Dear St. Paul Community,
First of all, I want to thank all those who reached out to me during this next step in my cancer treatment. The support and prayers have been gratifying. While it was not ideal spending Easter in the hospital, I was constantly reminded that the resurrected Jesus is not only present in a church. One of our students sent me a note saying, "(This) is a great chance for us to celebrate Easter like the disciples by allowing Jesus to enter our homes."
My stem cell transplant was Monday and it went very well. The nurse who was with me said that my vital signs were steady, so that was a positive sign. Now I am still resting in the hospital being watched by a great team of doctors, nurses, and patient care techs. The two doctors I see every morning has said that everything is where they expect things to be!
Thank you, again, for your thoughts and prayers. It is at times such as these that our faith is tested, but ultimately faith prevails and is stronger.
Peace to you all,
As much as my priestly heart aches to be separated from the people, especially during the celebration of the Eucharist, I must admit the contemplative Dominican in me was quite excited about the stay-at-home orders because it offered something I have found exceedingly rare in pastoral ministry: the opportunity to pray and to study in silence for extended periods of time.
As a religious, my initial formations began with essentially a year-long retreat called the novitiate. Adjusting to the slow pace of the novitiate was quite difficult at first, but, after I got used to it, I had a year of profound joy found in silence and in sacred study.
I have discovered in my conversations with our student and resident parishioners that very few have any idea how to thrive in a time of silence and separation without the ease of access to the Sacraments and praying with other people.
Religious life, however, is simply an amplification of the regular Christian life; it is a taking of the basic practices which open the heart and mind to God and leading the religious to these encounters often. The Lord and His will, therefore, are often found most readily in the rhythm of religious life. In other words, religious life, with its consistent schedule and the clear, intentional space set aside for prayer, softens and open the hearts of those in the community through something simple and ordinary: routine and sacred space.
Taking these lessons, there are two imperative steps everyone should take during these days.
First, set a prayer schedule.
The best time to pray consistently is in the morning. Interestingly enough, many people already have an unwavering morning routine with exercise, reading the news, making coffee, eating breakfast, etc. It gives you a sense of a calm as you enter the day.
As you pray during these days, add prayer to those morning rituals. For instance, as you're waiting on the coffee to brew, read the Gospel for that day's Mass and sit quietly and reflect upon it as you drink your coffee. At the end of the day, too, as you prepare for bed and brush your teeth, give thanks for the day's blessings and ask God for His help and guidance for tomorrow's challenges.
The key is routine. Set times to pray and pray. You don't need to make a daily holy hour, but you do need to consistently invite God into your life at set times of the day. From there, He will take the lead and show you His face at other times.
Second, create a prayer space.
In every religious community, there is a chapel. Some of these chapels are the most beautiful chapels; some are re-purposed closets or bedrooms. The important thing is there is a space in the community set aside for silence, for prayer, for an intentional encounter with God.
Even if all you have control over is a little room, pick a corner and make it your place of prayer. Place a crucifix there and, if you have some, images of saints, especially the Blessed Virgin. Whenever you pass by the corner, bow to the Cross. When you go there to pray, kneel down and say out loud, "God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me." Just as importantly as making the space, you must use the space and keep it sacred. The space will start to form you.
These two steps of setting a prayer schedule and creating a prayer space will help you encounter the Lord in new and profound ways. They will also help you when these stay-at-home orders are lifted. Think of how much more beautiful and powerful your reception of the Eucharist will be when Jesus, because of your consistent, simple prayer life, is the absolute center of all you do and are.
In the end, these days are hard, but God and His Church have shown us the ways, even in the darkness, to invite the Light of Christ into our hearts, our days, and our houses. Now, the decision is yours.
Dear St. Paul Community,
Those of you who pray morning and evening prayer virtually with us during this time may have noticed that suddenly this past week there were four Dominicans in the chapel, and not the usual five. Bringing that up allows me to provide an update on my cancer treatment.
You all know that I went underwent three significant chemotherapy treatments in Bloomington at the end of December and the beginning of January. Thanks to my care team here in Bloomington (and the “Angel” nurses on 4 East at IU Bloomington Hospital) these treatments were as successful as expected. Post-chemo scans showed that there was “significantly” less cancer. This then leads to the next step of my treatment, which is a stem cell transplant.
I was directed to a bone marrow transplant specialist in Indianapolis, and after a consult with him things were put into motion (albeit slower than I wanted). I made another trip to Indy on March 16 for my pre-transplant work up and began preliminaries for the actual procedures on March 28. My “disappearance” from morning and evening prayer was because I was in Indy last Tuesday through Thursday for the insertion of a central line and the harvesting of my stem cells. Something positive to take from that experience was that the transplant team got all the needed stem cells in one day, so I didn’t have to return for more. I returned to St. Paul’s on Thursday to wait for the next step in my treatment.
Having said that, know that I will be hospitalized for approximately three weeks beginning April 7 for another round of chemotherapy and the stem cell transplant. We all hope this is what kills my cancer once and for all.
While I will not be around the community physically, the wonders of social media will allow me to stay connected. Your prayers continue to be appreciated and needed, and the fact that so many people regularly reach out to me serves as a balm. Our IU students are particularly supportive. Many of the ones I have gotten to know in my relatively brief time here have been very attentive to offering me support. I can still be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The services of the Triduum are my favorite of the entire liturgical year, and I am not looking forward to missing them this year. However, we all have crosses to bear and are reminded at this time of year of the powerful reality of hope. I will get through this, as we all will get through these times. Know that you will be in my thoughts and prayers during my time in the hospital. I will provide the Dominican community periodic updates and will make sure Fr. Patrick knows what he can share with you all.
Thank you to all and we will see each other face to face very soon.
Peace and Happy Easter,
I have been thinking a lot about Job lately. Here was a guy who lost everything he held dearly in this life for seemingly the most capricious of reasons. Not only that, but, when his best friends heard of his plight, they went to visit him and rub his face in his own misery. Yet, in the midst of the torment and the struggle, he cried out, "I know that my redeemer lives!" (Job 19:25)
As scared and afraid as I am, the hope and the joy of the coming of Easter overcomes all of it. With him and, I pray, with all of you, I proclaim: I know that my redeemer lives!
The power of sin and death have been vanquished by the death and resurrection of Jesus. The witness of the spotless lamb being put to death for us sinners then rising to open for us the gates of heaven is a daily reminder of how the joy of Easter and life in the resurrection always comes after the challenges and trials of the Cross and Good Friday.
Yes, we are in the midst of a painful suffering, an undeserved beating, an isolating separation from each other, but we also believe, if we persevere through the flames and pains, the other side of this particular Cross is something greater, something better than our wildest dreams could have ever imagined.
What it is exactly only time and the eyes of faith will reveal to us, but, as we walk these last days of Lent and begin the days of Easter ahead, God is writing His greatest masterpiece in our hearts at this very moment.
So today, and every day, we walk with a special closeness to Jesus on His way to Calvary, into the tomb, then into the light of the Resurrection.
Sincerely yours in Christ, Fr. Patrick Hyde, OP
Fr. Patrick is a Dominican priest and the Campus Minister.