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Finding Faith: Greeting to the faithful

During this period of enforced solitude

Rev. Joseph Orr

These are trying times for us all, but they may also be a blessing.

When I was a young man, I used to read about priests who lived in times of persecution and had to minister to their people in secrecy. I would think about how they had been driven from their churches and had to celebrate Mass in hiding. I used to dream about what it would be like to be such a priest; being forced to flee from his parish, forbidden to celebrate Mass for his people, and living outside the law. I admired the courage of the saints who embraced that life and I was inspired by their dedication to God and his people.

Never did I imagine that an epidemic might cause bishops to ban Masses and order our churches closed. It never occurred to me that one day I would be forbidden to celebrate Mass publicly and ordered to lock my church.

To make good use of this time, for the last three weeks I have been away most of the time on retreat or vacation. Although it goes against my nature as a priest to sit by quietly while people are thirsting for Jesus, it has been spiritually and emotionally refreshing.

While staying at my family home near Huntingdon, I watched a purple leaf plum which I had planted for my parents a few years ago begin to bloom. Day by day as the little violet flowers blossomed; honeybees swarmed over the tree; and the distinctive purple leaves began to appear. I hadn’t ever watched this miracle of nature, because I’m usually very busy at this time of the year and I thanked God for the opportunity.

Interestingly, during this period of seclusion it has become evident to me that people are starting to reevaluate what is truly important and in the course of these reflections they are finding out how simply and happily they can live.

Our enforced isolation has given us time to reflect on those things which we have held as important: spending time at work; shopping for things we want; sitting down in a restaurant; attending sports events; taking long trips; visiting with neighbors; going to the movies; entertaining guests; and hanging out with our friends. Some of these things we have found out are not as essential to our wellbeing as we might have thought.

Other things, which we may have felt nonessential, we find truly are important to us: checking in on older neighbors; being attentive to the health and safety of others; and gathering to worship our Lord. You might consider using this time to look at what you miss and what you have discovered.

Perhaps as we work our way through this, we might find that our churches bring us comfort. We might also notice unfamiliar faces in church as others rediscover the goodness of Faith. A resurgence of worship would certainly be a bright lining to this dark cloud.

Remember that, when the world was plunged into darkness on Good Friday, Jesus was triumphantly proceeding to a glorious Resurrection.

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Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Rev. Fr. Joseph Orr of Holy Spirit Catholic Parish, Lock Haven.

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