COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: The Overreaching Cloud

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Father David BonnarIt has been eight or nine days of a totally different existence as this dark, heavy cloud hovers over the entire world. This ominous cloud is engendering much fear and anxiety and leaves, in its wake, overwhelming fog and great uncertainty. Already, this overreaching cloud has robbed us of so much.

The coronavirus pandemic has interrupted comfortable and familiar routines, changed lifestyles dramatically and altered our so easily, taken-for-granted freedoms. This invisible poison has taken away our physical sense of community as we try to connect without touching or being close. Above all, this cloud continues to claim lives and destroy livelihoods.

As this story continues to unfold throughout the world with its heartbreaking images and startling statistics, we can easily become tempted to doubt and despair. Not only does the Evil One enjoy separating us from one another, he also takes particular delight in making us lose heart.

And we thought we left the desert of temptation with Jesus after that First Sunday of Lent. But the devil continues to tempt and test us all, sometimes all the more as we strive to go deeper into our faith and become more fervent in our prayer.

In this time of isolation, which we all need to sadly become more accustomed to, I find myself growing tired and weary. The gravity of the situation is weighing heavily upon my heart as I try to protect the flock entrusted to me and worry about staff members. While it seems like there has been more free time, I have found myself just as busy trying to pray, exercise, rest and provide the Mass and Rosary through livestreaming. There has also been more need to communicate through email blasts to parishioners. Emails still need to be answered and the phone continues to ring.

Please don’t feel sorry for me. I signed up to be a priest. I love being a priest. But I miss our faithful. The other day one of my parochial vicars applauded the fact that we were doing all that we could do in the way of livestreaming. Then he said, “But this does not take the place of community.”

One of the first definitions of Church that I learned in grade school was that it is “a community of believers.” Indeed, we all have a private dimension to our faith lives. Nevertheless, this personal sense is fed by communal reality. We come to holy Mass every Sunday and worship together in faith. We are led into Mass with the processional cross, which is brought into the sanctuary. There is a sense that this cross, in addition to representing Jesus’ divine love for us, also points to the crosses we carry to church that weekend. Then, after we hear God’s Word and are nourished in the Eucharist, that same cross leads us out into the world where we are together strengthened to carry our own crosses. We are also fortified by the presence of one another. The lack of a Sunday procession coupled with empty pews makes this a very sad time.

Every cloud, even this dark one, has a silver lining, as they say. I am still, in my prayer, trying to discover it. It is heartening to know that I am joined by a community of believers, even though I don’t see them, in the same pursuit of carrying this cross. Perhaps that is the real silver lining — we are all in this together, a community of believers.

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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