September 11, 2001, changed the lives of many and the world as we knew it. The terrorist attacks had a global impact as they shattered our stability and forced all of us to look at our lives through a new lens. People flocked to churches that following Sunday, and the message of developing a deep and personal faith in Jesus resounded from many pulpits.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in a consequent pastoral letter that we were a wounded people who shared loss and pain, anger and fear, shock and determination in the face of the 911 attacks. They called on us, among other acts, to pray, fast, hope, and share the healing and transforming presence of God.
Less than 25 years later our faith is once again tested – this time by the 2019 coronavirus outbreak that reached pandemic level within months. To curb the spread and save lives public health measures requiring masks, sanitizer, social distancing, and shelter at home/quarantine were enacted worldwide. We cannot deny the reality that people, who had been drifting away from the Catholic Church, found COVID a means to further disconnect. Our houses of worship were closed when we most needed them for comfort and hope. Religious experiences such as prayer groups, fellowship, choirs, pilgrimages, etc. were all put in abeyance. Some church leaders viewed the pandemic as a temporary disruption and made necessary changes to adapt to the COVID environment. Out of this came socially distanced options: online services, prayer lines, and virtual small faith-sharing communities.
Life as we know it has forever changed and the consequences of the pandemic will be around for a long time. Our spiritual routines have been disrupted. Sheltering at home forced some to become more social media friendly. In the Diocese of Brooklyn, we were blessed with televised masses in several different languages. When our church buildings reopened, parishioners slowly began to gather but bringing with them the baggage of trauma and tensions that built up over time apart from the Church. We understand that some people with health challenges still fear coming out to church. Some parishes continue to offer both in-person and virtual experiences being mindful that their parishioners lived a hybrid life for an extended amount of time enjoying virtual masses and other spiritual experiences from all over the world. Streaming platforms enabled daily travel to Lourdes, Fatima, Fr. Trevor in Trinidad, Bishop Harvey in Grenada, or Pitit Manman Mari in Haiti, St Peter Claver in Lexington, St Sabina in Chicago, St Wenceslaus in Baltimore, St Joseph the Worker and Sts. Raymond and Leo the Great in Louisiana, Our Lady of Lourdes in Atlanta, and Transfiguration in LA to name a few, where our faithful heard powerful uplifting homilies.
How many of us have become comfortable with this new normal and have forgotten the “The Eucharist” that makes us Catholic? How many have resigned themselves to socially distanced worship to the neglect of community togetherness? As baptized disciples of Jesus, we need to live out, in faith, our calling to worship communally, pray, encourage, witness, and serve. We need prayer, confession, and the spiritual support of our priests and others to make us the Body of Christ. We need to be filled with the hope that comes through perseverance and the love of God. Do we not hunger “the Eucharist, the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51)?
St. Pope Paul VI stated, “…give your gifts of Blackness to the whole Church.”The Black Bishops wrote in “What We Have Seen and Heard” that we must be “authentically Black and truly Catholic.” In the words of Servant of God, Sr. Thea Bowman, “I bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, my culture, my African-American song, and dance and gesture and movement and teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility as gifts to the Church…A spirituality that in the middle of mass or in the middle of the sermon we just might have to shout out and say “Amen”, “Hallelujah”, or “Thank you, Jesus!”.We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song but cannot enjoy the full worship in our faith communities because we miss so many of our brothers and sisters!!!
Author: Michèle Guerrier
St. Therese of Lisieux, Brooklyn, NY
Grand Lady of the Knights of St. Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary – Court 333 Fr. Jeffery T. Dillon
Member Brooklyn Diocese Commission on Racism & Social Justice
Founder of Anchored in Christ Ministries