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George and Randa Sabat and their four children prayed at home during the coronavirus lockdown in Bethlehem, West Bank, March 17. “Even though we already have a good relationship with the Church, during this difficult time our connection has become even better,” George Sabat said.
George and Randa Sabat and their four children prayed at home during the coronavirus lockdown in Bethlehem, West Bank, March 17. “Even though we already have a good relationship with the Church, during this difficult time our connection has become even better,” George Sabat said.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy Sabat family

Easter at home is an ‘opportunity for faith’

Vatican official said the timing of the lockdown is a call to prepare for Christ’s resurrection in their own homes

VATICAN CITY — With the prospect of trying to celebrate Easter without a large parish or Vatican liturgies, Catholics still can turn a tragic situation into an experience of faith and hope, said Cardinal Beniamino Stella.

In an interview with Vatican News March 17, Cardinal Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, said that while the current lockdown in Italy will keep thousands from celebrating Easter in Rome, “today there are still possibilities to transform this tragedy into an opportunity for faith.”

“I believe that, today, technology truly allows us to live a communion that would seem virtual. But, in fact, it is not just virtual, because I believe that the Holy Spirit also passes through these new things in today’s world and speaks to hearts, speaks to consciences, speaks to little ones and speaks to great ones,” he said.

When asked about the many Christians who will be unable to celebrate Easter at the Vatican, Cardinal Stella said that the timing of the lockdown during the Lenten season is a call to prepare for Christ’s resurrection in their own homes.

“I believe that all these pilgrims who were on their way to Rome or to the shrines must think that their Easter and their call to conversion must take place in the family, in their small environment, where the Lord calls them to live the mystery of Easter in this time,” the Italian cardinal said.

Cardinal Stella said he believed the Holy Spirit would give the grace to all Christians so that they may experience a “beautiful and profound” Holy Week, “even in the sadness of mourning, illnesses and a tragedy of which we do not know the extent and, especially, the duration.”

While this unusual Lenten season has left him with an abundance of time for prayer, adoration and reflection, Cardinal Stella said it was important for everyone to be in touch with friends and loved ones in order “to create a beautiful network that unites us in this moment.”

“I have also said it to the priests, to the parish priests. I said, ‘Invent something to communicate with your faithful; turn this moment of trial, great worry and crisis into an opportunity.’”


Bethlehem family, on lockdown, prepares for Easter with films on saints

By Judith Sudilovsky | Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM — Communal Church life is an integral part of family life for George and Randa Sabat and their four children, but with a strictly enforced lockdown on the city and the two neighboring towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, the family has been looking inward for spiritual support and a strengthening of their faith.

“Even though we already have a good relationship with the Church, during this difficult time our connection has become even better,” George Sabat told Catholic News Service in a phone interview from his home, where he is under lockdown because of COVID-19. “We see more what God wants from us. We have not only been spiritually nourished by this time spent together as a family, but also we are socially nourished.”

George Sabat said between work and outside activities, including at St. Catherine Church in Bethlehem, he and his wife normally have little time to spend with their four sons, who range in age from 21 to 11. Now, he said, they have been given the opportunity to slow down and not only strengthen their relations with their children, but to be together as a couple.

As Holy Week approaches, enveloped with uncertainty, every day the Sabats watch a film about the life of a saint to discuss how their lives can be an influence on their own lives, especially at this time.

“Watching these films together is a good teaching example for our children. They see that their parents take the lives of the saints seriously, and we can each learn something from them,” said George Sabat.

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