My mid-April annual retreat to the White House Jesuit Retreat Center was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, I think the virus has given us all an opportunity for own personal retreat. These stay at home orders are a chance for us to build our own domestic Church.
Though Mass and grade schools are closed to the public, our Church is not closed. This is our time to shine — to be the bold witness and radiant light to the world. This is our call to holiness, to be the people that God created us to be.
These are hard times for all, no doubt. But, God is calling us in our current circumstances, and we can feel sorry for ourselves or we can discern how we’re called to use our gifts in the present moment. This is an opportunity to detach ourselves from visible things, such as possessions and money, and invisible things, such as comfort and security, and follow Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice for others.
What can we do now?
Pray. Talk with God humbly and honestly about what is on your mind and in your heart. Make time for your own private prayer each day but also encourage family members to do the same. Make time for community time with your family every day: livestream daily Mass, pray the Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy together. Invite each member of your family to offer community prayer for special intentions.
Call friends and family. Reach out to people you haven’t talked to in a while. Mend broken relationships. Just as we are asking God for mercy through this pandemic, now is a great time to offer mercy and forgiveness to people who have wronged you and to ask for it of those you have offended. As a parish community, call everyone on the parish roster to check in. Many parishes are doing this, including my own.
Give generously of your resources and money. Many people have lost jobs and many others are fortunately still employed. Offer to help family and friends financially without waiting for them to ask. Continue to support your local parish and other charities – remember that no gift is too small or insignificant. Even though Sunday Mass is closed to the public, we need to continue to contribute our weekly offertory. Offertory isn’t just a financial transaction with God; it is a gift of our entire self. We offer ourselves in gratitude for all the God has given us and in sacrifice with Jesus as He sacrificed for us.
We were created in God’s image and likeness, and God is the greatest giver of all. We have all inherited that trait. “Do not be afraid.” Be generous and trust that God will provide all that you need. Take this time of retreat from our normal activities to build your domestic Church. We need to open our heart to receive God’s love and mercy and then pass that on to our family, friends and neighbors.
Let each one of use build our individual domestic Churches in this time so that when we can be together again we truly be as Pope Francis called a “family of families.”
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or [email protected]