The gift of time and quiet
We are living through very challenging times. The lifestyle we had taken for granted has essentially been suspended. I am very aware of the distress many Catholics are experiencing by being denied the opportunity to go to Mass, and even to visit a church.
Both federal and state governments have implemented very strict measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that those who do happen to get serious ill with the virus have all the necessary medical recourses available to assist their recovery. We need to co-operate with their directives. We read in Scripture of the need to obey the legitimate commands of the civil authority, particularly when it is seeking to protect life. St Paul in Romans 13 says, “You must all obey the government authorities,” noting that “the state is there to serve God for your benefit”. I am grateful for your understanding and acceptance of the measures that we have had to reluctantly put in place in response to the recent government orders.
I have asked all priests to continue to say a private Mass each day, preferably at the usual time and in the usual place. The celebration of the Mass is the central expression of priestly ministry. The Letter to the Hebrews states, “During his life on earth, he offered up prayers and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death.” (5:7) At Mass the priest unites himself with Christ in offering up prayers and petitions to God on behalf of the people.
Each Mass is a moment in which earth and heaven are profoundly linked and prayer and petition ascends on high. Now deprived of attending Mass we can be comforted by the knowledge that in each priest is offering daily Mass in their parish.
We are being asked to socially distance ourselves. We are being asked to remain in our homes as much as possible. The loss of many of the usual ways of interacting with people, which would have usually filled our days, has given us a new gift – the gift of time and the gift of quiet.
There is a danger that we will simply fill our new spare time with watching video streaming services like Netflix, watching television, or spending even more time on social media sites. Instead we should seek to use this time to get better in touch with our inner spiritual life, in particular, through moments of silence and quiet reflection. They can be times to pray, to be attentive to the presence of God in our life.
The great saints all say that the only real way to find God is to enter into silence. As the usual busyness of the world around us diminishes, with less traffic on the roads, fewer people on the streets, less noise, we can take this as an opportunity to discover silence. We can discover the beauty of silence, and the peace it can bring to our spirits. For it is in the silence we can find God.
We can also use time to refocus on and spend more time with our families. With the usual intensity of life greatly diminished we can give more quality time to the needs of our children and spouses. We can more easily find the time to pray together as a family and deepen the spiritual life of our families.
Even though I have had to suspend the public celebration of Mass it is important that we continue to keep holy the Sabbath day by engaging in a time of prayer on Sundays. I would strongly encourage those who can to take part in the celebration of the Mass via live-streaming. This helps us to say in touch with the liturgical life of the Church.
As Easter approaches let us make this a special sacred time, and live in a personal way the profound Easter mystery. Christ’s death and resurrection ultimately was the act of bringing humanity into new and full union with God. It was the self-sacrifice of Christ which effected a complete reconciliation between God and humanity. God is always there for us. He waits for us. From the gift of time and silence let us unite ourselves with God as never before.
Archbishop Julian Porteous
April 5, 2020