We have created a space for you to share these mercies and graces—small and big. Whether in a sentence or 12 paragraphs, anonymously or by name, we invite you to share these graces here. With all the bad news surrounding us, let’s share some good news with each other. And perhaps the good news we share will inspire us to take the lessons we are learning and the graces we are receiving into our post-COVID-19 lives. Below are recent submissions. At the bottom of the page is a form to submit your own.
Finding Peace Through My Dad's Dying Process
2019 was a difficult year for me as we (myself and siblings) placed my mom in memory care and took care of my dad who was failing in our midst...with three of the four of us living out of state from them. I spent a good chunk of the summer in TN making difficult decisions and for the most part watching my dad "die" more and more each day. But, probably the hardest thing to deal with was the fact that I didn't have a relationship with him at all (abusive, dysfunctional upbringing) as he lead a life outside of ours. We were taking care of a person whom we weren't sure if we "loved" or not and had very little respect for. My mom had been a "victim" to his ways for all of their married life so she found it hard to "take care" of us, hence a weak relationship there as well. (Bear with me...I am not dumping my bucket per se but just providing some background if you will. )
So, after his passing, I discovered and "felt" something remarkable and amazing. I was very aware that my heart was hardened and was slow to open up and soften, but it was progressing slowly nonetheless. I had realized that I had found a sense of peace that I never experienced before with my father ever...a peace in that I had taken care of someone whom I didn't like and I was okay with that. Whether he wanted us there to care of him or not, I did it respectfully and with love for another human being, no matter what the circumstances leading up to that time were. I didn't let him control what I was doing...right up until he took his last breath.
Fast forward to 2020....turning over a new calendar year was like "woo hoo" for me! My first thought was "2019 was tough...man, I'm ready for new beginnings!" Of course we had no clue that this pandemic was coming and what it would do to us. Yes, it has been extremely heart wrenching to see what impact it has had on our medical personnel, first responders, the elderly, schools, churches....just scratching the surface there. But, with this stay at home order came time and lots of it. I'll be the first to admit that I have had great peace through all of this. I had a Lent like no other! My son actually showed me a meme that said "I've had the Lentiest Lent I've ever Lented" and that was so true! Now, I need to stress that I miss the Eucharist and receiving Jesus within me but, I have read the Bible more than I ever have. I have participated in virtual studies, have been moved to tears by some books I've read as well as FORMED.org videos I've watched, and have participated in the Rosary and Divine Mercy, too. Not bragging here...for this is HUGE for me but the point is my heart has been burning for more and I have never felt closer to our Lord than ever. I've always said that God has a sense of humor and I believe it! He also does things on his time and has a plan for each and every one of us and I've come to recognize that. Maybe finding the peace through my dad's dying process was the "right" time for me and perhaps this past Lent and Easter season were as well. Maybe I needed to let go of my control and let God "in" more but didn't know how? Maybe my heart needed to be opened up further? Maybe I needed to see that I didn't need to "be" someone else or perfect for God? Grant it, I'm still on this journey and will be to the end of my days, but I look upon this pandemic as a blessing for me in so many ways. My children are grown and gone so I certainly have had the time to reflect, but perhaps didn't take the time to truly dig deep and listen to what God was saying to me.
I, like so many of you, long for the day when we can return to HNOJ as a community and take part in the most Holy Eucharist of our Lord. Until then, I hope that our eyes are opened to so many things while we are still at home..what matters most, what matters least, and faith/trust in God is what will get us through this together. Who knows? Maybe we'll come back and it will be standing room only in our church!!! Wouldn't that be cool? Okay... I'll see YOU there!
Be safe and stay healthy! Praying for all of you!
Blessings Amidst COVID-19
By Ashley Cermak
So many thoughts have raced through my head these past few weeks. Many thoughts have been clouded with anxiety as I fear for the safety of my own health and financial well-being and that of my loved ones. I’ve also faced the disappointment that I won’t be able to attend my best friend’s wedding in April, and that so many gatherings I’ve been awaiting have been postponed into the unforeseeable future. The unknown has never been more tangibly before me. It’s not that I have never explored the unknown, whether by choice or because life required it. But I am experiencing this current unknown, brought about by COVID-19, more palpably.
In a lot of ways, these unprecedented times feel so different to me because everyone is affected. Everyone’s daily lives have been turned upside down in some capacity. I’ve talked to moms and dads who have shared the stresses of becoming homeschooling parents overnight. I think of my sister who has two little ones at home, yet somehow must find a way to get her work done. I remember that many are unsafe or very unhappy at home and are bearing deep hardship. I think of my friends who are being furloughed or laid off altogether. I think of the 32-year old I know who was hospitalized for COVID-19 and has a long journey of recovery ahead. I imagine the anxiety of so many of my friends (and sister) whose summer wedding plans are up-in-the-air. I think of graduation ceremonies, First Communions, Confirmations, funerals…all which must be put on hold, celebrated with far fewer guests than intended or canceled altogether.
But somehow, despite these unknown times in which we live, I feel the light shining upon our society, our Church. At first glance, it would seem these unknowns should cause us immense anxiety and deep despair. And while it’s completely natural and understandable to experience some level of fear and sadness, on a deeper level, I also sense freedom. I sense healing.
In the virtual Confirmation interviews and zoom calls I have been privileged to have with teens these past few weeks, I hear about families who are having daily meals together for the first time in years. I hear about family game nights, and family prayer times. I hear about the artwork that teens are creating because they finally have time. I see teens initiating their own virtual get-togethers to hang out and even pray. I’ve also had moms and dads share with me their relief of not having to drive their kids all over creation for sports and other activities.
I, too, am experiencing a reset and a call to reevaluate my priorities. How regularly I take for granted my paychecks, my friendships, my ability to see the people I love whenever I want. How many times have I approached Mass and Confession as a mere obligation, rather than with gratitude and love. It wasn’t until these sacraments were withheld from us that I realized how entitled I thought I was to them.
I am so easily attached to the comforts of the world…until they are no longer guaranteed. But that’s the real question we are facing, isn’t it? What is guaranteed? What has Jesus really promised us? Has He promised us an easy life without suffering and sacrifice? Has He promised us comfort? No. He has promised to take care of our needs, yes, but He also invites us to set our sights beyond this world and onto His kingdom, which is nothing less than Heaven. Jesus walked every step of the way to heaven, which means He also passed through the agony of the cross. We who seek to follow Jesus then, must also accept our crosses. But not without hope. When we die with Christ, so too shall we live with Him (2 Timothy 2:11).
I think these unknown days have offered us an opportunity. And this opportunity by no means negates the real suffering that is occurring. Rather, it makes meaning of it. I’ve been thinking about how Jesus calls me to live in the present moment (see Mt. 6:34) and how hard this is! But right now, there is not much more I can do. I don’t know whether I’ll have a job tomorrow (who really does?), what my summer plans hold, what sufferings I will face…And for the first time in my life, I am okay with that. In the past, when I felt like I was losing control over something in my life, everyone else around me seemed to have it all together. This spurred me on to grasp harder at that which I thought I had control just so I didn’t drown. But right now, none of us feel like we’re in control. No one knows what tomorrow holds, and no one can even fool you that they do! I’m realizing that none of us has ever been in control. Yes, we have control over the choices we make, but we haven’t been the ones holding the health and well-being of humanity together. The reality is we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. And strangely, that brings me a deep sense of freedom. Freedom to live today with my whole heart; to enter into my work, fully present to the people before me (even if on Zoom!); to cherish my loved ones; to embrace my daily walks I now take to maintain my sanity amidst this stay at home order. Worrying about things over which I have no control does nothing but waste time and energy. And while it is still tempting to do so sometimes, there is a great sense of freedom to just live for today. Really, that’s all God has ever asked of us anyway.
Pandemics have a weird way of bringing clarity—of shining light onto our hearts, revealing where our treasures lie and what might need some healing and reordering. I know that every story is different and that every person is carrying different, real burdens amidst this COVID-19 crisis. And I am also convinced that there are deep graces and mercies awaiting each of us, if we but only take a moment to let the light shine into our hearts.