Posted on April 06, 2020 08:54

The Loss of Holy Week Liturgy- Trust in God- Find New Liturgical Experiences

My dear dear friends,

Did you ever think it would be possible for the Masses during Holy Week to cease? Recently, I heard it said that the Covid-19 viral outbreak was "not" a punishment or sign from God. Well, that is not the general concensus of the faith-filled people. A recent poll announced that almost half of Americans see the Corona virus as a ‘wake-up call’ from God. Here is link to an article which I just read: (Click Link: Almost half of Americans see coronavirus as ‘wake-up call’ from God. Times are unprecesented for sure! Take this occasion to come closer to God! Let God dwell in your hearts. I remember the words of  St. Padre Pio: "Every Holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we, ourselves, do not know...It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!" (The Franciscan, topright.jpg). What does this mean for our world today? We must pray and trust God. What has your Mass experiences been like these days? The same saint would also say: "Pray, Hope and Don't Worry". The words of the holy Mass itself tell us not to have anxiety but to trust God.

When St. Benedict Joseph Labre lived with his uncle, who was the local parish priest, there was a pandemic then. He would help care for the sick and tend to the farms animals of his neighbors when they were to sick to do so.  His uncle died from the disease. Our saint lived through it. Pray to him for your concerns with the COVID-19 and our patron will help you. 

This weekend, our pastor sent an email out saying that he would offer 3 Masses for Palm Sunday. He set up an altar outside of the Church in the parking lot and invited us to drive up and park in the lot. He had a radio transmitter which allowed him to be heard through our car radio speakers. This reminded me of when we were children and when we would go to the drive-in theatre. This time, it was a drive-in Mass. A pretty powerful experience for us all. I know that many of you are not able to do this. However, there are many Catholic churches that will have live-stream Mass on the computer. Take the time and enrich your home experience to help you deal spiritually with this pandemic.

Having mental ilness is most challengng as you know, but now with Covid-19 much more support is needed. For example, just yesterday, I went to check on a close friend who lives in a group home and who is a very devout Catholic. He usually attends at least 7 Masses a week. Now, with the closing of the Churches, I could only imagine the loss he was feeling. I brought him a coffee from Dunkin Donuts. When outside, we kept our six foot rule and one of the staff came out of the house yelling.  "Don't you know the virus is killing people." I stearnly told her to relax and she went into the house. My friend did get his cup of coffee and we chatted for a few minutes keeping a safe distance. As many of you know, I am a hospital chaplain and I have been on the front lines now with some of the healthcare workers. I know how to protect myself and would not purposefully place anyone in danger, including my own family. There are things we can do to protect ourselves.

We can easliy become over-reactive and suffer from what I call COVID shut-in syndrome.  I encourage you to do your research. In just five minutes of Google searching, I found a lot of suggested help for mental illness and COVID. Please do the same on your own.

Please checkout the two articles I found below by our friend Dr. Gregory Popcak  on his website blog. At the end, Dr. Greg mentions a quick quiz to help you determine your stress level from the virus.

Be assured of my prayers for your safety and health. 

Have a Blessed Easter.

Timothy Duff, STM, MA RCHL ERD BCC

Guardian and Co-Founder

Hurting/Angry Over Mass Suspensions? Finding Spiritual Consolation in Times of Pandemic

It felt like a gut punch.  This past week, the Ohio Bishops’ Conference, along with many other dioceses and bishops’ conferences across the country have suspended the celebration of Mass through Easter.

Last weekend was the first weekend I haven’t been to mass since…I can’t remember.  It was certainly the first time I have ever missed mass without being ill and unable to leave the house.  And I have never once missed any of the Holy Week liturgies—especially Easter Sunday mass. I found myself experiencing a mix of emotions; sadness, frustration, a spiritual ache, even some anger.

Not Alone

I know I’m not alone. I have had many conversations with clients in my Catholic tele-counseling practice and callers to my radio program around this issue.  People–already worried and anxious about how the pandemic is impacting their lives–are feeling cut off from their most important spiritual resources.  As one caller put it, “They are taking away the Eucharist when we need Jesus the most!”  

As I was praying through my own pain of not being able to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist, I felt the Holy Spirit move in my heart.  I remembered the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).

The Good Samaritan

You may remember that in the story, a man is beaten by robbers and left to die on the road. A priest passes by on the way to temple, but can’t stop for fear of being made unclean from contact with the wounded man.  Next, a Levite, also fails to stop to help the man for fear of being made unclean and unable to attend temple.  Finally, a Samaritan stops to tend to the man’s wounds and bring him to a place where he can be cared for.  At the end of the story, Jesus challenges us to be like the Samaritan. 

What does this have to do with our present crisis? It means we need to step back and ask our selves, “What is the point of going to Church?  What is the fruit the Eucharist is meant to bear in our lives?”  The answer, of course, is that by attending Mass and receiving the Precious Body and Blood, God heals the broken parts of our hearts so that we can more effectively love our neighbor as God needs us to.

Love One Another

Of course, the Eucharist exists to be a source of personal consolation, but it has to be more than that.  It has to ultimately equip us with the grace we need to love more, to love better, to love as God wants us to.

Loving someone means “working for their good.”  If the entire point of receiving Christ in the Eucharist is loving others, what does it mean to “work for the good of our neighbor” in the midst of this pandemic?  It means willingly embracing the cross that social distancing requires of us so that we can “flatten the curve” and end this crisis quickly with as little loss of human life as possible.  Sometimes, true love requires abstinence.  This is one of those times.

A True Lenten Mortification

In Lent, we’re called to make sacrifices that will enable us to love better and build God’s kingdom. Sometimes, it can be tempting to choose sacrifices that make us feel good about ourselves.  “I’m going to do THIS for God!  Aren’t I wonderful?!?”  Although rooted in a good intention, this misses the point. True sacrifice isn’t about doing what we want to do for God. Rather, it’s about doing what God asks us to do for him and our neighbor.

It takes real humility to cheerfuly accept the sacrificies God brings into our lives, to consecrate those sacrifices to him, and to ask him for the grace to rise to these challenges in a manner that glorifies him, helps us respond to the people around us in a way that works for their good, and helps us become the people he wants us to be.  

Spiritual Communion & Commission

If you are struggling, as I am, with not being able to attend mass for the next several weeks, bring it to God. Offer up your pain with a prayer that goes something like this.  “Lord, my heart is longing to receive you, but while I am waiting to be reunited with your Precious Body and Blood, fill my heart with your love and grace. Heal the broken parts of my heart.  Help me respond to this challenge in a way that gives you glory, shares your love more fully with the people in my life, and makes me the person you want me to be.”

This prayer, and others like it, are what Catholics call “spiritual communion.”  It represents a desire to pursue union with God and the grace to build his kingdom even when the normal avenues of grace (i.e, the sacraments) are not available to us.  God gives us the sacraments as a gift, but he is not bound by his sacraments and his love and grace rush to fill in any space we open to him.  

While we wait in joyful hope to be able to encounter the Lord at mass and receive him once again in the Eucharist, make a spiritual communion as often as you can and participate in masses broadcast on TV or the radio as opften as possible. Until we can once again receive the Body of Christ, let us all pray for the grace to be the Body of Christ—especially to those the Lord has placed in our path.

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How Are You Coping With COVID? Take Our Quiz.

To say that people are stressed in the face of global pandemic is an understatement.  Beyond the very real concerns about our health and the health of our loved ones, the shelter-in-place orders combined with the loss of so many normal spiritual resources are making many people feel unmoored.  Psychologists have coined the term Covid Stress Syndrome to describe the psychological effects of the pandemic, and the CDC has released recommendations for dealing with the emotional fallout from this crisis.

How are you coping?  The following quiz can help you evaluate the level of stress you’re under and identify the supports you might need to manage your stress, worry or anxiety.

Select “0” for no, and “1”  for yes.

1. I am an extrovert.0 or 1

2. I personally know someone who has COVID-19.0 or 1

3. I personally know someone who died or is in critical condition from COVID-19.0 or 1

4. A major life event occurred since the coronavirus outbreak (someone I know died, I moved or was unable to move, became homeless, etc. )0 or 1

5. I am pregnant.0 or 1

6. I have an immunocompromised or at-risk family member living with me.0 or 1

7. I do not have access to outdoor space (live in an apartment).0 or 1

8. I have children.0 or 1

9. My life was majorly changed as a result from working from home.0 or 1

10. I personally or my partner lost his/her job as a result from the coronavirus.0 or 1

11. I was working parent prior to this outbreak.0 or 1

12. My sleep has been disrupted in the last two weeks.0 or 1

13. My eating has been changed (eating more or less than usual in the last two weeks).0 or 1

14. I have been diagnosed with COVID-19.0 or 1

15.  I am concerned I have it or frequently concerned about my health.0 or 1

Add up the number on the right to view your total.

Mild Impact 0-5
You’re currently managing well. Consider ways you may be able to lend a hand to someone in need.

Moderate impact 6-10
Life has been disrupted but to a manageable degree. You’re making efforts to take care of yourself and your loved ones, but you are hopeful that when this crisis passes, things will return to normal. Make sure to continue eat well, exercise, engage in meaningful activities, connect as much as possible with loved ones, spend time making a “sacrifice of praise” to God by writing down the blessings of each day, and limit your exposure to news and social media.  If you like, you can take this time to increase your resilience by turning to books like Unworried: A Life Without Anxiety (get it 50% off through the publisher for a limited time) to learn new tools for managing stress and anxiety.

Severe Impact 11-15
This crisis is having a major impact on your life. You have serious concerns about how all of this will affect you and it is impacting your ability to cope. It will be important to strengthen your efforts at self-care (eating well, exercising, engaging in meaningful activities, connecting as much as possible with loved ones, making regular “sacrifices of praise” to God by writing down the blessings of each day, and limiting your exposure to news and social media), as well as learning new tools from books like Unworried: A Life Without Anxiety (available for 50% off through the publisher for a limited time) and considering seeking support from a professional tele-counseling agency like The Pastoral Solutions Institute which offers Catholic-integrated, professional pastoral counseling services by telephone.

Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.  Be mindful about self-care, connecting with others and God, and getting the resources and support you need to stand strong in the face of this crisis.  As a Christian, it isn’t our job to simply weather the storm. We are called to show the world that is it possible to be strong, confident, peaceful and joyful even in the face of crisis, and to do all we can to work for the good of others. Don’t let the stressors of the world weigh you down. Get the help you need to become the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled person you are meant to be.

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