We hope you will be as inspired as we have been by our subscribers' responses to the question "What Have You Learned During the Shutdown?" in a recent contest. Many of these are very personal, sharing painful struggles that were overcome by victories of faith during the past fourteen months. They demonstrate the redeeming power and great blessings we have in our Faith, and remind us of the Savior's promise "Lo, I am with you always" (Matt 28:20).
As the shutdown conditions gradually loosen we return to "normalcy," let's not forget the great lessons of these difficult times!
Bitter or Better?
How Charlotte turned the shutdown into a spiritual reboot
"As I reflect on the many lessons and hard things I've learned throughout this whole Covid experience, it became clear that each of us has the opportunity to allow circumstances either to make us "bitter" or make us "better"
Recognizing the helplessness of quarantine and all the restrictions that forced a slowdown in every sense, it became clear that I wanted to emerge better and more hopeful. To that end I wanted to arrange my quiet life at home in such a way that it resembled more of a monastic retreat than a forced lockdown. I wanted my home to reflect the peace and prayerfulness of a monastic cell rather than the closed-in-ness of my four walls.
When I allowed God to reshape the difficult circumstances my family and I were in, and opened myself to being shaped in a way that encouraged spiritual growth in Christ instead of stagnation - my world changed!
Each day began with prayer and Scripture study. Each afternoon featured the Divine Mercy Chaplet prayed outside on our porch. Each room was arranged so that icons and sacred images reminded me of the spiritual journey I was on and on what my priorities and focus should be.
In this way, Covid became a spiritual reboot in my life that nourished instead of stifled, enriched instead of impoverished, and expanded my prayer rather than diminished it.
I continue to draw on the lessons God allowed me to learn and I pray that, no matter the real difficulties people all over the world experienced (and they were legion), they were still able to discern the presence of God in their midst.
–Charlotte S., California
A different, deeper, and more compassionate faith
"One of the most striking things I've learned during the shutdown is how to keep faith in the midst of tragedy. My mother, who was my best friend and most important person in my life, passed away unexpectedly at the beginning of the shutdowns, and what I always thought was my unshakable faith was tested mightily.
I remember trying to go to a church, any church, right after her passing to pray and try to seek answers, but they were all shut down. I was left to grapple on my own for all those months with big, scary questions about life, death, faith, and God. I faced many dark times trying to find my path back. It took a long time and much prayer and desperate seeking, but I finally met Jesus in a new way, one that showed me that he weeps with me and cares for me in my sorrows and troubles. I came to better understand and appreciate his suffering and sacrifice, as well.
My experiences have also connected me more deeply with all the saints and other brothers and sisters in Christ, and I found a relationship with our Mother Mary that I had barely ever touched on before. My faith before was strong but innocent, perhaps. I think now it is different, deeper, and more compassionate than ever."
–Kristen W., Tennessee
A call to greater prayer and trust in God
Before the pandemic, our family prayed the Rosary on most days - and at the minimum prayed at least a decade every day. But once the pandemic started, we prayed a full Rosary every day. The most obvious change I noticed in our four kids is that they stayed at the supper table to talk. There was no rushing off to play or go outside. They stayed at the table and talked and shared - despite the fact they had not left the house during the day (due to online learning). It was really beautiful to see our family becoming even closer and enjoying something they didn't even realize they were enjoying.
It takes a small sacrifice to pray the Rosary each day and even more sacrifice to love each other inside our home. But none of this should be hard because sacrifice is central to our faith. Despite our vaccines and remedies, this virus is a reminder that we're never completely in control. Even if everyone received the vaccine today, coronavirus would still be here. Today we're called to place greater trust in our God and put others first. I'm glad we happened upon all of that through increased prayer.
–Tom K., Ohio
"There is so much power in those beads."
"In the past 14 months I have learned and grown so much in my faith. As the world slowed down I found I heard God speak more loudly and clearly. Social distancing wasn't a burden but a time for God to get me to slow down, reflect on his word, to pray, and to embrace His Glorious Light.
He turned down the daily noise to allow me to grow in his Word. My religious reading grew, my prayer time increased, my soul in a times of darkness in the world grew.
As things return to normal I know that I will not, for I have grown in ways that had the pandemic not happen I would not have received these treasured blessing of a stronger faith. God taught me patience and gave me strength in times of difficulty and to always give gratitude to his many blessings.
I learned that I am never alone for he is always with me. When in doubt about anything just pray the rosary, there is so much power in those beads. My lessons learned will be to share them with others.
If your life starts to get hectic, just slow down a moment, close your eyes and just listen,
you will hear God in your heart, and there you will find Peace. "
–Katie G., Tennessee
"There is always a way to get to Jesus."
"What the shutdown has taught me is how I'm never alone because even though some of the shut down has been hard we have a God who has suffered with us. I'm not alone in anything I suffer because Christ has gone through it. Having Jesus on a Crucifix ensures that I'm not alone, even when things are hard.
One of the biggest and best lessons beyond knowing I'm not alone was waking up and starting to allow God to work through me in a totally different way. Instead of relying on the church as my primary means of learning the faith, the Holy Spirit started to direct this formation through incredible resources that are available. I dearly missed the sacramental part of the faith, but I learned how there is always a way to unite to Christ whether I could be in person at church, praying outside of our church, watching mass or saying a spiritual communion. The shut down has shown me there is always a way to get to Jesus."
–Matthew G., Wisconsin
A blessing in disguise
"I have always desired to have a close relationship with the Lord; so much so that death would not be fearful to me. I have learned to rely on God alone. I have had the time to talk with the Lord, to spend more time with Him sharing my thoughts, longings and taking the time to listen to Him. I increased my prayer time and added spiritual reading each day in addition to reading a chapter in the Bible. Through this process I have come to trust in the Lord with all the worries, anxieties, fear and lack of control I had over my life and of my loved ones. "All things work for the good for those who love God". This lockdown has become a blessings in disguise for me!"
–Joan B., New Jersey
Rediscovering a spiritual recipe
"Some years back, I asked God to give me a kind of spiritual recipe on how I was to live; how I was to seek His will in my life. I revisited this during the pandemic. Slowly, patiently, the Lord revealed this message to me anew: believe - trust - love - serve. Four simple words, yet they embody the whole of our Blessed Life.
During the pandemic I had a chance to sit with this again, to pray with this. If we believe, trust will follow; if we trust, we will be open to receive the love God showers upon us and then we will be ready to return this love; and the only way to return this love is to serve those God has placed before us. Love expresses itself in action. We are invited to pray for the grace to willingly give back love for love. The pandemic renewed this call in my life."
The best use to make of your hands (illustrate with small image of hands praying rosary, as used in the first quote of the 6/22 email)
"What I have learned this past year is that my prayers, along with those of others, truly make a difference! When we join together in prayer - we can move mountains; we can affect change! This past year I've discovered that I have a lot of extra time on my "hands"! So I've been using them to pray the rosary daily and to pray the Divine Mercy daily; and then I have had a number of friends who have started to ask for prayers. So, now I have a number of people that I pray for through out the day. I have to say this has brought a greater level of peace to my life, and a wonderful sense of joy to my life. These are behaviors that I will be continuing!"
–Colleen D., Massachusetts
Cookies or Christ
"Over the last fourteen months there was a constant theme of how to overcome loneliness. On the Internet, on television or radio, the secular media tried, often in vain, to provide suggestions or answers to the perceived gnawing loneliness we must be suffering. Read a book, talk on the phone, visit with friends or relatives online or perhaps bake cookies - just keep busy!
Unfortunately most of these suggestions were in vain. The time comes when these suggestions were not an option. However, the perfect answer was always there. The great comfort that is found through the greatest comforter and companion, The Lord Jesus Christ. Whether it was at daybreak, during the day, or the late hours of the evening I could always look to Jesus in prayer. "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1st Peter 5:7)
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self."
"In the beginning, I thought my only job was to protect myself and my family. I was missing the part about loving your neighbors. I didn't understand the frontline workers. As time went by, I realized I was suffering because I wasn't listening to God's call. When I'm at my best, I let myself be vulnerable and serve friends by listening, sitting with, assisting in times of grief. I was missing these opportunities! This was how I could live my neighbor this year as always, yet I had turned it off, thinking I was protecting me and others. I am so grateful I learned to give again before I lost myself."
–Brandon B., Texas
"My first, my last, and my only Communion"
There is a phrase put up in some sacristies that reminds the priest, "Priest of God, celebrate this Mass as if it were your FIRST Mass, your LAST Mass, your ONLY Mass." I think not only priests, but we too should instill in ourselves such a mentality when we partake in the Liturgy and when we go to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament because we never know when God will call us unto himself.... There have been times when I have taken [the Liturgy] for granted, thinking that I will receive Eucharist "again," that I will celebrate Holy Week "again." But this pandemic helped me realize that there may never be an "again," and therefore, every Liturgical celebration I partake in, every Eucharist I take part in, every meeting with You should be seen as my FIRST, my LAST, and my ONLY.
– Vincent P., Toronto
Counting my blessings
I learned not to take the Eucharist for granted, and to slow down and spend time is more important than what you get done. I have always looked forward to receiving the Eucharist weekly if not daily but during the shutdown I had to go to Mass with my family in my living room. The Eucharist was not available to receive in person adoration was not available but on television. Confession was not available for weeks. Now I have realized the great blessings we have."
–Heather W., Wisconsin
Back to Church!
"During this difficult time, I have realized afresh just how important, how essential our public worship of Almighty God and partaking of the Holy Eucharist is to the life of the Church and to the Spiritual well-being of Her members. I pray that God will use this disruption, this shut-down to drive this very point home to many, so that many of those who before the shutdowns came to Mass only occasionally, or only reluctantly, or without much enthusiasm, would be reignited with a true zeal for and desire to draw near to our Blessed Saviour Jesus Christ. I pray God will put in our hearts a stronger desire than ever before to hear His word preached, to adore Him in prayer, and to receive sacramentally His precious Body and Blood, which are the nourishment of our Christian souls. If I have learned nothing else from the lockdowns, it is the importance of this.
– Fr. John E., Nova Scotia
I learned that we should not have allowed our churches to be closed. It was our duty to insist our churches stay open. In a most desperate time we stepped back and allowed our sacraments to be withheld. Those who believed they were vulnerable had every right to stay home, but the rest of us should have been in church in front of the Blessed Sacrament. "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring" ( St. Catherine of Siena).
– Gloria W., Pennsylvania
The shutdown due to COVID has taught me one special lesson: I need the community of my fellow believers! Sitting alone, watching the Sunday Mass on television, has been a sad experience. I am energized by the assembly around me at Sunday Mass. Fellow worshipers feed my spirit and my soul. Without them, the liturgy is a lonesome thing. Returning to a live service in my parish, even with masks and restrictions, has been a transforming experience. I now fully realize how important community is in worship.
– Kathleen L., California