Fr. Rich and I were having dinner with my good friend, Fr. Bob Heinz, from St. Mary of the Woods Parish in Chicago a few days before Governor Pritzker’s stay at home order went into effect. We noticed a few unique things that night. First, the restaurant was not as crowded as it normally would be and, in fact, the server verified that fact when we asked her. Secondly, the guests were seated in a manner that left lots of room between tables. Physical and social distancing was already taking place.
In the midst of our lively discussion regarding the coronavirus, the uncertainties, and the many concerns and reactions, Fr. Heinz said something very profound. Undoubtedly inspired by the restaurant atmosphere he said, referring to our response to the gigantic challenge we are facing, “We can’t just be concerned about our table, we must be concerned about the whole restaurant.”
Our table, so to speak, is our part of the world or community. In the midst of this challenging virus scare, we must be aware of the whole restaurant of the world. That is what a pandemic means; it is a disease epidemic that has affected the entire world restaurant, and we must be aware of more than just our table, our family, our community, our state, our country, our condition, or our part. The entire restaurant is affected by this and our actions and precautions must have that in mind.
We have been making a statement here at Holy Family before each weekend Mass for over two years now that “We are in this together.” I have a strong conviction that we should always be in THIS thing called life – together. Notice how timely this statement has become for more than just our parish, as several leaders and organizations have adopted the same statement in response to the Covid-19 virus, indicating a need for greater awareness leading to unifying action.
One of the hidden blessings in the midst of this pandemic is that, unlike the American resolve for unity following the 911 attacks, this challenge may bring the world together – the entire restaurant.
If we really believe that we are in this together, we will tap into resources that we never even knew we had. We have already seen generosity abound as people have a heightened sense of compassion for others that normally doesn’t exist.
As Jesus was faced with a challenge that initially seemed overwhelming – feeding over 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, he responded with a series of actions that spawned unity (see Matthew 14:13–21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:12-17 and John 6:1-14 for details). He got the people to sit down, thus stopping and becoming more aware of each other’s presence. This undoubtedly engendered greater sensitivity among them. Next, he gave thanks for what he had, as meager as it seemed. Then he shared what he had and, as we know, in the end there was not only enough – there were leftovers.
Both Jesus and Fr. Heinz call us to a greater awareness of something beyond ourselves. Their suggestions in the face of great concern point us in a direction of sharing and unity that will not only feed us as our concerns grow, it will take us beyond what we need and into what is possible – for the whole restaurant.
Practical Tips for Silent Prayer
In my Pastoral Letter recently I suggested that we take advantage of some extra alone time that we may find ourselves with, although parents with children at home all day may find much less alone time. May I suggest some things that can help ALL of us, even help those children and parents.
Turn off the TV. Take off your earbuds and headphones. Turn off the music. Stop. Be silent, even for a few minutes.
Sit in a chair that is comfortable but one that won’t induce sleep. Sit up straight. Take a few deep breaths. Breathe by pushing your stomach out when you inhale and drawing it in as you exhale. Relax. Now read a passage of Scripture. Don’t worry that you may not be a scripture scholar and thus figure out what the passage means; rather, let it speak to you. Simply pay attention to whatever catches your attention and continue to focus on it. Use the silence to let the passage touch your mind, your heart and most importantly your soul.
Let silence and scripture combine to deepen your prayer.