Together in Prayer
Dear Friends in Christ,
“I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began the good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right that I should think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” ~ Phil 1:3-11
I have always liked St. Paul, and in particular his Epistle to the Philippians. These words of his, I now make my own in a new and special way. In a previous letter, I made mention of how the devil must be smiling and pleased that so many are denied the chance to offer Mass and receive the Real Presence of Our Lord in Holy Communion. At the same time, I know that God can and is bringing about good in this most difficult time. As I take a few precious moments to reflect, I not only think of the many sick and those who have died and those who are in mourning or in fear, I am also thinking of all the people around the world who never get to receive Jesus because of persecution or lack of priests. I think of the many who do not know Jesus and his love for them. I think of what a hardship this is for us to be denied the gift of the Eucharist and gathering together as a family of faith. I think too of the many people for whom this period of Eucharistic fasting is making them more cognizant of the gift that we have and how we take it for granted so often. I think and pray for the more than 60 priests who have died in Italy alone from this pandemic. I pray that their lives may inspire many young men to take up the cross and follow the Lord’s invitation of “Come, follow me!”
As I pray the mass without you being physically present, I am praying that the Lord will be spiritually present to you and you with Him. As we face so many issues because of this pandemic, I pray that it will help many focus more on God and the things that really matter. I read one comment by a Polish cardinal who works in the Vatican. His Eminence Konrad Cardinal Krajewski is the Papal Almoner. That means he is the guy in charge of disbursing alms to the poor on behalf of the pope. He literally goes about Rome feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless. The quarantine in Italy has made it impossible in many ways to continue. This is similar to our situation now in Houston. It was his actions in response to the shutdown that prompted Pope Francis to issue an order to keep the churches in Italy open for private prayer when they had previously been ordered closed. He pointed out how the poor and all of God’s children in time of crisis need to come into God’s house. I am sure it was this action of Pope Francis that inspired Cardinal DiNardo’s similar instruction for us in this archdiocese that the church doors should remain open. During these days when our liturgies and activities have been suspended, I have been edified by the constant stream of people coming and making visits to pray before the Blessed Sacrament day and night. An additional insight by Cardinal Krajewski was that one of the things the COVID-19 pandemic has caused and brought to light is awareness that deep down everyone is actually pro-life whether they admit it or not!
While this health emergency prohibits us from gathering together as one, it does not prohibit us from our primary mission of loving and serving the Lord! It does not prohibit us from seeking God in prayer. It does not prohibit us from serving our neighbor in love. It does not prohibit us from keeping our eyes always focused on the Lord and keeping heaven as our goal. Like the discipline of Lent which helps us focus on the Lord, this crisis can also help us do the same. May our time apart help us grow evermore stronger in our desire to be together as the Church, a family of faith, a communion of love. May our love for the Lord unite us in our hearts and help us bear witness to the world, especially to those in our own family, our neighborhoods, work places and schools to God’s infinite love and mercy for all. My prayer is that while this virus forces us together in our homes, that it will help bring us together in prayer, strengthen our hope and deepen our faith that Jesus Christ is Lord!
Mary, Our Mother and Our Queen. Pray for us.
St. John Vianney, Holy Cure’ of Ars and patron of our parish. Pray for us.
In Pace Christi,