Living our faith in trying times

Thursday, March 19, 2020 - Updated: 4:50 pm

By Bob De Witt Correspondent

The threat and reality of the coronavirus pandemic make it easy to be consumed by panic and fear. But this crisis can also be a time for people to grow closer to Jesus and serve those in need.

“God is clearing out space in our lives,” said Father Joseph McCaffrey, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in the New Castle area. “We are at home more with our families, but what will we do with this time? This can be a chance to take a more spiritual perspective if we recognize it.”

“In the midst of worry, fear and a lack of control, where do our hearts turn to trust?” asked Father Adam Potter, parochial vicar of the parish grouping in Pittsburgh’s Oakland, Greenfield and Hazelwood neighborhoods. “We need to listen to the doctors and take health precautions, but we also need to pray — putting our trust in the Father and calling on the Blessed Mother and the angels to protect us.”

Father Potter urged the faithful to get back to basics.

“It’s an opportunity to think of the world outside of myself,” he said. “What will others need, how is their physical and spiritual health, and how can I show them the love of God?”

Father McCaffrey recalled the start of Lent and the significance of applying ashes because everything on earth will turn to dust, but the human soul was created to live forever.

“This season gives us hope for something more than this world,” he said.

In an article, “A Faith Response to the Coronavirus,” Paul Canavese, director of The Pastoral Center in Alameda, California, wrote that fear can alert people to dangers and keep them safe, but can also lead to selfish responses.

He cautioned against hoarding food and sanitary and medical supplies, and urged Catholics to look after the weak, adopt a spirit of sacrifice, love our neighbor, and seek to live the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude.

“We must protect and give priority to those who are most vulnerable and at risk,” Canavese wrote, “those most susceptible to illness and financially vulnerable.”

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, declared, “We are confronted once more with the fragility of our lives, and again we are reminded of our common humanity … that we are all one family under God.”

He continued, “God does not abandon us. He goes with us even now in this time of trial and testing.

“Now is the time to intensify our prayers and sacrifices for the love of God and the love of our neighbor.”

Jesuit Father James Martin, writing in America magazine, advised Catholics to resist panic, care for the sick, pray and trust that God is with his people.

“Jesus understands our suffering and accompanies us in the most intimate of ways,” Father Martin wrote. “Go to him in prayer. And trust that he hears you and is with you.”

Many people will have more time but less money and freedom in the coming weeks and months. Such changes may also have benefits, Father McCaffrey said.

“Do we store up treasures in heaven or on earth?” he asked. “Everything in this life is temporary. All our blessings are meant to be used for a higher purpose.”

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