CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
As Catholics, we are made for communion. We are the Body of Christ, and our discipleship manifests itself most perfectly in shared experiences of worship, of prayer and of the sacraments.
So what is a body to do when its members are cut off from one another? That was the question the John Paul II Office for the New Evangelization faced in mid-March, as one rapid-fire decision after another came down from civil and ecclesial authorities that effectively sequestered households from one another for an indefinite period of time.
“How are we going to be the light that God wants us to be, in the midst of not being able to physically go be that light?” said Margaret Rhody, associate director of evangelization with the JPII office.
Their answer was Courageous Communion: Daily Living for Quarantined Catholics, a website that offers not just spiritual resources but “a vision for how to approach this current situation,” said Pete Burds, director of the JPII office.
“The idea is, how can we remain in communion with God, in communion with those that we’re living with, and in communion with our neighborhoods, our parishes, and with people suffering around the world?” he said.
The website includes links to resources from the USCCB, live-streamed Masses, the Liturgy of the Hours and online Stations of the Cross, daily reflection videos from Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and Auxiliary Bishops James T. Schuermann and Jeffrey R. Haines, information for a consecration to St. Joseph, reading lists, a Spotify playlist for quarantine, prompts for Scriptural reflection and samples of daily and weekly schedules to help keep Catholics feeling focused, connected and spiritually empowered.
The JPII office began working from home during the week of March 16, and as staffers observed — and experienced themselves — the cacophony of anxiety and uncertainty that accompanied the disruptions to daily life, they immediately began brainstorming for ways to help the people of the archdiocese “connect with God in this moment,” said Rhody.
“Because the truth is, God is not up there wringing his hands. God is not worried. He loves us and he’s going to meet us in the midst of this,” she said. “It’s really important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that God does not cause evil and if he allows us he’s going to use it for our good. So how could we help the people of the archdiocese make that pivot and grow in that virtue of courage?”
Putting the website together in such a short period of time was “a minor miracle,” she added.
“We’ve never moved this fast.”
The offerings of Courageous Communion, said Burds, reflect the fact that as Catholics, “we are incarnational — we are body and soul.”
“You’ll see some things (in the sample schedules) that are like, get out of bed, brush your teeth — very human things that would be very easy to overstep because we’re not going outside of our houses,” he said. “Taking care of the spiritual often involves taking care of the very physical, human things.”
The hope for Courageous Communion, said Burds, is that this time of quarantine can itself be a sort of retreat-like experience for individuals and families who are now grappling with a dramatically altered daily existence.
“In such a unique way, we are living a semi-monastic experience in being quarantined,” he said. “There’s the classic ‘ora et labora’ — work and prayer. All of us are entering into that as the things that we typically populate our schedule with have all fallen through.”
Courage Communion’s first big offering was “Into the Quiet,” a free at-home retreat directed by Fr. Luke Strand, that took place the weekend of March 27-29. The office is currently developing additional resources for Holy Week at home, and the website is also being made available in Spanish.
This reality of quarantined living presents a unique opportunity for the faithful to experience a retreat that takes place amidst the trappings of daily life, not removed from them.
“My hope is that the faithful throughout the Archdiocese can enter into this time of silence in order to rest in God — to find protection in His Divine Providence and consolation in the midst of fear and the unknown,” said Fr. Strand.
“Usually when people take time for retreat, it’s in a very extraordinary experience,” said Burds. “One of the challenges we always face is after a ‘weekend retreat,’ how do we take what the Lord did on that weekend and bring it back and integrate it into our daily life? The beauty of this is that it’s within your daily life. It’s less of an extraordinary experience. It’s about encountering the Lord in the ordinary.”
“The skills that we learn now are only going to help us once this season has passed,” said Rhody. “And it’s only a season. If we can learn how to pray in the midst of this, maybe we can learn to pray in the midst of anything.”
Explore all the offerings of Courageous Communion at archmil.org/Courageous-Communion.