My Brothers and Sisters,
The early Church was, by definition and of necessity, a truly ‘domestic’ Church, though certainly not in the sense of being docile and tame; far from it. No, it was domestic in terms of being based in the homes and the hearts of the Christians of the first three centuries or so, Anno Domini. They prayed at home, they stayed at home and clearly wrestled with their own fears in the midst of persecution and, yes, even disease. In the midst of it all they learned how to be family together and grew in faith together. They learned how to suffer and sacrifice. They trusted in the Lord who they loved and knew as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, that is, as the Risen Lord! We do, too.
This week has been challenging for us all, to say the least. The situation with the Covid-19 virus seems to literally change on an hourly basis. It has been hard to keep up with and we do not know how long it will last. Through it all, at least for a time, we are perhaps being called to remember and to even imitate the faith and experience of our early Christian ancestors. While we painfully embrace a temporary fast from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our churches, we can embrace as well the opportunity to beautifully maintain or, maybe for the first time in our lives, create a domestic Church. Our homes can be and ought to be places where faith flourishes through family prayer, through the reading of the Scriptures, through a home-bound commemoration of the Stations of the Cross, a recitation of the Holy Rosary or, above all, making a spiritual communion among many other possibilities. We can grow in the faith as we yearn for the Eucharist and begin, again, to hunger for it and to crave it with all our heart. It will make the day on which we once again celebrate and receive the Eucharist at a Sunday or weekday Liturgy all the sweeter. Ultimately and quite literally, the ‘home’ work we do now, as difficult as it is for all of us, has the potential for enhancing the living out of our Catholic faith. We will bring everything we will learn and experience in this time of trial to the altar of God. We will bring an even deeper appreciation for the Eucharist to the table of the Lord when the time comes.
As this situation continues to change and challenge us, we will also continue to give updated guidelines and instructions. Be patient and kind to one another. Above all, keep those suffering from the virus and those who care for them in your good prayer. Pray for this beautiful Diocese of ours, too. Lift up a prayer or two for me once in a while. Know that you remain in mine.
Bishop Joseph V. Brennan