God of Love, we turn to you with prayerful hearts and with confidence in your loving presence among us now and in every moment of our lives. We stand before you as a people of hope, trusting in your care and protection. May we be comforted by your love in these anxious times.
Generous and Merciful God, fill us with compassion and concern for others, young and old; that we may look after each other in these challenging times, especially those among us who are vulnerable. May your example give us the courage we need to go to the margins, wherever they may be. Heal us of our fear.
Healing God, bring healing to those who are sick and be with their families and neighbors. We pray especially who those who are isolated, that they may know your love. Stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
God of Wisdom, we ask you to guide the leaders in healthcare and governance; that they may make the right decisions for the wellbeing of people.
God of Strength, accompany all those who serve us with such love and generosity in the medical profession and in all our healthcare facilities. We give thanks for their continued work in the service of people. We ask you to bless them, strengthen them and guide them with your abundant goodness.
O God of Creation and God of Life, we place ourselves and our world in your protection and love. May your peace be with us and enfold us today, tomorrow and during the time ahead.
Adapted from Larry Duffy, Bishop of Clogher in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Thursday, April 9
Carolina Perez '20:
There is vulnerability that comes with humanity and foot washing and family. I helped raise my nephew Nathaniel. I remember making him a bottle, bathing him, holding him when he was crying. We’ve always been close. When I think about washing Nathaniel’s feet in the bathtub, there is this feeling of innocence, the overwhelming love that you can’t really describe. I believe that, we as a human race, owe it to each other to show kindness. We should acknowledge each other, even when we don't necessarily know one another, nor the battles we have faced, and sometimes, continue to do so.
Last semester I started teaching English as a second language at the SSJ Welcome Center in Kensington. Two students and I would go every Wednesday and help through iPad games, worksheets, signs that lined the walls of the classroom, and conversations. Walking into the Welcome Center that first day in September, I truly felt at home. I felt welcomed and accepted by the staff members, Sister Pat, Sister Cathy, Rosa, and Nancy, who had never met me before. We'd walk in, and there would be snacks laid out for us on the kitchen table. Slowly our students, who were older than us, would begin to walk in and take their seats. These ladies who were our students were much brighter than they thought themselves to be, and even though we were supposed to be teaching them, and we did our best to, they were teaching us. It has been an experience of mutual friendship. Every student has had their own struggle, but being together created a kinship and understanding that was shown through their desire to help one another. Kinship was demonstrated through their eagerness to learn and ask questions. Kinship was shown through their ability to let go of what they didn't know, because they trusted the people willing to teach them and provide the tools necessary so that they could learn. Kindness pours out of the Welcome Center and changes my days in an instant. The people who call the Welcome Center home practice foot washing in the service they provide to everyone who walks in the door. They are kind and gentle and give their attention to everyone who carries a burden. They love even when they don't even know that's what they are doing.
"If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” - John 13:14-15
Recently, I've been reflecting on a question posed by a radio spokesperson after he'd described a scenario in light of the quarantine situation that COVID-19 has created. The question was:"What does love look like in a quarantined world?"
When we think of marginalized people in our communities, they are the poor, the homeless, the jailed, the widowed, and others who we encounter but do not notice. In a time of confusion, chaos, and uncertainty, it's important to keep these individuals in mind. It's important not to let our circumstances get the best of ourselves. Although some of us are dealing with some of our own problems: plans that may have changed, people we no longer see regularly, the lack of work and financial stability, and other stressors, most of us still have a roof over our heads, a pillow to lay our heads on, running water and food in the fridge. We are comfortably uncomfortable during this quarantine, while others may not even have a place where they can quarantine, making them direct victims to this disease. I know precautions have to be made, and I understand the severity of the issue, but I hope that we don't forget that acts of kindness, big or small, can change the trajectory of people's lives. Kindness can ignite hope and light where fear and darkness reside. My hope is that even if people are not washing our feet, that we may be conscious of our ability to wash the feet of others through a gesture, the time we take to check in on another, a prayer, or providing others with what we have, even if we do not know them. The truth is things can change in a matter of seconds, and we may find ourselves in the situation where we may need our feet washed. My hope is that we keep every community in mind during this trying time. Love must remain. And instead of seeing less love, may we see it and be it with everyone we encounter.
Stephen Hogan '20:
As a fully fledged extrovert, time alone scares me. There are often too many thoughts running through my head, and no one is around to hear them. In this time of isolation, it can be difficult, we as members of a college community, rely on the people around us. Whether it’s someone to help you go over notes, or someone who can just sit down and listen to your thoughts, we need people in our lives. I remember walking into Chestnut Hill College my freshman year, much like everyone else, college was a fresh start for me. It gave me a chance to be someone new, to reach out of my comfort zone, and to meet new people and create relationships that will hopefully last a long time. I was blessed with the opportunity to play lacrosse here at CHC, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of brothers. Right away I acquired 30 guys that had my back no matter what, I had a group to rely on who would be there for me if anything wasn’t going right.
My life has been built around the relationships; my relationship with my family, my friends, coworkers, or schoolmates. But most importantly my life is built on my relationship with Jesus. I grew up in a Christian home which was supposed to mean living and growing up with God being the focal point in my life. This meant going to church every Sunday, praying before meals, attending small groups, and youth groups; but growing up in a Christian home and being a Christian are totally different things. I went to all the events growing up, I memorized all the verses I had to, I was taught grace and peace, but there is a difference between knowing and truly understanding. I know that a plane can fly thousands of miles, but I’ll never understand how it really works, and that’s what my faith was like.
Everyone’s life has struggle in it, that’s all a part of being a human, unsurprisingly my life hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Making friends was a challenge; sure I’m an extrovert and I can talk to anyone for a long time (sometimes people wish I didn’t), but trying to find friends that I could actually count on was no easy feat. Eventually it got to point where I was trying to go through my life and all my struggles on my own, I would tell myself, “I don’t need other people, I’m strong enough on my own, no one else is going to catch you when you fall.” I filled my head with lies and instead of making myself stronger, I drew myself further away from the people that did love and care for me. When I found God’s grace I was the furthest thing from alone; I was on a retreat, surrounded by people all struggling with their own sin and their own battles. The night was filled with tears and pain but more importantly it was a night filled with grace, joy, and an overwhelming spirit of love that brought everyone in the room together. I was told that night, that we never have to go through things alone and that no matter what God is always on our side and wants to know us, Jesus wants to have a relationship with me, even with all my scars, God still loves me.
This Holy Thursday is different for a lot of people. Easter is a chance we get to see family and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and in this time of quarantine many families don’t get the chance to celebrate together. Holy Thursday is a celebration of the last supper, a time where Jesus knew he was going to be killed; Jesus brought together the twelve disciples, washed each other’s feet, broke bread with them and drank wine, the bread symbolizing his body and the wine his blood. The washing of feet is a holy act that symbolizes loving another person, for as Jesus did this with his disciples he said:
“I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.”
In this difficult time, all I can tell you is that you are loved, and that you don’t have to go through your struggles alone. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Jesus has gifted each of us with people that care about us and love us, so let us take some time during this Holy Week to let the people we love know they are loved. God put people in our lives so we don’t have to do it all on our own.
Friday, April 10
Good Friday: Christ on the Cross
Cara McMahon, Assistant to the President for Mission & Ministry
Most of my life has been in education as either a student or an educator in some capacity or another. I have loved time spent in classrooms with high school and college students, but I have to be honest, it has been in what I have been known to call ‘the alternative classroom’ that has been my truest understanding of where education takes place. I had great teachers and students who have invited me beyond the walls of classrooms and have opened my eyes to a greater one: my life in the world that I exist in.
Several years ago, I was in Tijuana, Mexico, with university students, at a home for women run by the Sisters of Charity – the religious order started by Mother Theresa. I walked into one of the bedrooms, lined with cots where several of the women slept. As I entered the room, one of the sisters was standing in front of me and said, "Oh perfect timing, you can sit with Marta and keep her company as I change the bandages on her legs." Despite the fact that I don’t always do well in situations where medical attention is involved, I did as I was told because when you are with the Sisters of Charity, there are no excuses there is only God’s work to be done. And so, I sat at the edge of Marta’s bed and Marta took my hand in hers. Marta was a woman about 60, but hard years spent living on the streets of Tijuana had certainly seemed to age her. Her head was shaved with only slight growth, which I came to learn, was the result of having had a severe case of lice. Shaving her head didn’t take away from the beauty of her face, from a smile that would penetrate any heart, because it was a smile filled with great warmth and kindness.
The Sister knelt on the floor before Marta and began to change the dressing on her legs. Marta began to speak to me in perfect English, having learned that I lived in San Diego, California, a place that she was very familiar with at another point in her life. Without any probing on my part, Marta began to tell me the story of how she had landed at Casa De Las Madres de Caridad, Home of the Sisters of Charity. She began by expressing a tremendous and humble gratitude for the Sisters. She said, "They are so wonderful for what they do for us, for caring about us. I had been ignored for so long, no one seemed to care for my existence, but the Sisters saw me, they saw and they cared and I am no longer ignored. It’s a good feeling." I don’t know how Marta ended up homeless, that part of the story has never been important to me outside of my own compassionate desire that people shouldn’t have to be homeless, forgotten or ignored. I’ll never know. What I do know is what Marta went on to share…. She was sleeping in a doorway of a storefront, when two of the Sisters of Charity noticed her. They saw a woman in deep need of care and a woman in a desperate situation. Marta could not walk because of the injuries on her legs. At some point, young men had committed an act of violence and horror against Marta as her legs were deeply seared by acid that these young men had thrown on her as she slept. The acid ate at her flesh and left her in a more extreme situation in life. The two Sisters picked her up, there and then. They managed to carry her several blocks back home.
As I sat next to Marta, with her soft and gentle hand in mine and listened to her story, frequently she would wince and squeeze my hand tight, because each time a part of her bandages was removed, it took flesh along with it. Despite some initial healing, the degree of her injuries would require a long and painful road to rejuvenating skin and rejuvenating life. My heart broke with every painful wince and squeeze, but my heart was also in awe of a woman who never expressed complaint, she only continued with gratitude for the compassion being shown to her. The Sister looked up at me following Marta having shared about the injuries and said to me, "It’s a disgrace what humanity is willing to commit against one another rather than how we are called to dignify one another." Several emotions overwhelmed me in that moment: anger, conflict, shame and continued apprehension for the reality that sat before me. I knew that I had been, and still am, a person who is capable of ignoring others and sometimes choose to do so for my own convenience. I knew that had I been faced with a woman in the same situation, I would not have picked her up and invited her into my home and cared for her. There I was, the one responsible for students that day, and yet, I was the student of the teachers who sat before me with courage and gratitude in their deep suffering, who knelt in front of another in humble service, who challenged me to see others and sit hand in hand in solidarity with their worth in the world, through its crucified suffering. That day in my life, I think about the privilege of being able to be with Marta and quite frankly, for Marta to be with me. I never knew that I could sit with someone’s pain the way I did that day. I was afraid and yet, it was as though Marta soaked up my fear and replaced it with her own resiliency.
Like Jesus, Marta experienced her own suffering. With a heart of compassion, like Christ forgiving the those who crucified him, she emoted a forgiving heart. ‘Crucified’ by acid and intense disregard. Ignored and feeling forgotten. And yet, in her ‘dying’ she was brought back to life by God’s grace through the love of the Sisters of Charity who gave her space for ‘new life.’ Marta is only one person who has been Christ made manifest in the world. Despite her suffering, she was light. Marta is one person among so many who are the crucified Christ in our world. We are experiencing a tremendous crucifixion in these days of pandemic. But what does that suffering speak to us? What does God desire of us to know in our sufferings, to know as holy witness to suffering around us?
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” - Psalm 22
While suffering can stir us to feel abandoned by our God, we only need the Cross to know differently; Christ stands in solidarity with the pains of our world. And if we are called to be Christ-like in our humanness, what does the crucified Christ demand of us?
Earlier this week, Ann Liberona reflected on the theme of compassion, as written about by Fr. Greg Boyle, “Compassion isn't just about feeling the pain of others; it's about bringing them in toward yourself. If we love what God loves, then, in compassion, margins get erased. 'Be compassionate as God is compassionate,' means the dismantling of barriers that exclude (Tattoos on the Heart)." As the faithful, this is what suffering calls us to live; not to ignore the difficult sufferings of others, but to make the suffering our own… to be transformed by it, and to therefore live differently because of it. My compassion for Marta wasn’t just feeling pain for her, it was about holding her hand and her life becoming forever a part of mine, and me living forever differently because we carry one another through the world, transformed and more deeply compassionate.
Christ on the cross … be with it, sit with it, hold it close, don’t turn away, be forever transformed by such love manifest in suffering. May this Good Friday, during this pandemic suffering, remind us of God’s solidarity through Christ on the Cross and the call to be transformed by suffering toward greater compassionate living.
Video Reflection Resources:
Were You There: a spiritual hymn sung by Dave Newns
Stations of the Cross: a guided meditation by Padraig O'Tuama
Holy Thursday, April 11
Jaclyn Newns, Director of Campus Ministry
I’m an impatient person. I rush. I hurry. I fill. I move from one thing to the next. It’s difficult for me to relax. I come from a practiced history of productivity. These days, I pick up my phone too often to check the time. The hours pass slowly.
These days of pandemic present me with a challenge: to be. To be here, where my feet are, grounded, waiting. And this day, Holy Saturday, also nudges me to be here, in-between the dying and rising. We are suspended in time, unable to do anything urgently, waiting for test results at Einstein Hospital, waiting for summer internships and graduation dates, waiting for the curve to flatten, waiting for the medicine to have an affect, waiting in grocery store lines, waiting to see friends we miss. We are waiting for the suppression of this pandemic to lift, for the grip of fear to release. And we do not just await events, we also await our own becoming. We await our growth, our future, our more fulfilled selves.
Christ’s beloved ones did not know he would rise after he was buried in the tomb. I imagine his friends experienced sadness and grief, faced with the reality of loss, darkness and worry. Helpless and restless, followers of Christ waited, paced, and wondered. And so in this place of restlessness, I wait, pace, and wonder, too. And as much as I am able, I invite God in. I invite my God to love me in my brokenness, and in our world’s brokenness. God grieves with us. God weeps. God’s children are dying. And God’s children are in hospitals, wearing scrubs, being the hands and feet of Christ.
Holy Saturday is significant; it holds purpose. This day gets 24 hours, just like the other movements of the Triduum. And this day of waiting is certainly a movement. To wait is a verb, an action. Waiting is not passive. We are a Holy Saturday people, always awaiting the next day, weekend, season, occasion. Holy Saturday teaches how to live in the tension of waiting, how to be present. Today, we have the agency to choose how we wait: in anxiety or in hope. We can be present to the small graced moments or distracted by clamoring what-ifs. We choose how we spend our time, who we reach out to, how often we walk, pray, create, connect, listen.
Today, I lean into the truth that I do not wait alone. God’s companionship is my solace. God, the Giver of Life, Sustaining and Vivifying Spirit, will not be outdone in generosity. God has done great things for me, and Holy is her name.
God is our companion and dreamer, dreaming more for us than we can imagine. I believe God dreams passionately and whole-heartedly, for the goodness and resurrection for our world.
Today, in this holy day of waiting, may God be our companion in the defeat and in the dream.
May God be our oxygen and our hope.
Loving God, steady and sustain us.
Easter Sunday, April 12
At dawn, the angel said to the women at the tomb: “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you into Galilee; there you will find him.’ This is my message for you.”
Given our current global realities, we acknowledge that we feel differently this Easter as we find ourselves appropriately companioned by these women who stand peering into the empty tomb as recorded in this familiar story found in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. These faithful women arrive at Jesus’ burial place expecting to find his wrapped body. Instead, they are greeted by an angel speaking words of immediate reassurance and filled with wonder that Jesus is alive. Who could ever believe such a thing? This was not what they expected to see or hear.
Like these faithful women, we come to this feast day with an urgency and depth of longing as we also wake at dawn and try to make sense of our world which is so different than what we would ever have expected, even just a few short weeks ago. We, too, are deeply afraid since what has been so familiar for so long seems to be forever changed. And yet, we, like the women, are invited to hear the message of the angel: “Do not be afraid.” We, like them, are thirsting for such reassurance as we acknowledge our newly felt shared sense of vulnerability and suffering in the experience of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
And yet, the angel’s message doesn’t stop there. The women are then told to “go quickly” and spread the message to the others that Jesus is alive and with them. The women are entrusted with a mission of urgency in the very midst of their fears, and they are drawn to get in touch with an even deeper longing as they embrace their new sense of purpose. They are reassured precisely so that they can navigate their ever-changing reality with a depth of grace and strength beyond their imagining. They don’t have the option of standing still and basking longer in the comfort of the angel’s message that Jesus is alive. Rather, they need to act with urgency as they are commissioned to claim the gift and purpose of their new reality by spreading the word that Jesus is alive in their midst.
Perhaps this Easter 2020 offers each of us a similarly graced opportunity to pause and listen deeply to our own inner desires and longings as we allow two particular gifts of this great feast to enrich our lives at this time of global connection with our brothers and sisters. First, who are the angels in all walks of life who continue to offer words of comfort and reassurance to us personally and to our neighbors across the globe? Let us take time to really notice their faces, their gestures of love, their deeds of salvation and kindness in ways that we may have never noticed or appreciated before. Secondly, to whom are we called to respond with a renewed sense of urgency as we, like the women in the gospel, hear the call to “go quickly” in a spirit of service and generosity, far beyond what we may have ever thought imaginable? As our own interior longings and responses are stretched anew during these days, perhaps we, too, can be assured that the words, “Do not be afraid,” will continue to resound and strengthen in a global chorus of heartfelt response. Will we accept and embrace the mandate to “go quickly” as we continue to offer comfort, strength, and reassurance to our brothers and sisters in need? Together, this Easter, let us listen closely for the strains of this refrain, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”