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The Church in Communion: A Sure Support in Time of Trial — STRONG IN THE FACE OF TRIBULATION

The Church in Communion: A Sure Support in Time of Trial — STRONG IN THE FACE OF TRIBULATION
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Introduction

The grave sit­u­a­tion in which many coun­tries through­out the world have plunged, due to the very rapid spread of Covid-19, puts us all to the test. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we know that this cri­sis will not be resolved quick­ly, and that the pan­dem­ic is spread­ing. We are fac­ing a state of affairs that until just a few weeks ago would have seemed unimag­in­able, like the premise of a sci­ence fic­tion film.
Every­thing has sud­den­ly changed. What we pre­vi- ous­ly took for grant­ed seems to be uncer­tain: the way we relate with oth­ers at work, how we man­age our emo­tions, study, recre­ation, prayer, even the pos­si­bil­i­ty of attend­ing Mass…
In any case, the most seri­ous aspect is that this epi- dem­ic – like every epi­dem­ic – is not only a threat to hab- its formed over time.I It is, above all, the cause of many deaths, of great pain, and great suf­fer­ing. Thou­sands of peo­ple are grave­ly ill, thou­sands have died. Many fam­i­lies mourn their loved ones, to whom they were unable to stay close, to whom they were unable to say farewell, and who were cre­mat­ed with­out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a funeral.
A char­ac­ter­is­tic of death in the time of Covid-19 is indeed soli­tude, the impos­si­bil­i­ty of hav­ing one’s loved ones close by, the impos­si­bil­i­ty of receiv­ing the Sacra- ments, of going to con­fes­sion, of being accom­pa­nied in one’s last breath by a friend­ly voice oth­er than that of doc- tors or nurs­es work­ing in hos­pi­tal wards, pushed to their lim­its. We all owe a debt of grat­i­tude to them, as they fight on the front line for people’s lives every day. Along­side them, we must remem­ber civ­il ser­vants, those who pro­vide strate­gic activ­i­ties, the many vol­un­teers who con­tin- ue to help those most in need, the elder­ly who are alone, and the poor. Also to be remem­bered are the many priests, and men and women reli­gious who share the suf­fer­ings of their peo­ple. Many of them have sac­ri­ficed their lives.
For many mem­bers of the faith­ful, the impos­si­bil­i­ty of par­tic­i­pat­ing in the litur­gy and par­tak­ing of the Sac- raments aggra­vates this con­di­tion of uncer­tain­ty, dis­com- fort and con­fu­sion, even though the Church invites us to renew our faith in the Risen Christ, who con­quered death, and made it the place of the sure encounter with the lov­ing face of the Father. The present dif­fi­cul­ties have stim­u­lat­ed the cre­ativ­i­ty and inven­tive­ness of many priests, who by using the new means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, make them­selves present in the life of their com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies con- fined to their homes in semi-desert­ed cities.
The evi­dence of what is hap­pen­ing demands that we to live this time for the ben­e­fit of all, espe­cial­ly for those most at risk, in the soli­tude of our homes, hos­pi­tals and nurs­ing homes. Of course, the ques­tions of faith remain, for not even as believ­ers have we been edu­cat­ed recent­ly to live through such crises, to expe­ri­ence eccle­sial com- munion in spite of sep­a­ra­tion and dis­tance, with­out yield- ing to the temp­ta­tion of an entire­ly per­son­al devotion.
It is use­ful to remem­ber that it is cer­tain­ly not the first time that human­i­ty, and Chris­tians, have found them- selves fac­ing these types of events. Chris­t­ian faith, lived dai­ly in its essen­tial ele­ments, gen­er­ates an out­look on re- ali­ty. It pro­vides the pos­si­bil­i­ty of glimps­ing the hand of a God Who is a good Father and Who has loved us so much that He sac­ri­ficed His Son for us. The Church thus bears in the trea­sury of her liv­ing tra­di­tion, a trea­sury of wis­dom, of hope, the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­tin­ue to expe­ri­ence – in sol- itude or even in iso­la­tion – that we are tru­ly “one” thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit.

This book is intend­ed to be a lit­tle help offered to all, so as to know how to dis­cern and expe­ri­ence God’s close- ness and ten­der­ness in pain, in suf­fer­ing, in soli­tude and in fear. Of course, faith does not elim­i­nate pain; eccle­sial com­mu­nion does not elim­i­nate anguish. Rather, it does il- lumi­nate real­i­ty and reveal that it is per­vad­ed by the love and hope based not on our abil­i­ties, but on the One Who is faith­ful and nev­er aban­dons us.

The text is divid­ed into three sections.

In the first we find prayers, rit­u­als and sup­pli­ca­tions for dif­fi­cult moments. They are texts that orig­i­nate from­var­i­ous eccle­sial con­texts and his­tor­i­cal eras. For this rea- son, they can be a fur­ther source of shar­ing at the lev­el of the uni­ver­sal Church. There are prayers for the sick, for lib­er­a­tion from evil, to sur­ren­der our­selves trust­ful­ly to the action of the Holy Spirit.

Then there is a sec­ond part, which gath­ers togeth­er the indi­ca­tions giv­en by the Church to con­tin­ue to live and to receive the grace of the Lord, the gift of for­give­ness and the Eucharist, the pow­er of the East­er litur­gies even though we are unable to par­tic­i­pate phys­i­cal­ly in the Sacraments.

Final­ly, the third part con­sists of the words the Holy Father Fran­cis has pro­nounced since 9 March in order to sus­tain the entire eccle­sial com­mu­ni­ty in this time of tri­al: they are pri­mar­i­ly the dai­ly hom­i­lies of the Mass at San­ta Mar­ta, and the texts of the Sun­day Angelus. Lis­ten­ing to his words helps us to reflect and to hope; it helps us feel in com­mu­nion with Peter and unit­ed to him.

This book, which the Holy See’s Dicas­t­ery for Com- muni­ca­tion decid­ed to pre­pare and make avail­able to all, has a fun­da­men­tal char­ac­ter­is­tic: it will be con­stant­ly up- dat­ed with. new hom­i­lies and oth­er inter­ven­tions made by the Pope, and the “redis­cov­ery” of oth­er trea­sures from our eccle­sial tra­di­tion. The book will, there­fore, be pub- lished on the Libre­ria Editrice Vat­i­cana web­site in PDF for­mat, and can be down­loaded free of charge. How­ev­er, sev­er­al times a week it will be updat­ed and made avail- able to down­load in the new updat­ed ver­sion, with the addi­tion of the new texts.
On the cov­er there is an image of the Archangel Mi- chael, who pro­tects the Church against evil and sus­tains us in this dif­fi­cult tri­al, so that this evil may not prej­u­dice our trust in the Father and the sol­i­dar­i­ty among us, but rather become an oppor­tu­ni­ty to look at what is tru­ly es- sen­tial for our lives and to share the love received from God among us all, and in a spe­cial way with those who are most in need today.

Andrea Torniel­li

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