I think it’s fair to say that most of us feel as if our lives have been turned upside down. More than four months ago, we were asked to stay home more than we ever have and change some of our long-established routines. Most of us have done so with great commitment, not just for ourselves but for our families and those around us.
I have to admit it’s been hard, especially as someone who loves to be out with people, whether it’s our Catholic Charities’ clients, our generous supporters, or our staff. I’m doing more than a little bit of Zoom and other online interactions, but it’s just not the same.
Still, that pales in comparison to the struggles others have endured these last few months. I’ve walked with people as their parents battled COVID-19. I’ve buried some of those same people who did not recover. I’ve walked with a family dealing with suicide. I’ve worked with couples forced to postpone their weddings. And on and on.
All around us, there’s been sickness, death, hardship, pain, loss of jobs, lack of food, disappointment, and more. We see it firsthand with those we help at Catholic Charities. It’s hard.
We don’t know how our lives will stay disrupted or what the future holds. But ever mindful that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28), I have been praying and thinking about what good can come out of this.
I have found a few silver linings. See if any of these resonate with you.
First, my schedule is different, and so is the pace of life. I notice it first thing in the morning when I don’t make my usual commute into the office. I’ve enjoyed waking up and being able to spend more quality time in prayer. I feel less rushed praying the breviary, and I have enjoyed more time for meditation. My prayers have been changed by the different tempo of life, and I’m grateful to be able to use that time to talk more with God.
I am also able to exercise more. I’ve worked out in the morning for years, but I haven’t always gotten in a good run or walk that got my heart pumping. In recent months, I’ve walked almost every day – at least five days a week – for more than an hour. In fact, I now know where every hill is in the neighborhood! I can immediately tell the difference between an incline and a flat surface. A little extra struggle is not a bad thing.
I often finish my walk by praying the rosary for the last 10 or 15 minutes, usually in St. Bartholomew’s Church as I keep walking the perimeter and work the beads in my hand. I like finishing the walk – and sometimes the day – with a real sense of the Blessed Mother and her influence in my life. Her “yes” to the angel Gabriel is my mantra in life. I always try to say that same “yes” every time I can, and giving her praise and thanksgiving through the rosary is a big part of my daily prayer.
In the past, my rosary prayer wasn’t usually as reflective or heartfelt as it has been with more time on my hands. I have heard the Lord speak through the meditations on the mysteries in the quiet of the church.
I’ve always loved the Eucharist, but I have a newfound appreciation for how we celebrate it. As a priest, I receive the Eucharist every day, but I have missed gathering around the altar with our people at St. Bart’s, sharing the gift of preaching and reflecting on the Word of God before all of us receive the Eucharist together as a family.
I am hopeful that as the weeks and months go on, many who have been unable to come to church because of their concern about the virus will find that they can start to come on a regular basis. I believe we all need the Eucharist, and I know that we need you. We need everyone to take full advantage of the great gift we have in receiving the very body and blood of Christ.
I’ve also found a silver lining in extra time spent with Catholic Charities’ staff members at least twice a week in Zoom calls. We started these as listening sessions, and what a blessing they have been. Twelve staff members join me on the phone, and we hear directly from them what’s on their minds.
Many are worried about their clients, racial inequity, and giving their children attention while they work from home. They struggle with helping their children get the education they need while working full time. I’ve learned more about how so many struggle on a daily basis with a spouse, children, and elderly parents all in need of their care and concern.
I have also realized more than ever the importance of walking in someone else’s shoes. The more we can try to do that during our current struggles, whether they be from the pandemic or from the pain of discrimination and bigotry, the more we all will become conscious of, and open to, the needs of others.
The biggest and best silver lining of all is that God has not abandoned us in our time of struggle. Some wonder where God is, but I see God every day in the love of those who reach out and take care of others in need. I see God in the staff of Catholic Charities, and in our generous supporters. I see God in first responders, in hospitals, nursing homes, and health facilities. I see God in priests working tirelessly to keep faith alive. I see God every day in all who try their best to love God and their neighbor.
The God who sent his only Son to die for us and open the gates of Heaven will never abandon us, especially when the crosses we bear feel so burdensome. Let us unite any suffering we may endure with Jesus’ suffering for the salvation of the world, and let us celebrate every day the never-ending presence of a God who loves us more than we can know.
(Msgr. Enzler serves as the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.)
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