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.