Thursday, April 29, 2021



                                          See, days are coming—oracle of the Lord GOD—when I will send a famine upon the land: Not a hunger for bread, or a thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD. [Amos 8:11]

With this ongoing pandemic, with more and more variants, there is such a hunger and thirst within the human family. Many of our brothers and sisters are stressed with the increase of loss of income and increasing food prices, with isolation, a type of famine from in person human contact, hungering for relief from stress, and with a thirst for real hope.

In his catecheses on prayer Pope Francis urges: We all have something to learn from the perseverance of the Russian pilgrim, mentioned in a famous work on spirituality, who learned the art of prayer by repeating the same invocation over and over again: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord, have mercy on us, sinners!” …... He only repeated this. If his life received graces, if prayer became so warm one day as to perceive the presence of the Kingdom among us, if his gaze was transformed until it became like that of a child, it is because he insisted on reciting a simple Christian exclamation. In the end, it became part of his breathing.  The story of the Russian pilgrim is beautiful: it is a book that is accessible to all. I recommend you read it; it will help you to understand what vocal prayer is. Therefore, we must not disregard vocal prayer….. Please, one must not succumb to the pride of scorning vocal prayer. It is the prayer of the simple, the one Jesus taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven…. The words we speak take us by the hand; at times they restore flavour, they awaken even the sleepiest of hearts; they reawaken feelings we had forgotten. And they lead us by the hand towards the experience of God. And above all, they are the only ones that, in a sure way, address to God the questions that he wants to hear. Jesus did not leave us in a fog. He told us: “when you pray, say this”. And he taught the Lord’s Prayer (cf. Mt 6:9). [1]

Pope Francis is calling not just the Church, East and West, but the whole world to pray throughout May for an end to the pandemic, with particular emphasis on prayer through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother who is our refuge, protectress, perpetual help. [2]

Within the treasury of the Church, we have prayers and litanies for every situation in life, the greatest of these being, East and West, the Divine Liturgy/Holy Mass. The one particular reference Pope Francis makes above is to THE WAY OF THE PILGRIM: …aware of our weakness and placing all our trust in the Lord, we should love His commandments more than life and direct all our attention to acquiring the habit of ceaseless calling on the name of the Lord. [3]

The great weakness we all human beings must face each day, at times excruciatingly, is when it comes to things like this pandemic we are powerless. True we can fight with all available resources and develop vaccines and follow distancing and other protocols but no single nor massive group of human beings can control this pandemic.

The Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel. [4] This duty is not an institutional one of the Church but a duty for every member of the body of Christ, in order that, guided by the Holy Spirit, we may all proclaim the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of Life and Hope.

Besides the obvious reading of the signs of the times, for which Pope Francis has called for a month of prayer that the ‘sign’ of the pandemic end, there are other signs of the times in which we live that also should be brought to prayer: all the incidents of civil wars, oppression of peoples, the divisive arguments in the various print, television, radio, internet media about the pandemic, vaccines, government abuse of power under the cloak of public health measures and restrictions, the raw physical, emotional, spiritual stress of these times.

Only with the help of the Most Holy Spirit will we have the grace not to fall into any of the swamps of the cacophony of loud and contradictory voices. No one should risk in these days of agenda driven media of any type, to trust as objectively true any contemporary information, nor should we stress ourselves trying to sort through all the racket and agendas.

It would be less stressful, less emotionally and spiritually damaging to go find a massive haystack and search for the proverbial needle, and when taking in any contemporary information these days to do so while not merely taking a grain of salt but an entire fistful.

We need to ask the Most Holy Spirit to renew within us one of His gifts poured into us at our baptism, which both protects us from being overwhelmed by the tsunamis of information that keep rolling over the human family and gives us the strength to endure in these times: the gift of fortitude.

The Holy Spirit moves us by this gift so that we are able to overcome difficulties, to avoid dangers, to have confidence. “I can do all things,” exclaimed the Apostle Paul, “in Him who strengthens me.”……..The Holy Spirit is within us, and we can receive His efficacious aid whenever it is needed…..His graces and gifts are found in the sanctuary of our souls, and so we carry the divine world within us. [5]



[3] The Way of the Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His way; Helen Bacovcin translator[author is reputed to be an unknown 19th century peasant] p.185; Image Books, 1978

[4]   para. 4

[5] THE SANCTIFIER, by Most Rev. Luis M. Martinez, pps. 137 & 140, 141; St. Paul Editions, 1982

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph


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