The Blessed Sacrament and Mother Mary Came to our Neighborhood!
The challenges of today's Covid-19 pandemic are not only medical. They are also profoundly spiritual.
In the past, such situations of pestilence and plague were interpreted as a kind of divine punishment. Today the challenge certainly requires a more profound response. I personally do not subscribe to the interpretation of retribution: God is not out to get us, nor is he looking for recompense. It is not wrong, however, to see this crisis of health as a call to renew our relationship to God and to share with him our anxieties and our need for his intervention.
While the Church leadership worldwide was quick to dispense the faithful from the obligation of attending Mass and to teach believers how to receive the Holy Eucharist spiritually, the people are rightly scared and need a truly pastoral reassurance—and practical spiritual guidance.
At this time and age, we have more means at our disposal than ever before to find solid, healthy spiritual aids. There is the pervasiveness of Internet-based prayer opportunities, complete Mass prayers and readings for each day, official texts for the daily Liturgy of the Hours, as well as a long list of other prayers and Church rituals.
Simple prayers of proven value and some powerful means of growing in spiritual depth are at the heart of the Church's liturgy. The Holy Rosary has a long history of shaping Catholic devotion in a powerful manner, as has the Divine Mercy chaplet.
Since we cannot go to church nowadays, local parishes have been innovative in reaching out to believers. Some priests walked around their neighborhood bringing with them the Blessed Sacrament, some were on improvised bicycles and motorcycles or in an open car.
At my local parish, the pastor took a surprising but certainly welcome change of fortune during Holy Week: the Blessed Sacrament came to visit us!
Sacred music accompanied the arrival of the Blessed Sacrament as residents anxiously waited and lined up in the streets with lit candles. I was deeply touched and teary-eyed as the “Mobile Tabernacle” passed and briefly stopped in front of my house. It was very meaningful to worship with our community this way during this difficult time when no one is allowed to leave their homes 24/7 except in an emergency.
All this time, the church's bells peal at 6:00 a.m., 12 noon, at the great hour of mercy at 3:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. With those daily reminders, for sure I do not have any excuse not to pray, or at least make the Sign of the Cross or utter a quiet thank you to God for his innumerable blessings.
Perhaps due to the Covid-19 pandemic, at a very opportune time and over loud speakers, our church leads the Holy Rosary every at 3:00 p.m. for the entire neighborhood of about 50,000 residents. There is not much that people can do at home during the current community quarantine. I believe that praying the rosary together, though separately in our respective homes, has been part of the people's daily routine. “The rosary is at heart Christocentric prayer,” wrote Saint John Paul II. “Through the rosary, the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.” There are countless astounding miracles associated with the rosary which I do not think many people are aware of.
Our gated community, with more than 300 residential houses, had two suspected Covid-cases. There was a feeling of angst among the residents, and I believe each one took extra special care on how not to get infected. The house of the suspected Covid-19 cases was just a block away from mine and my elder sister’s. It was scary, to be honest. My sister’s family and I prayed doubly hard that God would protect us from this invisible enemy, and that those infected would be cured.
On the day before the procession of the Blessed Sacrament, there was an announcement that our place was finally COVID-FREE, as the two suspected cases had negative test results. To God be all the glory!
The Church can definitely help us to refocus and deepen our faith while renewing our conviction of the redemptive love of Christ the Savior. The Risen One sought out his disciples—as the disciples had a faltering faith. He returned and showed himself to them. Jesus has conquered sin and death, and he invites us to share more deeply in his redemptive work.
The apocalypse of our day, the coronavirus pandemic, is a spiritual challenge for us to grow in our love for God, our love of the Savior, and our love for each human being in our world. I pray that the health pandemic evokes a no-less-global spiritual combat against fear, against self-righteousness or complacency, and against abandoning the healing which only God can give.
(The Bulletin is featuring this article written by Angelina Angeles from the Philippines. It gives us a glimpse of how faith is viewed and lived outside Japan in these pandemic times.)