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