Last August, Anne Hoffman and her sister-in-law Linda Tensing became volunteer coordinators of the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish.
But when the public celebration of Masses were cancelled in the Archdiocese in March because of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, the Oakville parish’s schedule of 24/7 adoration in effect came to an end, too. The church remains open for private prayer.
Like other faithful Catholics, Hoffman of course was saddened. “When we had to close the chapel, the thing we needed the most — to be in front of Christ in the Eucharist — was taken away from us,” she said. “My heart just broke for our adorers.”
Earlier in March, Hoffman had been reading a devotional, “In Sinu Jesu,” written by an unnamed Benedictine monk. One day, she opened it to a random page, in which the message said, “I want you to write. I had no idea what that meant.” When the parish announced the temporary closure of the adoration chapel, Hoffman decided she was going to write an email message encouraging the adorers. The parish has more than 250 people who regularly volunteer to participate in adoration.
To date, she’s written nearly two dozen reflections, many of which include a theme of hope. She said the response has been positive. Her reflections also are published on her blog, anoaktree.net.
“People respond and say they’re so fearful,” she said. “But God is good, and He’s never going to leave us.”
In one of her messages, Hoffman recalled the story of Moses, who led the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, only to find themselves trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian Army. But God miraculously parted the sea, enabling the Israelites to pass through on dry land. The waters returned, destroying the Egyptian army when they followed the Israelites into the sea.
More than 2,000 years later, in the midst of a pandemic, we might also find ourselves in a hard spot, just like the Israelites. “It may feel as if we are stuck between a rock and a hard spot, but God knows the way out,” she wrote. “Stand firm.”
Other themes Hoffman has written on include adjusting to a “new normal,” uncertainty, perseverance and searching for God’s hidden presence. Some of her messages also have included personal stories. She said God places it on her heart what to write for that day. “If there’s nothing that comes to mind, then I don’t write,” she said. “When I hear the comments from people saying they’re so fearful but needed to hear that, then I know that’s from God.”
This isn’t the first time that Hoffman has written reflections in a challenging time. Twelve years ago, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, a social worker encouraged her to start a blog. For one, it would help in communicating her progress to friends and family without the need to keep repeating herself to those asking about her well-being. But it also served as a healthy outlet to share her thoughts and avoid keeping everything bottled up inside. Friends and family appreciated reading her insights so much that she published a book including reflections from her blog.
“I just want to encourage people to hang in there and lean on God and remember His faithfulness,” she said. Citing the wedding feast at Cana, Mary told the servants, “do whatever He tells you,” Hoffman said. “When Jesus says do not be afraid, then we cannot be afraid. We need to take time and listen to the voice of God.”
Our 'new normal'
Good evening faithful friends. As we enter another evening of quarantine, I think about how lifestyle changes have become our new “normal.” Our new “normal” involves wearing masks and gloves going to the grocery store. “Normal” means parks are closed on a beautiful spring day. “Normal” means social distancing 6 feet apart. “Normal” means celebrating Mass on live steam. “Normal” means cancelations of First Holy Communions, Confirmations, Adoration Chapels, and Graduations. “Normal” means weddings and funerals are for immediate family only. “Normal” means listening to the statistics of those affected by the coronavirus, hoping that today would be the day a cure is found.
We have been required to abandon the “normal” of familiar routines of our lives and live within the parameters of health and well being that has been dictated by this horrible virus. It is enough to trouble our spirits.
Today’s Gospel from John 13: 21-33, 36-38 begins with, “When Jesus had thus spoken, He was troubled in spirit …”
Jesus’ spirit was troubled. His crucifixion was hours away. Despite a heavy (heart), Christ did what He does best. He loved. Christ, surrounded by His friends in the Upper Room, lavished His love on them by washing their feet. Despite the nervousness of the future, despite the unbearable cup He was asked to drink, Christ did what He does best. He loved. By washing the feet of His disciples, Christ, the Master, became the Christ the Servant. Jesus continued to teach love even when His spirit was troubled. After having washed His disciples feet, Christ announces that one of the 12 disciples is about to betray Him. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, He reveals that Simon Peter would deny even knowing Him. How does Christ respond? He responded with love. This is just His way, His “normal.”
Embedded within this Gospel reading of John is verse 34. It reads: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Christ, despite the betrayal from 2 of His disciples, loved anyway. This was His mission…to love. His love brought Him to this place. His love hung Him on the cross. His love forgives us of our sin. I can recall times in my life that my spirit was troubled because something big, something uncomfortable was just hours away, The evening before my breast cancer surgery was one of those times. I was nervous of the unknown, and uncertain of my future. I had a visitor that night. My cousin Peggy, a breast cancer survivor, rang my door bell. She remembered the fear and anxiety the night before her surgery. She took time to bring me her heart full of love and a gift that eased my anxious spirit. Peggy understood my fear of the unknown. This is just her way, her “normal.”
It is this kind of love that should define our new “normal.” Perhaps our love can be seen despite the masks and gloves. Perhaps love can redirect the boredom within our homes. Perhaps love can bridge the gap created by social distancing. Perhaps love can find a cure. Perhaps love can replace fear and anxiety. Perhaps love can became our “new normal.”
Sleep well good and faithful servants,
This is one of several email reflections shared by Anne Hoffman with eucharistic adorers at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish. Her reflections also are on her blog, anoaktree.net.