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Longing for communion

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Like many others, I find social distancing to be a challenge. First, “distancing” is a strong word when you have young children. One of the benefits of social distancing is more time with my children —  and lots of it. We’ve had fun playing games, watching movies, sitting around bonfires, and sharing important events, including Easter, a birthday, and three visits from the tooth fairy (in four days). Sometimes I’m amazed at how little time it takes for someone to end up in tears. I am often reminded that togetherness and unity are not the same thing. I’m so grateful when my husband comes home from work; the world seems brighter when our family is together.

I call my mother almost every day. There is great comfort in connecting with one another. Sometimes I speak in hushed tones, so my children won’t hear me talk about current events with her. We share our sadness and anxieties as we discuss friends who are suffering from illness, job loss, or loneliness. Our conversations usually end with “I’m here if you need anything.” And, though we are miles apart, there is a sense of being one with each other.

Isn’t that the crux of the matter? We all long for, and are created for, union with others —  ultimately with God. We look for love, seek intimacy and yearn for touch. This is true in our vocations, in our families, and in our church.

Sadly, one of the effects of social distancing is our inability to participate in communal worship. The longer I am away from Mass, the more I miss the smell of lit candles, seeing familiar faces, the hymns that move my soul.  I yearn to receive Our Lord and to be in his presence — in his still, quiet presence.

Watching a livestreamed Mass isn’t the same. We are isolated from one another, from our churches and from our routines. Yet, at this time, we are not alone.  Our priests, directors of religious education, directors of youth ministry, parish staff, catechists, have all given tirelessly of themselves to ensure the ministries of our parishes continue to reach out and serve.

When this social distancing order is lifted, and public Masses resume, I’d like to think we’ll all come back with great enthusiasm. The reality is, it may take some longer than others to return. Many people will still need to distance themselves as they care for those who are high-risk. Some people may feel too disconnected with the church after this time away. We may need to rethink how we live our faith; and how we bring Christ into the world. Each one of us is not only capable but necessary for this great work of spreading the Word of the Lord.

We can invite neighbors and friends back to the church.  We can meet people where they are — and bring them what they need (both physically and spiritually). We can listen to them, share in their joys and sufferings, be present and accompany them. Each one of us may witness hope and faith, charity and joy. Now is our time to become ready.  We can practice with our own families and in our homes.

More and more, I am attuned to the needs of my children. I hear their longing to be with friends, to return to normal; I strive to bring them joy.  As our family worships together, I am grateful for God’s many blessings and comforted in our united faith. This year, I am especially struck by the beauty of spring unfolding before us, and I have hope that this pandemic will end. I better understand the needs of the homebound, their caregivers and those who face significant challenges.  I can’t help but think that we are in training for what lies ahead. We are being strengthened to bear witness and build community. In our longing to be together, let us find Christ in one another, and lead each other to greater union with our Lord — ultimately to communion. There, our hopes are fulfilled.

Lienhard is the director of the Catholic Education Center and special consultant for catechetics for the Diocese of Arlington.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020