(Beginning in Lent, Cardinal O’Malley has periodically issued letters to different communities within the archdiocese addressing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Previous letters have been issued to the seminarians, priests, deacons, and religious of the archdiocese. On May 26, 2020, the cardinal issued this letter addressed to the lay faithful of the archdiocese.) Keep reading for a few excerpts:
[ … ] Enter the pandemic, and suddenly being part of a family is like living in a treehouse on Treasure Island. It is a challenge and an opportunity. It can be a time for us to reconnect with our families, to get to know each other better, to overcome our innate selfishness and learn how to give, how to forgive, and how to be part of a community.
[ … ] One of the challenges of working and studying remotely is to avoid treating every day like a Saturday. We need the discipline to map out a schedule that will allow us to have a productive and satisfying day. Hopefully, families will be able to recoup the meal as a time for conversation and sharing without the intrusion of television and smartphones.
[ … ] Just as parents are thrust into a new role of teaching mathematics, earth science, and social studies, I hope the parents will now embrace their role as the chief catechist for their children.
[ … ] The pandemic brings home to us that religious education is primarily the responsibility of the family.
[ … ] At the same time, this is an opportunity for parents to exercise their special role in passing on the faith to their children. Although it is not something we do spontaneously, we need to learn to talk about our faith, to share our ideals, and to pray together. Religious formation is not just about imparting information; it is about molding people’s hearts, helping them to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to embrace a life of discipleship in a community of faith. Our religious formation is to help us to discover how much God loves us, who we are, why we are here, and what is our mission and purpose. An important part of discipleship is discovering our own vocation, the special way that God is calling us to live a life of service, to make a gift of ourselves and to share the treasure of faith with those around us, to build a civilization of love rather than greed.
[ … ] I hope that the experience of being thrown together will not be wasted on our families, but rather that it will be a time of intense experience of community and solidarity, renewal in prayer and a deep sense of identity. May our days locked in the Cenacle help us to emerge as stronger, faith-filled disciples ready to embrace our mission to carry on the work of Christ in the world.
In the history of salvation, the great plagues of Egypt were a preface for the liberation of God’s people. I hope that this modern plague will lead to our liberation from a culture of death into a Promised Land of people ready to make sacrifices for each other and who are deeply aware of how much we need God and one another. Social distancing can teach us that we are meant to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
May social distancing make us more aware of our vocation to community and solidarity; may our forced fasting from Holy Communion augment our hunger for the Bread of Life; may all our homes be like the Cenacle, where the disciples were united with Mary in prayer waiting for Pentecost. May our experience of staying at home be not so much a house arrest but a retreat that will allow us to experience the peace and love, simplicity, and hospitality of the Holy Family at Nazareth.