By: Anna Thompson
Catholic Corps Member
As I experience for the first time the effects of a worldwide pandemic on my blest American daily life, I have found myself going through several stages of reaction. At first, I simply denied that anything was really happening and wished that everyone around me would calm down and deny it too. Then, as the news headlines smacked me in the face a few days in a row, I began to feel angry that I had to take this seriously and make changes to my normal routine of life, canceling everything I already had planned for the near future. Then, I had this surge of hope and began to bargain with God, “Please don’t let this happen. You have the power to stop this!” and followed up these cries with continual novenas of Memorares. I thought for sure that the tide was changing, as the news seemed brighter, but then I was disappointed and depressed when the stay at home order was extended, and I was told that “business as usual” would not return to our country until much later.
I am realizing now that what is being asked of me is acceptance—facing the reality that this suffering isn’t going to just disappear anytime soon. Whether I fear the actual coronavirus, the public panic and economic disaster ensuing because of it, or grieving for the people suffering with it, accepting the reality that it is now a part of my daily life is absolutely necessary so that I can move on and choose how to best deal with it. I have a responsibility to be a positive part of the natural solution, but even more so, the spiritual solution, which is, in my mind, more important and everlasting.
Our Catholic Faith teaches that every suffering is a reminder of the reality of sin—the original sin of Adam and Eve that welcomed sin and suffering into a non-suffering perfect world, societal sins, and my own sins. Sin and suffering are a reality in our fallen world, and it is so easy to forget this. I understand it in theory. Yet, I continue to be surprised and disoriented when suffering happens.
I am consoled and encouraged by St. Peter’s words to the first century Christians,“Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12-13). St. Peter consoles me by the reminder that I am beloved—Christ loved me so much that He died for my salvation, even when I was still His enemy. My response to this love is repentance and an active pursuit of personal holiness. But then St. Peter encourages me to go even further in my response and to accept the trial and share in the sufferings of Christ.
St. Paul has very similar words to the Colossians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church...that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Col 1:24-29). This passage helps me to understand that my participation in the sufferings of Christ has a purpose—it is on behalf of the Church and so that all may be made perfect in Christ. My efforts to live a life of holiness in Christ to the point of even sharing in His sufferings, uniting my efforts and sufferings to His, actually has the powerful effect of helping others become perfect in Christ. I can work with Christ for the salvation of souls.
A few years ago, one of our staff had the idea to produce a t-shirt modeled on the British World War II motivational poster slogan, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Since the AFC is all about consecration of families to the Holy Family, she thought of the slogan “Keep Calm and Consecrate.” Recently, I saw one of my community sisters wearing this shirt and it reminded me of the power of consecration, especially in times of hardship, even worldwide hardship.
In 1984, Pope St. John Paul II heeded Our Lady of Fatima’s request and consecrated the world to her Immaculate Heart. The positive effects on the world were very evident. In the consecration prayer that he prayed, he talked specifically about uniting the consecration he was performing to the timeless consecration Jesus made of himself at the Last Supper on behalf of all who would come to believe in Him. St. John Paul II prayed: “Behold, as we stand before you, Mother of Christ, before your Immaculate Heart, we desire, together with the whole Church, to unite ourselves with the consecration which, for love of us, your Son made of himself to the Father: “For their sake”, he said, “I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in the truth.” (Jn 17:19) We wish to unite ourselves with our Redeemer in this his consecration for the world and for the human race, which, in his divine Heart, has the power to obtain pardon and to secure reparation. The power of this consecration lasts for all time and embraces all individuals, peoples and nations. It overcomes every evil that the spirit of darkness is able to awaken, and has in fact awakened in our times, in the heart of man and in his history.” How perfect and consoling these words of prayer are for this exact moment in history.
I want to play my part in the spiritual response to COVID-19 for the salvation of souls. I am encouraged to live my personal consecration to Jesus, through Mary, with Joseph ever more fervently to help bring this present suffering to a positive end, uniting all of my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings with Jesus’ offering at Mass every day. Even if I can’t receive Him in Communion or participate physically at the Mass, I can still receive Him and place my offering on the altar of the Mass spiritually, wherever it is being offered. And to do this with and through Mary, who was with Jesus at the foot of the Cross, uniting her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart to His Sacred Heart, and in union with St. Joseph, who lived his life dedicated to loving, serving, and protecting Jesus and Mary, I can’t go wrong.
I believe that the more baptized Christians avoid sin and live their life in Christ, and also consciously unite all of their prayers, works, joys, and sufferings with Jesus in the Mass, the more a flood of powerful grace will be released into the world that will lead to the conversion of hearts and salvation of souls. I encourage families to make or renew the consecration of their lives as a family and enthrone the image of the Holy Family of Fatima in their homes as a symbol and reminder of their family’s consecration. This will be a consolation and an assurance of the love and protection of the Holy Family, but it will also be an act of charity, made as a family, on behalf of the Church for the good of souls.
As I am now reminded daily that my life on earth will come to an end, I want to remember that my life doesn’t end here, but goes on for eternity. And this eternity is determined not by how well I wash my hands on earth, although this is necessary for now, but by how well I labor to live my life in Christ, not just for my own salvation, but in union with Christ for the salvation of all souls.