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Answering the Pope with Hidden Love

Answering the Pope with Hidden Love May 14, 2020

The Pope has asked us to devote this day to begging God that the pandemic might end. In particular, the Pope asked us to pray, fast, and perform works of charity, along with believers of all religions.

It is a truly beautiful proposal; the Pope is not trying to bargain with God, but rather to show his people the path to a truly human life in the midst of the crisis. For the human person cannot experience fulfillment without sacrifice, and most particularly, the sacrifice of self-gift.

At this time, those of us who are not on the ‘front lines’ may feel powerless, helpless before so much suffering. We may feel unable to give of ourselves. Though we long to serve the ill, vulnerable, and imprisoned, the most helpful thing we can do is obediently stay away. Indeed, the corporal works of mercy would be anything but merciful, because our very bodies may present a danger to those whom we would encounter.

Yet, as the Pope reminds us, self-gift remains possible.

It takes the form of charity, expressions of love and generosity to those who are struggling in any way. And the form of almsgiving, donations to charities and health services and the support of local businesses. It takes the form of empathy, sharing in the suffering of others through our own sacrifice, perhaps through fasting. Importantly, it also takes the form of obedience to civil and religious leaders. And above all, it takes the form of prayer — which is not merely thought, but a path to real unity with one another and with God.

Throughout the crisis, the Pope has unfailingly prayed — and encouraged us to pray — for a wide of people: the ill and their loved ones, the uniquely vulnerable, medics and nurses, political leaders, and those who provide essential services. One of the most beautiful prayers the Pope has proposed is this petition to the Blessed Mother:

O Mary, you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick.
At the foot of the Cross you participated in Jesus’ pain, with steadfast faith.
You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need.
We are certain that you will provide, so that, as you did at Cana of Galilee,
joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love, to conform ourselves to the Father’s will and to do what Jesus tells us:
He who took our sufferings upon Himself, and bore our sorrows to bring us,
through the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.
We seek refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God.
Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test – and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

First, victims of domestic violence, abuse and neglect. The lockdown is uniquely perilous for those who can no longer flee the home of their abuser, nor access their support networks. In fact, reports of such violence to the police have sharply increased since the beginning of lockdown, and many more victims are likely unable to do so.

Secondly, those who are fighting addictions. Time in isolation with few distractions and little structure can be perilous for those on the path toward recovery. This is compounded by unreliable access to medical, psychological, and spiritual support.

Finally, those who are unable to receive the Sacraments: the dying who may not have access to Anointing of the Sick, the first communicants who must wait to receive the Eucharist, engaged couples where weddings have been suspended or deacons where ordinations have been delayed, those who are fighting scrupulosity and cannot confess their sins… the list is endless, for the Sacraments sustain the life of the Church. Here in Cambridge, public Masses are still suspended for the foreseeable future. I am offering my deep pain at this separation for the sake of those who cannot receive the Sacrament for which they long.

In praying for these people, our loving self-gift may be hidden, but it is decidedly not imaginary. And indeed, its hidden nature is an incredible invitation to humility and an embrace of our finitude, for we are held in the arms of a loving Father. So, when the temptation to activism is strong, we would do well to heed the Pope’s invitation to hidden prayer, hidden fasting, and hidden works of charity. In doing so we will not only participate in the ending of the pandemic but the realization of God’s kingdom.

 

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