Pandemic Blessings for the Church

man with two computer screens - photo by Guillaume Issaly on Unsplash

“We’re driving the car while building it,” the old saying goes. It’s true of our pandemic times. We’re teaching one another how to use video chats, learning to share screens, and choosing virtual backgrounds in order to participate in sharing groups and meetings online. We’re donning masks, shopping in new ways, and offering air hugs from six feet away.

We’re solving surprising dilemmas, because we’ve never experienced a global illness like this in our lifetimes. Our women’s ministry leadership team recently looked ahead, asking, “How will the Church be different when this pandemic is over?” And we realized, we’re different already. We hold online gatherings with prayer, music, storytelling, slide shows, and gift card prizes. Although participation is half the 100 women who used to meet in person, we’re going strong virtually.

As we ask ourselves how the Church might be different when this pandemic is over, consider these six thoughts.

1. We’re no longer limited by geography.

People are finding dynamite parishes, sometimes quite distant, to worship with online. My CLC now includes members in Portland, New York, and Sacramento. We’ve learned new tools for connecting with people. We’re becoming a global Church and demonstrating impact beyond local limitations. We’re reaching new audiences and evangelizing without realizing it.

2. We are being led even though we seem to be in a fog.

Jesus is present as we discern how to be Church. And it’s impossible to discern when discouraged! Resist the temptation to get stuck by thinking about what we’ve lost. We’ve also gained. Remember the oft-quoted words from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, who said, “We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.” We need to trust God’s slow work, even when we’re in the intermediate stages, as we are right now. “Accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” The fog is not permanent; it’s a call to implement faith.

3. We can pray our way back into balance.

We can have a retreat mindset in our own homes and reframe how we evaluate the great gift of time we receive daily. God’s reign is right here, and we’re being invited to draw closer to Christ, despite the pandemic.

4. We can’t wait for someone else.

Many lay people have waited until they were invited before getting involved in doing good or engaging in ministry. But every single human being has a unique role to fulfill. We need to ask ourselves, What would Ignatius do? and then do it. We are the Church. Do a good deed, reach out personally, and make a difference to someone close by. Being Church includes a phone call, video chat, letter, e-mail, or invitation to an online group. Big things start small.

5. The future of the Church is right now.

It’s not going to magically start when the pandemic ends. People are forming new habits surrounding celebrating Mass and the Eucharist. We’re praying differently as Rosary and Taizé groups and such move online with changed formats and participation or have stopped meeting. Perhaps a favorite group again gathers in public, which has its own challenges and evangelizing opportunities. We need to discern how we use our technology-driven age to serve God most effectively. Ignatius would ask, Which option serves and benefits the greatest number of people?

6. We are actually in a very exciting time of growth.

The pruning of our lives and religious practices will soon result in stronger stems on which prolific bouquets will flourish. Keep going! Things will be better. We have every reason to be filled with hope.

Photo by Guillaume Issaly on Unsplash.

Previous articleAnchor into Hope
Next articlePrayers Before Zoom School
Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and author of Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. Loretta has six years experience as a spiritual director and was trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. She is also a workshop presenter and retreat leader on Ignatian spirituality and prayer. Loretta is a founder of Women’s Ministry at St. Francis in Sacramento, CA. With more than 20 years in ministry, including Christian Life Community (CLC) and small group leadership, Loretta is an expert in being busy. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks! I hear from others who describe our current situation as ‘a little death and then another little death’ every time things can’t resume exactly as they were. Yes, I miss sharing the Eucharist in person. We will again! in the meantime, and into the future, new forms of gathering and study and prayer are emerging that, as you say, may bear rich fruit. Rather than mope, why not use our time to explore and invigorate?

    There is the danger of replacing real world face to face encounters with the somewhat ersatz experience of the internet. I suppose this will become a necessary topic moving forward.

  2. Very satisfying write-up Loretta. Thanks. Your article reminds me what the late Baba Amte of India’s Forest of Bliss better known as Anandwan, would often say to his leprosy warriors and their specially abled commandos: “Do not mourn for what you have lost, and do not insult what you still have. Make the best use of all that is left with you”.

  3. So good! Love the pruning metaphor. Simply reading it kindled my own excitement.
    The future is indeed Now! So what am I waiting for? Get moving.
    Thanks a bunch.

  4. 100% Agree with your idea as I’m thinking the same things. Surely really exciting to allow God to change us become a new seed to grow in faith & His love alone..

  5. TY a good article to give us a new perspective to push on our spiritual activities with my groups and not wait to see what the situation will be like in the new normal .

  6. I love that we are driving the car while building it. It is like Faith nothing happens unless you take that first step after the nudge from the HOLY SPIRIT. We must move forward and not stay stuck and stop growing. Blessings and Prayers , yvonne

  7. Agree! I think our Church is in for spiritual renewal. Learning how to use IT to get together is wonderful. It is also a tool for getting together for family. God is with us, rest in peace.

  8. Thank you for your wonderful article. Invites us all to grow closer to our Lord,
    Jesus Christ.
    Grateful to hear these blessings today.

  9. What resonated with me the most in this reflection was #4 – we can’t wait for someone else. That is SO true! The women’s ministry at my church has taken the lead to move our gatherings online and even to create a second “sub ministry” centered on Bible study, just to provide opportunities for women in our parish to connect with each other in a time of isolation. We did not have – or need – clerical or staff help to do that. And I agree that the other ways you list to be in touch are also “church” and even more important now, when many people who live alone are feeling particularly lonely and isolated.

  10. Loretta – Lovely! One of my favorite quotes is the one you have from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, and I love your pruning concept, so true I believe we will bear more and better fruit after going through this pruning process.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here