Movies with a twist ending are frustrating. You spend the whole movie thinking things are one way only to have the rug completely pulled out from underneath you at the end. You realize what you held to be true and real was but a figment of what was really real and true. Frustrating as it may be, this is also what makes these types of movies so enjoyable because in the end you can go back and look for clues, realize where you went wrong, and enjoy the story all over again. When you come to terms with how little control you had, you realize how beautiful the story was.
Right now, control has been wrested from us. We can't go into work or out to eat. Our semester will be finished from mom and dad's living room couch and the friends with whom we have shared so much are left behind. It is frustrating and the source of incredible anxiety. What we thought we had was unceremoniously and abruptly ripped from our hands.
At a time like this, it makes complete sense to feel alone and isolated, to feel lost and dejected, to question everything. As a person of faith, however, we know that there is an answer to all of this and it is good.
In his book Abandonment to Divine Providence, Fr. Jean Pierre de Caussade notes the challenges and the angst of not knowing what lies ahead and responds thusly: “What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.”
As frustrating as the twist of shelter-in-place, online classes, extended time in confined spaces with family, the fear of contracting a devastating disease, our faith lifts us up and challenges us to recognize God is in control and He is working out something more amazing and beautiful than we could even imagine on our own.
Think of it this way: All of the things which normally keep us from prayer, from family time, from intimacy – sports, social lives, crazy work schedules, competing family schedules, and so on – have been stripped in an instant from our lives. We now have time to pray, to be together, to serve the poor and vulnerable.
It’s tough right now and it may get tougher, but God has a plan, God will provide, God desires your heart and offers you salvation and boundless love.
Sincerely yours in Christ, Fr. Patrick Hyde, OP
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,
The events unfolding these past few days and weeks are troubling and have left many of us deeply saddened. With the novel coronavirus now a pandemic and our Church closed until further notice -- something most of us never even dreamed would ever happen -- there is a need to pause, take a deep breath, and reclaim who we are as a community and individually.
To be fair, this is also a time for grieving as we have lost regular access to the Sacraments, especially the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, which is the source and the summit of our Christian lives. We have never had to go through such a trial. At the same time, we are a people of faith, beloved sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, missionary disciples on our pilgrim journey. Though we recognize the pain, the challenges, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead, we do so with the confidence of Christians who know the other side of the Cross on Good Friday is the glory of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
As a community, we honor and cherish the values of hospitality and community. In our ministries, we treasure the path of accompaniment which leads people, through our community and the celebration of the Sacraments, into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Yes, these gifts, these treasures, are, for a time, taken from us, but the values and the goal remain. We are still called to love and to serve our neighbors, especially the stranger. We are still marching in our lives of prayer and virtue toward a deeper and more abiding union with Christ. Therefore, we must find ways to make, build, and maintain community and familial bonds; we must continue to deepen our lives of prayer and sacrificial love.
Venerable Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was imprisoned in Vietnam for 13 years, 9 in solitary confinement, before he was released and forced into exile. He was a man of profound, yet simple, faith whose cause for canonization is ongoing. He suffered for years because of his faith and he had to go to extraordinary lengths to acquire bread and wine to celebrate Mass while in prison. Yet, at the end of his life, as he reflected and wrote about his struggles, he noted, almost serenely, how it 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.”
During these days of frustration, angst, fear, and whatever else you may feel, it will be my prayer for each of you every day while celebrating Mass that you rediscover a new and abundant presence of God, and, if our faith teaches us anything, I know you will in and through the love and mercy of Jesus.
Fr. Patrick is a Dominican priest and the Campus Minister.