Dioceses all across the United States have taken the step to cancel the celebration of Mass and other religious services in an effort to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. To some this unprecedented step seems an over-reaction while to others it is a relief. Those who are disappointed see it as a decision that takes away access to hope at a time when hope is in short supply. To those in favor, the decision is seen as a practical step to keep people safe.
Where is the balance? Does our identification as Catholics come entirely from the celebration of the Sacraments? That is certainly foundational, but realistically the suspension is only temporary and does nothing to impact the indelibility of our Baptismal promises. We have been encouraged by the bishops to continue ministering in other ways – the churches remain open for private prayer and reflection, Adoration may be held, and our efforts at tending to the poor, the sick, and those in need are to be continued. Perhaps it is no coincidence that this situation is escalating during the season of Lent. The three disciplines – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – which we are called to increase during Lent are still available to us.
Prayer – while many of us remain relatively untouched by the virus itself, we have great empathy for those who are on the front lines of this pandemic – those who are sick, medical workers, emergency personnel, researchers, and government leaders. May our private prayers and petitions include them as well as the safety and health of our own families and communities.
Fasting – in many ways fasting has become easier during the pandemic. The increased isolation and directives for social-distancing make it almost easy to keep our Lenten promises. The hoarding of supplies by many and the interruption in the supply chain also make it likely that what you need, when you need it is no longer an option. The cancellation of school, events, travel, work, meetings, you-name-it, are difficult to adjust to and make it nearly impossible to make plans. While this is frustrating and scary, by embracing these disruptions to our daily lives we can offer them as sacrifices and view them as opportunities to connect with and support others in different ways. Instead of physical meetings, try phone calls, letters, cards, social media, etc. Instead of hoarding, check on your neighbors and family members, offering to run errands. Begin each day with gratitude and focus on the positive.
Almsgiving – This discipline looks the same as it always has and is even more necessary than ever. We have several ongoing programs at St. Augustine that assist others. Please remember our brothers and sisters in need with donations to our food bins in the church, the Easter Elegance program, the One Heart Lent Program, and the diaper collection for Communities Together.
We Catholics are people of hope. Through the example of our Faith and by remaining true to our Lenten sacrifices we can put our own fears aside, trust in the promises of Christ and help others through this time of fear and uncertainty.
Cor Unum – One Heart Program
The One Heart Lent Program helps fill the great need of feeding hungry people in Lawrence by directly supporting the Cor Unum Meal Center which feeds hundreds of people every day. This is a simple program in which all family members can participate. 100% of the donations provided go directly to feeding people. Simply clip out the label on this flier and attach it to a jar. Make a commitment to sacrifice a daily amount of money to the jar. At the end of Lent, donations are mailed to the address on the label. In addition, a program guide provides daily spiritual reflections for the season of Lent. Visit CorUnumMealCenter.org for complete info.
The Religious Education program invites all parishioners to join their students in donating new (or nearly-new) clothing for the child clients of the Pregnancy Care Center and Lazarus House Ministries. Please bring donations to the parish center between March 1st and April 7th. For details and a list of items…