Celebrate Anyway

Last night my dad and I watched The Giant Mechanical Man. It was a cute, simple romance about two quirky people who fall in love working at the zoo. As it started, I smiled and I realized something. I told my dad, “This is the first time I’ve smiled in, like three days.” I haven’t left my house in a week, and I didn’t realize how hard that would be. It’s hard not to watch the news when you’re stuck inside with not much else to do. The news is never hopeful, so at dinner time I go to the kitchen where my mom has the TV on and hear about more cases and more deaths because of of the Corona virus.

My plan for this Lent was to give up a game I play on my phone and read The Way of Perfection by Saint Teresa of Avila. Then my dad decided to give up shows and movies. Since he’s my movie buddy, I did, too (we watched one last night because it was a feast day in the Church). Then the Virus got serious and we quarantined ourselves. I’m a very picky eater. My mom has been pretty creative about food, and I have to give her serious credit. Still, I very much miss takeout.

This past weekend was the first in a very long time that I didn’t receive the Eucharist. I’ve been telling myself that this waiting will make receiving Him for the first time once this is all over that much sweeter. I had planned on at least going to Adoration and praying with my friend at the studio, but everything has been shut down. The priests at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy have been streaming the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3:00 every day, and I’ve made a commitment to do it with them. My Lenten plans got seriously messed up, but I’m doing the best I can.

I prayed a lot last weekend wondering, since I couldn’t go to Mass, what I should do. A strange idea came to mind, and I think it was from the Lord. The Mass is, among other things, a celebration, and I got the sense that I was supposed to “celebrate anyway.” I struggled with this. I reminded myself that priests are still celebrating the Mass with or without the people there. I tried. I thought, “What do you need to celebrate…? Usually when you’re celebrating something, you need food and people.” I ate a cookie. I was not in a celebratory mood.

This thought that I should celebrate anyway has stuck with me, though. When things started getting really serious, I realized that we wouldn’t be celebrating Easter–at least not at our parish. Ultimately, that doesn’t change facts. At the Easter Vigil, which I’ll watch online, I’ll still say, “Christ is risen,” and it’ll still be true. My mom will probably make cookies, but it’ll just be the four of us–my parents and my brother and me; no aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, or grandparents. I’ll make a spiritual communion, and eat a couple of cookies.

I won’t feel like celebrating. That isn’t the point, though. The point is to honor and worship the Lord; our God who beat death and who can certainly beat this stupid virus. I think there’s more to this, though. When things like this happen, the question is bound to arise: why does a good God let bad things happen? I have wondered that myself in the past. This time, though, it just isn’t a factor for me. I know that a) He doesn’t want our suffering b) He’s with us through it, and c) He can bring about some greater good(s).

When Boston and then Portland suspended Mass in their dioceses I was, and still am upset. Then I remembered a book that sits on my desk. I pray Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the official public prayer of the Catholic Church, every day. I’m not cut off from the Church–the Body of Christ. This especially feels like a lifeline. My personal prayer lately has been, “As long as You’re here, I’m here,” because I know He is faithful. In a way, it’s more of a promise to myself than to Him. He is faithful to me, so I have to be faithful to Him. He’ll be with me–with all of us–through it, but we have to go through it.

I think this is an opportunity, albeit an unpleasant one, for us to really do some self-evaluation, spiritually speaking. I worried when I heard Mass was being suspended. Unfortunately, I think there will be some with “lukewarm” faith who will just “drop out,” and won’t come back. I decided that I would do the opposite. I decided that I would “lean in,” and intensify my prayer. I have to since I can’t receive the Eucharist. I discovered a live stream of perpetual Adoration on YouTube. It seemed too weird, or not “authentic” at first, and then I thought, “A computer screen isn’t going to stop You from doing what You do,” so I’ve gone to internet-Adoration a couple of times this week.

Several saints have written about consolation and desolation; in other words, when God seems very present and seems to be “love-bombing” you, and when you can’t exactly “feel” Him, or when you just don’t get any warm-fuzzies when you pray. The latter can happen particularly when external things aren’t going well. They ask this question: do you love the “gits” more than the Giver? I think He might be using this time when we’re cut off from the Eucharist to ask that question.

Faithful In The Sky

On Friday, the radio made it sound like the world was ending. The governor of Massachusetts banned any meeting of 250 or more people, including faith based/worship events. A little later, the archbishop of Boston suspended all Masses after 4:00 PM on Saturday. At that time, I got an email from the president of my Carmelite community saying we’d still be having our meeting and that anyone who was sick or vulnerable should stay home. She said we’d still be having Mass, and that it was likely the last Eucharist we’d have for a while.

In our monthly news letter, which she had sent earlier last week, she mentioned that a few of our members will be consecrating themselves to Saint Joseph; Jesus’ step father, and the protector of our Order, along with Mary. I prayed a lot on Friday night. After reading this, I said, “Saint Joseph, I don’t know you especially well, but please pray for us.”

After hearing the news on the radio, I wasn’t quite panicked, but I certainly was desperate. I am a small soul. I thought, “I’m not sure I can survive without the Eucharist. The Eucharist is soul-medicine; Jesus is our Divine Physician, and I’m spiritually sick.” That’s just a fact. I need Him. I remember thinking, “Okay, maybe we can go to Maine for the next few weekends.” It was a long shot on such short notice.

Thursday is the solemnity of Saint Joseph, so yesterday, we had a raffle to win a print. I didn’t enter the raffle because I don’t really have a place for it, and until Saturday, I didn’t really have any kind of devotion to Saint Joseph. Saints are very much alive in Heaven, and having a devotion to them is like developing a friendship with someone. We happen to go to Saint Joseph’s parish in Maine, but for months, that’s only been incidental.

After my Carmelite meetings each month, I go with my dad to Life Alive in Salem for lunch. It was a long shot, but I got in the car on Saturday, and suggested we go to Maine for the night. My dad asked why. I said, “Just ’cause… and we can go to Mass up there.” It seemed miraculous, but he agreed. I really do think that Saint Joseph had something to do with it because on Friday I said to the Lord, “I don’t care. I will go two hours to Maine to worship You.” I had thought about it. It screwed up my usual Saturday night routine.

It was just after sunrise as we drove to the monastery on Saturday. As we got on the highway, I remembered, “Oh yeah, the sky…” I looked out the window and hoped, and decided, “Fool’s Hope.” Naming the sky has become a habit. Even blue skies, unless they’re completely cloudless have different names. I praise my God because He honors a fool’s hope. Yesterday’s sky was so bright that it was almost white, not blue. I decided to call it “Faithfulness.” I didn’t think I’d make it to Maine. I had a plan if we didn’t end up in Maine. I could watch Mass online and make a spiritual communion, but it certainly isn’t the same.

When I initially heard the news on Friday I reminded myself that it isn’t about “what I get out of it,” it’s about the sacrifice; it’s about worshiping Him. It came to me later, too that even if I can’t go to Mass, I still pray the Liturgy of the Hours twice a day. It’s still Liturgy; it’s still worship. Even so, it is also about communion, with Him and with the rest of the Church, and the idea of going more than a week without the Eucharist is paralyzing. I almost couldn’t do anything on Friday because I was so freaked out. I couldn’t focus on writing. I couldn’t calm myself down with music. I had trouble even praying. If you can imagine being flung across the world away from the person you love most, and having to figure out how to get back to Him, that’s what it felt like.

Then I remembered something else. God got His people out of slavery in Egypt. He stayed faithful with them for forty years while they were trying to get to the Promised Land. He brought them back out of exile in Babylon. He became a man, suffered and died for us. He got us through plagues, schisms in the Church, two World Wars, and we’re still alive; the Catholic Church is still alive. I had named the sky “Faithfulness” yesterday, and this is why.

My mom said that “they’re” considering closing everything down; making everyone stay home. My dad is working from home for two weeks. I held my breath on Saturday for a moment because it was announced at Church that everything… except Mass was being canceled or postponed in Portland’s diocese. I keep having to say to myself, “It’s going to be okay. Just keep an eye on Portland’s news.” Pandemic is a scary word, and having to tell myself that it’s going to be okay is a little scary. The thing is, I wasn’t scared until Friday. Nothing but sin can truly cut me off from my Lord, but being cut off from Mass is at least intimidating.

The good thing is that Mass is still happening, even if I can’t physically be there. I can spiritually offer my sacrifice, and make a spiritual communion. I do believe that Saint Joseph prayed for me, and I’m going to keep asking him to pray with us and for us because our friends in Heaven are faithful, too. God is good and always faithful, and no matter what happens, He will get us through this. We might look a little worse for wear on the other side, but we’ll still be here, and He will be, too.