their daily Mass. The clergy are preparing daily homilies to spiritually feed their parishioners. One priest I read about on Facebook actually printed out his parish directory and Scotch taped the pictures of his parishioners onto the pews where they normally sit. He looks out during Mass and sees his parish! Another priest, though social media, announced to his parishioners that he would be sitting in his car and they could drive up to the driver’s side of the car for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Another priest is determined, whenever he is called into the hospital or nursing home for Viaticum, to fill a pyx with the Blessed Sacrament and distribute to anyone who presents themselves as Catholic. Another priest that I follow on YouTube is newly ordained. He posted a video voicing his personal pain in being newly ordained and a campus minister to a college that is closed until the end of the school year. If you want to check that out see the link below.1
Quite honestly, every time I attend Mass (the Sisters attend it privately) since the closing of the churches, tears stream down my face. “Who am I that my Lord should come to me? Who am I that I can receive the Eucharist while so many of my Beloved’s sons and daughters can’t?” At every Communion I’ve received since March 16, I can actually feel your hunger for this source of our summit of our faith. Tears actually have actually flowed down my face. I pray for each of you as a spiritual mother!
Every one of us is suffering in ways that we never imagined when Lent began four weeks ago. In the midst of what we are all facing, I am reminded of the wonderful children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. In it, the main character, the Velveteen Rabbit, has a wonderful conversation with the Skin Horse:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”2
It’s strange that suffering is such a large part of the human condition. But, EVERYTHING can be used by our God to bring about a grace! EVERYTHING! Every trial can deepen our faith, our hope and our love.
Faith – Each of us, I believe, is called to ponder these questions: What is God doing in all of this? Does He really love ME? In a way, our personal trust of God’s love is being put to the test. Our response has to be, “I do trust in You, help my un-trust! I do believe in You, help my unbelief!”
Hope – Some more questions to consider: What do we really rely upon? A grocery store having unlimited supply of toilet paper or hand sanitizer? Do we only rely on our own strength or the strength of a Higher Power? If nothing, the circumstance in which we find ourselves should bring us to our knees and give us the ability to proclaim, “Help me to rely on You alone! You should be my all!”
Love – As I type this word, I find myself looking up at the crucifix that hangs on the wall. Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to die for us! Love gives of itself. As we experience our personal inconveniences, God’s mercy and love for us hasn’t changed. Allow the pain of social distance to crack your heart open to love Him more and more; making you more real – the person that God created you to be! Rather than screaming at God, “Why this?” ask Him, “How do you want me respond?” Allow His whisper to reach your heart. It can be as simple as saying a prayer for one another!
View the Masses on TV, pray the Rosary, fast and consciously sacrifice every annoyance for your spiritual brother or sister. By doing this, the mystical Body of Christ is strengthened.
It’s not easy. But it is possible!
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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