A Crack in Everything
We know that the world will not be the same when we emerge from our coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions.
Some of these changes will be material. Economies have crashed; businesses we used to patronise may no longer exist; many of us will have no money to spend on them anyway.
And every economic crisis produces political unrest, so we must be prepared for even greater social instability than there already was before Covid-19.
Things will be changed, even as we encounter this new world in a familiar environment. Coronavirus has changed the world, and it will likely have changed our lives, too.
And so in this claustrophobic darkness of lockdowns and restrictions, many are facing an uncertain future with anxiety.
The late Canadian songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen once wrote: “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” From that light we draw hope in our experience of the present gloom. We can emerge as better people.
We may find that we will experience simple things with a new appreciation, like a walk on the beach or in the park.
We may find that visiting grandmother is not a burden but a privilege of which we were deprived. We may find that the experience of withdrawal has infused a new empathy within us for the less privileged.
We may find a new hunger for community after having been separated from others for so long. When we return to our parishes, things may change as well.
Indeed, for the Church, there is the sudden grace of opportunity to transform. The lockdown has exposed a tendency by many Catholics to regard priests as mere dispensers of sacraments and discipleship as a private matter.
But that is not how Pope Francis sees it. “Online Masses and spiritual communion do not represent the Church,” he has said. “This is the Church in a difficult situation that the Lord is allowing, but the ideal of the Church is always with the people and with the sacraments.”
The big question will be whether those who do not have “an ardent desire” to unite their person with that of Christ in the Eucharist will find their way back to the Mass.
Conversely, may there be those who have discovered their “ardent desire” through the experience of streamed Masses?
Whatever the case, a break of the old cycles of routine will give our parishes a chance for transformation.
What was broken can now be built anew. In 2018, Fr James Mallon toured South Africa to propose the “Divine Renovation”, a model for how parishes can transition from merely maintaining themselves—ticking along—to becoming missionary communities of disciples of Christ.
The Divine Renovation model has created a lot of enthusiasm. But some parishes found it difficult to break the mould of their timeworn way of doing things.
Lockdown has broken the mould. Now is a time of grace, a time when parishes—and dioceses, and even bishops’ conferences—can begin a new way of being the Church of Christ.
The parish must be the place where both those of devout and of uncertain faith are united as a community in Christ.
Pope Francis sees the Church as a field hospital, where the spiritually wounded are treated with the healing grace of God’s love.
This means that churches must be open places of welcome, even and especially for those who are in most need of the Lord’s mercy.
In that sense, the Divine Renovation model calls us to act with compassion, kindness and love to all who put their feet into our churches.
It means that we don’t reject them or greet them by quoting chapter and paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
It means that instead of the raised finger we offer open arms, as Jesus did time and again when he encountered the wounded and even sinners.
When we do this, then we are missionary disciples who can lead people to Christ and into a meaningful relationship with him in the community of the Church.
“Ring the bells that still can ring; forget your perfect offering,” Leonard Cohen advised. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
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