I have been praying the Franciscan Crown Rosary almost everyday since the quarantine began. I have not missed a day in the month of May trying my best to follow the example of Pope Francis. I use a five decade rosary which is the one most folks are familiar with and then after the fifth decade I go back and pray the last two decades again. This brings me to a total of seven decades. There have been days and times when I have questioned the effectiveness of my prayers and whether there were any results.
Today I received some good news about our family and I knew immediately that my prayers are being answered. I gave thanks for the good news and tomorrow when I’m walking I’ll be praying the Franciscan Crown again. Hail Mary is a metaphor for a desperate pass to win a game. I don’t know how that came to be but I do believe that Mary does intercede for us.
One of the reasons I like the Franciscan Crown is that it’s easier for me to remember the mysteries that I’m supposed to meditate on. Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Visit of the Magi, finding Jesus in the Temple, the appearance to Mary after the Resurrection and the Assumption.
I can’t remember the Pope’s prayers each day so I substitute my own. Each day my prayer focus changes and I continue pray for leadership in this pandemic and for the people and patients on the front lines.
The last couple of years I have been privileged to spend the Triduum at Mt. Irenaeus living in community with the Friars and other guests as we celebrated the liturgy together. This year that will not be possible and that’s weighed on me. I will miss that very much. This morning I got an email message from Fr. Dan Riley, OFM who is the founder of the Franciscan Mountain Retreat and a good friend. Like everyone else Dan’s concern is for those who are working on the front lines, for those suffering, dying, losing loved ones and everything else that goes with this. This week is celebration of the passion like none in recent memory. I have spent more time praying this month than any month in recent memory. Sometimes I despair and wonder if my prayers benefit anyone or anything. Then I hear of advances and answers to prayers for others and I think maybe they are. I hope you enjoy Fr. Dan’s reflection.
Those are some of last words of Jesus as he was dying on the cross. Rather than condemn his torturers and murderers he forgave them. Gandhi also forgave the man who killed him. There are other stories like Maximilian Kolbe, Oscar Romero and others who spoke truth to power and willing gave their lives in the service of love. On this Sunday morning when normally I’d be on my way to Mass I thought of forgiveness.
I forgive those who have labeled this pandemic a hoax, I forgive those who have used the pandemic to fleece their customers. I forgive those whom I saw playing five on five basketball in the park after we were requested to keep our distance. I forgive those politicians who put party above the welfare of the world. I forgive those who have brutalized our mother earth that unleashed this pandemic. I forgive myself for judging others. I forgive myself for a lack of faith that there will be a positive outcome. I forgive our generation who has left this world a mess for our children and grandchildren.
In the past two weeks I’ve found myself wondering where will this end? How much suffering will we have to endure. Many have endured too much already. Pope Francis has led two worldwide prayer times and so have countless others. I find that as I walk I’m constantly praying for or thinking of others. I asked God to place the names and faces of people who needed a prayer today in my mind. One of those I prayed for was Amy Klobuchar’s husband. Later I learned that his condition is improving. I prayed for President Trump, Governor Cuomo and other local and national leaders. I prayed for healthcare professionals and members of our own family.
It seemed overwhelming but my spirits were buoyed by the presence of Brother Sun. The brightness and warmth were wonderful today. It reached nearly 65F here today. I took two walks and logged a bit over five miles. Though I was socially distant I was spiritually connected to the community I live in and the world that surrounds us. I found a quote by Thomas Merton that helped to put things in perspective.
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
― Thomas Merton
I’m trying to embrace the present moment with all its possibilities and challenges with enough courage, faith and hope.
Tomorrow Pope Francis is calling on people everywhere to join him in prayer at 6:00 PM which is 12:00 noon in the Eastern United States. Like his prayer on Wednesday morning of this week the focus is on the Coronavirus pandemic. Wednesday morning I happened to wake up just three minutes before 6:00 AM and was able to join in. One of my friends pointed out that being on time wasn’t as important as bathing the world in prayer.
Today I read that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in her meeting with the Senate Majority Leader and the Treasury Secretary had offered a prayer based on one shared by Pope Francis. The Treasury Secretary is reported to have stated, “you have quoted Pope Francis, I will quote the Markets.” The tone struck me as cold and out of touch with the reality. There are 8 billion people on the earth and approximately three-hundred-thirty million here in the United States. Even if the stock market performs exceptionally well hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions will die of this pandemic.
Giving every American $1200 doesn’t amount to fart in a whirlwind. That’s one or two month’s mortgage or rent. Last week 3 million Americans filed for unemployment. Our hospitals need equipment. Our healthcare system is melting down and the secretary is praying for the markets. There is money in the agreement for hospital funding but with many Americans who have no health care coverage that’s moot. Worshiping the golden calf of the stock market is short sighted.
It’s always darkest before the dawn. I’ve been very discouraged and dangling on the edge of depression that past couple of weeks. Why not? The world as we knew it appears to be disappearing before our eyes. Everywhere people are contracting the coronavirus. Many are dying and everyone who’s telling the truth is wondering if they’re next.
Earlier today I was watching Madam CJ Walker on Netflix which is riveting story of a woman who overcame incredible odds to become the first black woman millionaire in the United States. She dared to dream big. Watching the series in the midst of this pandemic invited me to do the same. Later this evening as I was listening to Bishop Barron’s homily on the Solemnity of the Annunciation he too invited us to dare to dream big.
Right now there is someone in our world who’s got the cure for the coronavirus in their mind. We are surrounded by brilliant minds and we’re connected across the cosmos. From this powerful connection will come a cure for this dilemma which we face. I’ve also been watching The Story of God with Morgan Freeman on Netflix. A common theme throughout the series is that there is a greater intelligence that rules the cosmos and since we all come from that source it follows that we already possess the knowledge to cure the pandemic.
Today as I walked and prayed I focused my thoughts on the cosmos and pictured holding the world in front of me. I believe in prayer as a positive energy and somewhere right now there is someone with the answer. We need to bring that solution into our consciousness and birth it. I thought of the words of the prophet Jeremiah.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”
Tomorrow Pope Francis invites us to pray for the world. I’m joining this effort and maybe you will too. There is no hope that without divine intervention millions will perish in this pandemic. Can a mass prayer avert catastrophe? Is it worth trying? I think so. The pope will be praying at noon at the Vatican. That’s 6:00 AM EDT. You can follow the Pope on Twitter.