In a vacant Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis April 3, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said the strength of faith “frees us from anxiety and fear.” He spoke during a special blessing of a crucifix and an apostolic blessing tied to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The solemn service, filled with music, was held to pray for an end to the pandemic. The private ceremony, livestreamed on the cathedral basilica’s website, included the blessing of a crucifix, a reflection from Archbishop Carlson and private prayer in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament.
The reflection focused on a reading from St. Paul to the Philippians (4:5-7) during a challenging time. St. Paul told them that “the Lord is at hand,” asked them to have no anxiety, let their request be known to God and keep their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
The coronavirus epidemic seems to grow worse every day, adding to fears and anxiety, Archbishop Carlson said, adding that St. Paul “invites us to turn this all over to God.”
In normal times, he said, people think they control reality and have a false sense of what is important and what brings security. “When we enter a crisis, like the one we are now facing, we recognize that the reality we have constructed is really a false veneer. We are not in control. This can cause us great fear and anxiety or it can pull us into a deeper reality, a deeper peace of security.”
The Lord is always near, caring for all, listening to prayers and giving the peace we need, he said.
One lesson from the pandemic, he said, is that “we were never in charge. God is waiting for us to wake up and turn to Him with our whole heart.”
Constant dialogue with Him in prayer is the way to present what is troubling to us, he said, and to see that God is present in every situation. Quoting Pope Francis, Archbishop Carlson said: “embracing the cross means finding the courage to embrace the hardships of the present time.”
Archbishop Carlson gave an apostolic blessing which included an opportunity for a plenary indulgence. An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. Following the Archbishop’s blessing, Catholics can receive the indulgence if they have “a spirit detached from sin,” promise to go to confession, receive the Eucharist as soon as possible and say a prayer for the pope’s intentions.
In introducing the apostolic blessing, Msgr. Henry Breier, rector of the cathedral basilica, said “the coronavirus epidemic touches every part of our lives, many people are suffering. Fear, isolation, and uncertainty follow us throughout the day. We are reminded of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane who prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.’”
When Jesus said to His disciples, “take up your cross and follow me,” Msgr. Breier said, “He invites us to accept the sufferings, for sufferings help us grow in holiness by teaching us charity, compassion and patience.”
The blessed crucifix is a reminder “that our sufferings are united to the sufferings of Christ and that through the cross, we will be healed in body and soul and find hope in the resurrection. As we lift up this cross in prayer, we pray all people will be drawn to it in hope and consolation,” Msgr. Breier said.
The apostolic blessing was conferred upon all who participated in the ceremony (through viewing it online) and all who suffer physically, emotionally, financially or spiritually from the epidemic as well as those who care for the sick at this time.
The new crucifix will become a permanent fixture of the cathedral as a testament to the faith of the people of the archdiocese during this difficult time. A holy card is available for download at the cathedral basilica website. People also can pick one up at the cathedral, where they are invited to come and pray privately before the cross.
“May your people who have raised this cross as a sign of redemption find in it protection and strength; as they shoulder their own crosses in the spirit of the Gospel until their journey ends,” Archbishop Carlson prayed.
Prayers from the prayer service
He prayed that the cross be “our comfort in trouble, our refuge in the face of danger, our safeguard on life’s journey, until you welcome us to our heavenly home.”
The intercessions at the prayer service and blessing of a cross at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis prayed for:
• Healing for all who have contracted the coronavirus and for all the sick, we pray to the Lord.
• Safety and protection for those who are vulnerable
• Peace of mind and spirit for all who experience fear or anxiety
• Our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering
• All who desire the fellowship of their Church community and the grace of the sacraments
• Families facing financial burdens
• All health-care professionals, first responders, those who must continue to work to supply the needs of society, and all who make sacrifices on behalf of the common good
• Holy Father, Pope Francis, that by word and example he may be of service to those over whom he presides so that, together with the flock entrusted to his care, he may come to everlasting life; and
• That our local, state, and federal government servants may act with wisdom and prudence.