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To Live in Hope: A Ripple Effect

Patricia McCarthy, CND

A little girl kneels at her window at night and prays to God for her family while she gazes at a cross on a hill in her city. A priest from that city is on the hill blessing the city with holy water. An Archbishop blesses the Easter water in an empty church but then goes to the steps of his cathedral and sprinkles the water over the city. Another priest offers Mass on the balcony of his apartment for his city, while yet another goes up to a high tower and blesses his town with holy water. A mayor stands in the street as a hearse drives by with a deceased victim of COVID-19. Religious communities gather every evening to pray the rosary for the virus-infected world. Every Mass offered for the past two months has included prayers for the pandemic: prayers for healing, for consolation, for patience, for gratitude, for research progress.

Does any of this matter?  When we cannot see the fruit of our prayers or actions, do they still matter? These questions are at the crux of our ability to live in hope in difficult times. Thomas Merton, an American Trappist monk of the last century, said that any act, for good or for evil, has a ripple effect in ways we cannot see or imagine. A stone thrown into a pond sends out its ripples and moves the water even after we can no longer see the ripples.

Microscopic bacteria have traveled the earth spreading the coronavirus from person to person. Do we dare believe that goodness and hope can travel just as far and wide and effectively? Is faith contagious? Does an unseen prayer by an elderly woman confined to her convalescent home bedroom have anything to do with a doctor spending hours on research for an antibody for COVID-19? Does a prisoner’s silent plea from a small cell which has become his entire world since the outbreak of the disease make any difference toward the healing of others?

These questions are behind the deepest meaning of our Catholic faith. Jesus told us that whatever we do to the least, we do to him. Jesus has told us that whenever two or three are gathered in his name, he is there. The closing of our churches offers the opportunity to see our faith within the boundaries of our homes and communities. Imagine if we really believed that goodness and love were as contagious as disease and germs! As we mask our faces, we can uncover our hearts. As we wash our hands repeatedly, we cleanse our souls from bitterness and hatred. As we continue to teach sight words and spelling, algebra and physics using social media, we can zoom with the mystical body of Christ at any time.

Lives are not on hold. Patterns of living have changed drastically, for some life on this earth has ended. But for the vast majority of us, life continues. We are struggling - mentally, financially, physically, and emotionally. There is an ancient Jewish prayer that says, “Lord, when I have words to pray, listen to my prayer. When I can utter no words, listen to the murmurings in my heart.”

Collectively we offer our words and our murmurings to our loving, gracious and caring God, trusting the ripples will go on and on. Just as the earth refuses to delay spring, so gratitude is also rising to new life from our stressed lives.

Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic



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