It shouldn't be this way. The Sunday ending Spring Break is the day when students should be coming back to campus. Yesterday, however, as I walked around campus I watched as students packed their things and moved out. It was surreal. This isn't how this school year, our community is supposed to be. Yet, here we are and, by golly, it hurts.
These next few weeks were supposed to be a celebration, a time to be together with the seniors I have known since they stepped on campus as freshmen, a time for Easter, a time for the Little 5, a time for sitting outside, a time to be together. Who knows? Maybe in a few weeks the impact will lessen and we will all get to come out of our caves. But, until then, it stings.
This past Sunday, the Gospel from Mass was the story of Jesus opening the eyes of the man born blind. This man was not only blind from birth, but, because of this, he was ridiculed in his culture and believed to be a terrible sinner (even though he was not). He was cast aside, despised, and thought to be nothing. It is, however, precisely to such as these that Jesus comes. He comes to us in our darkest hours, he heals our deepest wounds, he opens our eyes when we are blind and alone.
Venerable Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam for 13 years, 9 in solitary confinement, before he was released and forced into exile. Yet, as he reflected and wrote about his struggles, he noted, almost serenely, how they led him to deeper faith and trust in God. He wrote, "To treasure each suffering as one of the countless faces of Jesus crucified, and to unite our suffering to his, means to enter into his own dynamic of suffering-love. It means to participate in his light, his strength, his peace; it means to rediscover within us a new and abundant presence of God.”
Though my heart aches and breaks because of what I'll miss, but more so because of what you will all miss, our faith shows us that now is the time to rediscover within us a new and abundant presence of God. All of the things that normally keep us from God -- social lives, sports, going out -- are taken from us but this suffering opens time in our life to find and to know more intimately the God who loves us.
During these days, I will remember each of you every day as I pray at Mass and walk around campus praying the Rosary. I am also still available to meet and chat (though digitally) almost every day.
In the meantime, here are a few tips on how to keep your prayer life and Catholic community going during these days of social isolation:
1) Set a daily prayer schedule and stick to it. Even if you are only praying for a few minutes, make sure you pray at the beginning, middle, and end of each day.
2) If you were in a small group Bible study, reach out to the leader and try to have a Bible study each week.
3) Check in daily with at least one Catholic friend.
4) Livestream the 5:30 pm Mass every Sunday then join your friends digitally for a Sunday supper.
5) Set a daily prayer schedule.
You are loved beyond measure!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Patrick is a Dominican priest and the Campus Minister.