Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Easter Alleluia 2020

I think it is safe to say that when we started 2020, none of us thought we would be here. I ended 2019 posting all kinds of decade recaps with hope for the next decade.

Four months in, and the world has spent the first couple of months of this year and decade in quarantine and fighting COVID-19. I myself am in the middle of my 5th week of quarantine right now. It is my school's "Spring Break" and I was supposed to be in Baltimore this week speaking at a conference and reconnecting with many of my Catholic teacher friends and colleagues. Last week was Holy Week and I was supposed to be a sponsor for a candidate waiting to receive the Sacraments of Initiation into the Catholic Church. Now he is having to wait even longer. It is kind of hard to think of those picture posts and hopeful decade recaps now.

But it is the Easter season! A time that the Church has designated and set up for us to rejoice. So how do we rejoice in this time of quarantine?

It is easy to focus on the negative. I have struggled with this my entire life. It is easy for me right now to go through all of the things I am not doing or could be doing. But the Church calls us right now to look at the good works that God has done, doing, and will do in the times to come.

During Lent, my spiritual practice was to read the Gospel for each day and say a decade of the rosary for someone. Even though Lent is over, I want to continue this practice. I feel like I need to continue this practice in order to get outside of my head and give myself some perspective.

Plus, the readings right now and for the Easter season are so full of joy and Good News, but also some uncertainty as the apostles figure out what Christ's Resurrection means and how they are to go out and preach about it to the world.

In today's first reading from Acts, Peter and John have just healed a crippled man. The crippled man is "clinging" to them ( I love this image) and the crowd that witnessed the miracle are amazed. Peter, however, quickly points them to Christ. It is not Peter or John who are divine, it is only through the Risen Christ that they are able to work miracles. Peter points also to the prophecies of the Old Testament and Moses who foreshadow everything that Christ embodies. Peter reminds them of this so that they will believe. (Acts 3:11-26)

The Gospel for today is also from Luke (Luke wrote the book of Acts) and describes Jesus appearing to the apostles in the Upper Room after His Resurrection. This image struck me:

1.) The apostles are gathered "locked" in a room. Quarantined even?
2.) They are uncertain and afraid and think Jesus is a ghost when they first see Him. But Jesus says to them:

"Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?"

I mean...I feel like it is very obvious why they are troubled and what questions they have! They had just seen Him die days earlier and now here He was again in their midst.

I think the questions for us, too, are obvious right now. When will this be over? When will we have tests and a vaccine? When can we leave our "upper rooms" again?

But in this upper room, later in the Easter Season (spoiler!) the apostles will receive the Holy Spirit to guide them and give them help even when they are uncertain. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that gives Peter and John the power to perform miracles in the book of Acts.The Church teaches that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are: Piety, Understanding, Fortitude, Fear of the Lord, Counsel, Wisdom and Knowledge. I feel like we could use an increase of all of these right now.

I guess my reflection and questions for today are: What good works are we still able to see even from our upper rooms? Even in our uncertainty, are there still amazing things happening? What miraculous things is Jesus still able to do and doing during this time?

It is easy to see the negative and this is a serious time. But Easter has happened and we are in this season of joy regardless. I see joy and good works in Face Timing with my niece and nephew and family and friends. I see joy and good works in the health care providers who leave their homes to help us each day. I see joy and good works in the acts of charity communities are performing to reach out to one another. I see joy and good works in the parents who are struggling to teach their children at home.

Where do you see good works and joy even in the uncertainty of our Upper Room?

Hoping and praying that we are able to burst forth with the Holy Spirit by Pentecost (50 days after Easter. Maybe by then we will be able to see one another again in person? Maybe?!)

In the meantime, here is some more of my Easter 2020:

 Watching Easter Vigil from my apartment with candles isn't the same...
 I think my family is already over Zooming with me...this was our Easter call
Cheers to the Easter season and hopefully escaping from our Upper Rooms soon!


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Love in the Time of Corona (or Praying the Stations of the Cross in a Time of Isolation)

Okay, so I really just wanted to use that first part as a title. I'm sure it's been done. But now I've done it, too ;)

I've come to the end of Week 3 of isolation and I have finally settled into a routine. I believe I mentioned this in my last post, but Week 1 of isolation was kind of my jam. I was excited about the novelty of working from home and trying new resources online. It was cute to learn how to play games virtually through Zoom and have Happy Hours on Google Hangouts.

Week 2 was less cute and the reality of doing this for a very long time set in. I began to grieve for this year, for my students, my travels, our economy, our livelihoods.

Week 3 has seen the putting into practice of this new normal. I get up and sometimes even shower! I wear clothes other than just pajamas. I pray. I work for a few hours, take a walk, come back to work and end the day with an activity or a phone call or Netflix. I've gotten into somewhat of a rhythm, but it doesn't make all of this any less strange or challenging.

But I have talked about all of that and how this time certainly doesn't compare in the scheme of history. I've talked about what it means that this has happened during Lent. I want to return to that as we now enter the heart of our Lenten journey with the beginning of Holy Week.

On some of my walks, I've wandered into the two Catholic Churches that are within walking distance to my apartment. Today, I went in and found myself praying the Stations of the Cross, one of our most sacred devotions as Catholics, especially during Lent.

I saw recently an article online about the origins of the Stations of the Cross and how this devotion is perfect for us in this time. The Stations were a prayer created so that when people couldn't travel to the Holy Land, they still had a way to connect with where Jesus walked on his way to the Cross. We certainly cannot make any journeys or travel right now. But our Churches are open (to 10 or less people at a time) and we can always pray this timely devotion from the comfort of our homes.

The Stations of the Cross have always been a fascinating and sacred practice for me. I love that they combine art and reflection. I love that they show both the human and divine side of Jesus, but mostly His human side. He falls. He weeps. He speaks. He allows people to help Him. And ultimately He shows us what it is to be humble and to love. He shows us how to sacrifice.

And isn't this time right now that we are in all about sacrifice? A friend whom I have kept in touch with since we volunteered together in Guatemala back in 2002, recently suggested that we do a virtual Stations of the Cross and have our friends and family members come up with the reflections. I immediately loved this idea. To have people from all different walks of life, yet united in this time of sacrifice during this time of Lent to come and "walk" together in this way, seemed perfectly fitting.

 Above is an olllld pic from that time in Guatemala back in 2002. Maggie's in the front in the blue headscarf on the left. I'm in the middle with red bandanna and rare sighting of me in jeans and baseball tee!
Maggie and I in LA in 2012...we clean up nicely when having access to warm showers and beds that don't have bed bugs!

When I was praying the Stations today, I thought of specific moments when the Stations meant a lot to me. I prayed the Stations, for example, A LOT when I was in the convent. That was a year very much spent in isolation for me. I was in a unique situation and it wasn't ending up being the best fit for me. I found myself uniting my suffering and questioning with the person of Jesus carrying that cross. Wasn't he also suffering and sacrificing? Wasn't he giving of Himself but stumbling along the way?

The time we are in right now is a time of isolation. We are doing it as a sacrifice for others. It hit me when I was in the Church today that this is what Jesus did for us: He isolated Himself by His Incarnation and Paschal Mystery. He became human but was God and what an isolating experience that must've been. And He suffered the ultimate isolation and humiliation by putting Himself on the Cross for all of us.

How can we unite our sacrifice, suffering and isolation with Christ and one another now? I think going on this remote journey that the Church has had in place for us for centuries is a good start.

Here are some of my favorite images from important times when I prayed the Stations in my life:

 Station #5 from a monastery in Indianapolis, the year I was living in the convent. 
 Station #9 from yet another convent, this time while on a retreat here in Richmond.
 Station #15- an optional station from same convent, different retreat, here in Richmond. 
 The actual 5th Station in Jerusalem from my trip last year to the Holy Land. 
Our group last year carrying a cross through the streets of Jerusalem.
My parents carrying the cross past Station #6 in Jerusalem. 

"We adore You O Lord and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world." - prayer said during Stations of the Cross.