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Seeking peace amid panic and pandemic

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We live in such difficult times. For more than a century the world has not seen a global health crisis of this magnitude. So many are sick, and some don’t even know they are sick, many are in the hospital and so many have died — often alone, without family members to comfort them. The future is so uncertain. When, if ever, will things get back to normal or, as they say, “the new normal” — whatever that means.

In the midst of all this fear, suffering and loss we seek the risen Lord, who offered those powerful words in a beautiful greeting: Peace be with you.

So, how do we survive this crisis and find peace? I suggest a back-to-basics approach: faith, hope and love. 


We must always remember that we are truly blessed. We are the children of God, born again in baptism. The Father so loved us that he sent his only Son to be our savior. The Son so loved us that he gave his life on the cross so that we can live forever. On that first Easter when he conquered death and sin for us, he changed our lives forever. We are the followers of the risen Lord. In these days at home, it can help to make a good plan for each day. Prayer is an important part of that plan. Try to begin and end each day with prayer; pray before meals; read Scripture; participate in livestreamed Mass; pray the rosary and other favorite devotions. These deepen our walk with the Lord and help us to manage those anxious moments. They help us to keep things in perspective. Reaching out safely to others, such as extended family, neighbors, former teachers and classmates, can help us remember the beautiful Gospel account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We are not alone, even during quarantine, and our deep faith is a constant source of consolation. 


In these times, it is easy to get overwhelmed. This happened to the disciples as well. In such times it is always good to take a deep breath and remember the many examples of how darkness turned into light. The lives of the saints can be helpful here. Think of your favorite saints. Pray to them and seek their intercession. One of my favorite saints is Damian of Molokai. When the people with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, arrived at that bleak place, after having been removed from their homes and families, they had no idea that they would be met by holy people like Father Damian, Sister Maryanne Cope and Joseph Dutton, and that these instruments of God’s mercy would care for all their needs to bring them a sense of peace in their time of panic. It could not cure them, but it did wrap them in a mantle of acceptance, support and unconditional love.


“And the greatest of these is love.” Our holy faith leads us to a virtuous life, a baptismal life, a life of grace. Those of us who have a few years on us can remember a tiny, holy lady, dressed in a sari, who traveled the world reminding us all life is sacred, that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and that we should protect all life, from the unborn to the frail elderly. I can never forget when Father Robert C. Cilinski and I met Mother Teresa of Kolkata in Burke Hall at St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington before Mass upstairs with Bishop Thomas J. Welsh and many priests, and the largest crowd I have ever seen at the cathedral in my 40 years as a priest. 

Her own journey was not easy. She knew moments of darkness and even doubt, but she conformed herself to the will of God and inspired the world by her life of humility and service to the poorest of the poor. She would receive the Nobel Peace Prize and be declared a saint. 

In the midst of this pandemic, Mother Teresa reminds us, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary and our own mothers as we just celebrated  Mother’s Day, of what is important. They help us to keep things in perspective and to survive by helping others. This can, of course, begin at home, even in little ways, as the Little Flower, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, taught us. We can use softer voices, respond more patiently, listen more attentively (even if we have heard that story countless times before), and even help with something before we are asked.

This pandemic has led to a profound economic crisis. Many have been furloughed or lost their jobs and can’t pay their rent or mortgage. 

There is also a great sense of food insecurity. Holy Family Church in Dale City, where I live and work, has a food pantry. This great ministry has expanded its work during the crisis. We are so proud of all the volunteers who make this possible and all the generous people who continue to donate food. Helping feed hungry people is a loving response to those in need. Jesus taught us that long ago.

Yes, we are afraid. This is part of the human experience. Yet in the midst of this pandemic, this time of panic, we are comforted by our deep faith, our hope in the risen Lord, and our capacity to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves. 

One more saint: Francis of Assisi. His life and journey can inspire us to pray together, “Lord, make us instruments of your peace.”

All this in the holy season of Easter as we move toward the Ascension, that glorious celestial reunion, and Pentecost, when we celebrate the birth of the church and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, our helper and guide. Be well and be strong. This too shall pass.

O’Hara is parochial vicar at Holy Family Church in Dale City.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020