You’ve probably had enough of advice from experts by now. The news is full of them. Your social media feed is full of them. And they’re all full of statistics and certainty about what you should be doing this week and next.
But please don’t tune me out. I’m here because I have no expertise in anything related to the pandemic. I’m writing because I’m suffering what you’re suffering.
Much of what I do has been affected by the virus. For a teacher, the day begins when you walk into a classroom. For much of this semester, the classrooms were empty. Likewise, for grandparents, fulfillment arrives when the grandchild is in your lap or in your arms — and lately we’ve seen our grandchildren only on screen.
I’m frustrated. I’m also full of opinions about how everything’s been handled. What’s more, I can show you the experts who share my opinions. If you disagree with me — as many people do — you’re probably just as passionate, and you probably have experts just as big, if not bigger.
Which brings me to the greatest source of sorrow in the pandemic. An occasion that should be uniting us is dividing us. We’re allowing our differences of opinion to drive us apart, even in the Church.
This is more than wrong. It’s evil.
I understand that we’re dealing with important matters here. When we talk about the disease, we’re talking about bodily life and death. When we talk about the denial of the sacraments, we’re talking about spiritual life and death.
But these are all prudential matters. There is room for difference of opinion. We are free to believe what we wish. We can disagree and belong to the same family. The Catholic Church is spacious, and even canonized saints have differed sharply about important human matters.
What we must not do is have contempt for one another. What we must not do is allow resentment to enter our relations. These are the deadliest poisons on earth, and they will kill love — in our homes, our parishes, our dioceses, and beyond — if we allow them to get anywhere near us.
It’s OK for us to be disappointed, frustrated, and even angry. But the proving ground of our righteousness is not in the way we express these emotions to one another. It’s in the way we express them to God. If you’re angry, tell your anger first to God. Tell him at length. He can take it. Tell him all about it before you express it to anyone else — and when you do tell it to others, know that God is with you and listening.
As much as I’ve hated this forced inactivity, I have to admit that God is bringing much good out of it.
So many of our families have had their faith renewed in ways they hadn’t thought possible. We’ve watched Mass together and prayed a family Rosary. We’ve shared meals together and played board games. During Holy Week, we watched all eight episodes of The Chosen, a marvelous series on the life of Jesus. We’ve talked about important matters and made new memories.
What were once households of transient lodgers have become domestic churches!
So many clergy have shown astonishing creativity in thinking up new ways to minister to their people. They’ve had livestreamed Masses, and socially-distanced confessions. Our older priests learned new technology to make everything work.
At my parish, St. Peter’s, we now have a beautiful icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help of Steubenville hanging outside the church’s entrance for public veneration. Our bishop has even called for eucharistic adoration to open at Franciscan University, as well as the gradual – and safe – restart of daily Masses, leading up to the Feast of Pentecost.
We’ve also seen the Catholic Internet explode with rich content — video, audio, podcasts, memes, and texts. Some sites report that their traffic has increased more than a hundredfold. Indeed, much of that content is produced right here in our diocese.
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
Be keen to see the good (Philippians 4:8). Be keen to show him your love — by loving his Church and his children, even when they disagree with you. Even if they’re wrong.
Scott Hahn is the Father Scanlan Professor of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the founder and president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Married to Kimberly for 40 years, together they have six children and 19 grandchildren. Two of their sons are currently seminarians studying for the priesthood in the Steubenville Diocese. A former Presbyterian pastor, Hahn entered the Catholic Church in 1986. The author or editor of more than 40 books, his most recent title is “Hope to Die: The Christian Meaning of Death and the Resurrection of the Body” (Emmaus Road, 2020).
This column was originally published in The Steubenville Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Steubenville in Ohio.
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