The Vatican health clinic was closed temporarily after a person tested positive for the coronavirus,…
An address to the senior (citizen) class of 2020
It’s been a tough spring for us Catholic members of the senior (citizen) class of 2020.
It’s been a long haul since church doors were locked at the beginning of Lent.
Yes, there have been in places a gradual and limited reopening of the parish, but not a return to our parish as we’ve known it and loved it.
After at least six decades on earth, we thought we had seen and experienced, in one form another, just about everything.
Life? Bring it on!
And then came reports of some obscure, deadly new virus, spreading its tentacles from China throughout the world with alarming speed.
You know what came next. Our state governors and our local bishops took action. They shut things down to stop the spread of the virus; to protect us; to eliminate suffering; to save lives.
We need to pause here and acknowledge that not all citizens, not all Catholics, not all older Catholics, agreed with those methods. Not all agree with them now, as both church and state sort out how and when to safely reopen what was closed.
Not all affected the same
It also needs to be said that not all of us seniors have individually been affected to the same degree.
Some of us have lost a spouse, a child, a grandchild, a sibling, a longtime friend.
Some of us — spared — have learned of such losses that others are now going through.
Some of us have been diagnosed with the virus and survived.
Some of us preach “stay home, stay safe,” and others of us declare no governor (and sometimes no bishop) is going to tell me what to do. I have rights!
But all of us are scared.
If not so much for ourselves because we live in an area with a low incidence of the virus, then for our loved ones in places being ravaged. We fear for the middle generation, for the youngest, for those in nursing homes and assisted living.
And, we’ve learned, patients 60 and up have a higher risk of the illness killing us, of it killing our peers.
We’re scared because even among the best, brightest, most experienced and most dedicated professionals in the fields of medicine and science, no one really knows, for sure, how to stop it, how to come close to eliminating it.
And so the discussion — our inner dialogue and our socially distanced conversations with others — drifts back to the past several months. We missed most of the Lenten season. For many, we missed most of the Easter season.
This hasn’t been the Catholic Church as we’ve known it and loved it and served it for decades.
But, of course, there is a Catholic Church, and there always will be until the end of time. It’s just that the parish buildings have been closed. The social and charitable organizations and the ministries are hobbled.
Funerals and weddings may be small and private. Or have to wait. Masses may be televised or online (live or recorded). Holy Communion may be “received” spiritually, which, let’s be honest, isn’t the same — it just isn’t.
We’re grieving. You and I.
It well may be this is the longest period in your life of not going to Mass. The longest time — since your first Communion — of not receiving the Eucharist, of not going to confession.
The parish of January 2020 is gone, at least for now, for a time — possibly for the rest of our lifetimes.
And that’s sad. That’s scary. That’s stressful. We miss what we had, and now more than ever we cherish what it was.
On the other hand. …
Right here, right now
The God who has known you and loved from before all time — and will do so for all eternity — placed you right here, right now.
A member of the senior generation in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
A Catholic in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
What’s your task, your job, your challenge, for this “new vocation”? Perhaps, first, it’s taking a deep breath and opening yourself further to God’s will, God’s plan, for you … right here, right now.
What tremendous faith he has in you! Sick. Elderly. Disabled. Frail. No matter. Apparently perfectly suited for what he’s inviting you to do for others. And, in some ways, do with others.
Do … what? A few thoughts:
Your important role
Let’s say you don’t have a computer. You don’t have a smartphone. You and the internet are not as one. (And saints preserve us from Zoom. As far as you recall, that was a hot breakfast cereal your mom prepared.)
You know how to pray alone. You can turn to God, who’s still “got the whole world in his hands.”
And you can focus those prayers: for family members; for friends; for civil and religious leaders (how much harder their jobs are now); for those who are sick and for those caring for them, both professionals and family members; for those who have passed away and for those who are grieving that loss.
And, in doing so, you’re taking advantage of a tried-and-true way for lessening stress. You’re taking some control, making some decisions and going into action in ways that you can help.
You’re not helpless. In fact, your help is needed. How powerful your prayers are, whether in words, deeds or “offering up” the suffering and sacrifices you’re living with during this time. You can be a pandemic prayer warrior!
Yes, if you have the technical know-how and equipment, you can take part in group online prayer meetings, Bible studies and so on.
But you can also agree with others — parishioners, family, fellow members of the Legion of Mary or Knights of Columbus — to all say a Rosary (home, alone but not “alone”) on a chosen day at a chosen time. Two or three “gathered in my name” don’t have to be physically gathered. And nothing can stop a “spiritual” gathering.
You can keep financially supporting your parish, diocese and other charities and ministries. Like the widow in Luke 21:1-4, you can donate your “two small coins.” Again, you have some choice, some control, some action.
You can call (email, text, etc.) friends and family you haven’t seen in months and months or perhaps years and years.
Plus! You’re old. You know how to write a letter, fold it and slide it into an addressed, stamped envelope and put it in the mail. And you know what a treat it is to get real mail. This very day, you can pull out your Christmas card list, blow the dust of your address book, and … .
You can be like Mary, humbly saying, fiat. Let it be. Your will be one.
And you can pay attention to Mary, who advises, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Do it always, even now. In some ways, especially now.
Bill Dodds writes from Washington.
|Founding Grandfathers and Grandmothers|
“My God, my God, why do you trust me so much?”
Maybe that’s what we — senior citizen Catholics — should be saying and praying in 2020.
Why is our heavenly Father entrusting us to be the founding grandfathers and grandmothers, not of a Church reborn, but of parishes refashioned in a COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 era? Perhaps not a permanent refashioning, but one that’s necessary for the foreseeable future.
No packed pews or crowded social gatherings in parish halls but instead … only God knows for certain. But, of course, we can be certain that he’s got it — he’s got us — covered.
So what’s our role in this refashioning? Maybe No. 1 on that list is to be aware that members of the younger generations are taking note of how we’re reacting to all this. They can be quick to spot our faith or lack of it. They’ve heard us talk the talk. Now they’re watching to see if we walk the walk.
Through all this uncertainty, loss, grief, pain and fear, another prayer we can offer is a verse from a traditional spiritual:
Just a closer walk with thee, /
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea, /
Daily walking close to thee, /
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
When we walk that talk, when we walk in faith, we never walk alone.