As a priest-hermit in these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing everyone to the max, a beloved friend, whose wisdom and love I trust asked if I would start posting brief messages of encouragement in these intense days of suffering, stress, sickness, death, churches closed so no access to daily/Sunday Mass.
Rest assured in the hermitage I continue to celebrate daily Mass for the whole human family, for our deeper conversion to, and trust, in Jesus through Mary, for the healing of the sick, needs of those who care for us, for the souls of the deceased, comfort of the grieving and for an end to the pandemic.
This is not a period of punishment for the human family. I believe it is a graced time for purification of our hearts, to dispossess ourselves of destructive individualism run amok, to rediscover the splendour of being children of one Father, in His image and likeness, disciples of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, living temples of the Holy Spirit. A time for us to shine ever more brightly radiating the light of Christ, whose lights we are, in the darkness of these days.
So, a true story of prayer answered, of hope when we are, or feel we are, lost and that the odds of finding our way, more truly of being found, seem pretty small indeed:
One summer day, when I was a mere lad of ten years, my friend from across the street and I were staying with his parents in a cottage further down the coast.
Early one morning I got the bright idea we could cut across the marsh, make it to the highway, behind the hills, and hitchhike into the city, so I could say good-bye to my dad who was heading out to sea again, being in the Navy. Like most of those who serve and defend us, even today, my dad, and other dads and moms, was/are away for months at a time. Makes the hearts of their sons and daughters ache, like a repeated mini ‘new normal’, that at times seems as unending as that marsh did.
So, at dawn we started across the marsh but soon we were so far into the marsh we could not see any hills on the horizon, we were desperately looking for. Just endless marsh.
We had been trudging through the salt water and muck for hours. We knew were lost. Any direction we turned all we saw was just an endless expanse of tabletop flat marsh, sparkling in the noonday sun.
We were wet, hot, exhausted, and close to panic, so I called out loud to Jesus, Mary and Joseph for help.
My friend, who was not Catholic, thought I had gone nuts and started to cry!
I cried out “Jesus, Mary, Joseph” again and just at that moment we saw on the horizon the black smoke from a train. It was still the days of steam engines. We knew if we headed towards that point we’d find the tracks which were near the highway.
Right now, it is like the whole human family is lost, worn out, confused.
All we need to do is cry out to Jesus, Mary and Joseph and they will be with us, take us by the hand, the whole human family, and lead us out of this strange, unfamiliar marsh. As did the family crying out for help and hope and then, as the BBC reported today: An Italian priest gave a respirator to a younger coronavirus patient he did not know has died of the disease. Father Giuseppe Berardelli, 72, died in hospital in Lovere, Bergamo.
The virus may kill, selfless love gives life.
May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through His grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word. [ 2Thess.2:16,17]
From his homily to the people of Halifax, Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, September 14, 1984: …..the crucified Christ is lifted up by faith in the hearts of all who believe, and He too lifts up those same hearts with a hope that cannot be destroyed. ~St. John Paul II
© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph