For the past 2 months we’ve been practicing social distancing, staying at home, and/or quarantined. At times it’s felt like the world is on hold while we deal with Covid-19, but now, things are beginning to start back up again. We’re not completely back to how thing were, and we probably never will be in some ways, but in many places we’re seeing the new cases and hospitalizations dropping, businesses beginning to open back up, and people starting to go our and about. Now is the time to reflect on the spiritual lessons of this time and how we can truly take these lessons to heart and not just “go back to normal.” Some of the things that I’ll be working on, in the coming weeks and months, are being more comfortable with silence, having a greater appreciation for the community of the Church, and having a deeper reverence for and reliance on the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
In the past two months, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in Church or sitting out on my porch. Some of that time has been spent watching TV and some of it reading, but a lot of it has been spent in silence, with only the sound of the wind, the birds, and the occasional passing car. I’ve come to realize that I was accustomed to always having some sound going on. Even if I was just working around the house, I would turn on the radio or listen to a podcast. The silence has allowed me to hear myself thinking again. Silence can be uncomfortable or make us feel anxious because we’re not used to being alone with ourselves. When become comfortable in the silence, we begin to realize that we’re not alone, because God is with us. God doesn’t usually come with a light show and a spectacle, and it can be hard to hear His voice even in the silence, and He’s much harder to hear when we never allow the silence to linger.
I’ve also come to realize just how much I need the community of the Church. I’ve always focused on prayer, teaching and preaching, and the sacraments, and I might have taken the community aspect of Church for granted. It’s not that I thought it was unimportant; I just never really thought much about it at all. This time without the Church around me has reminded me why I love being a parish priest and why I chose diocesan or parish priesthood over joining a monastery. The monasteries are extremely important, but the ordinary life of the Church is in the parish and in the day to day lives of ordinary Catholics, coming together in Church to worship God together, to be strengthened through that worship, and then going out to bring the Word of God into the world.
Finally, I think that we, and I mean the Catholic Church throughout the world, not any specific individuals, have taken the sacraments for granted. In these two months I’ve seen a growing desire for the Eucharist, I’ve seen people spending hours each week in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, just to be close to our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, and I’ve seen multiple people brought to tears because they’ve finally been able to receive Communion again. Even, and especially priests, can fall into the trap of taking the Sacraments for granted, because we handle sacred things on a day to day basis and sometimes we don’t stop to think just what it is that we’re doing. We must remember that we don’t go to the Sacraments for ourselves, but to give ourselves to God, but we must also remember that what we receive in the Sacraments is far greater than what we give, because we receive God Himself, the Most Holy Trinity.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.