First Public Speech Reinforces Saint John Focus on Social Teaching and Cultural Shift
Not that we would be as presumptuous as to believe that our Holy Father would be reading our Worship Aid Edition of our Bulletin, but in his first public speech after the quarantine was lifted in Rome this past weekend, Pope Francis spoke out on how society should be inexorably altered by the COVID-19 Pandemic and our response to others. He thanked healthcare workers in some of the hardest hit areas of Italy on Saturday, June 20, and called on us all to commit to building the future of our society starting now. He asked us all to band together to create a culture based on closeness to each other and fraternal love, and not to fall back on the illusion of a society based on individualism:
In the whirlwind of an epidemic with shocking and unexpected effects, the reliable and generous presence of medical and paramedical staff has constituted the safe point of reference, first of all for the sick, but in a very special way for family members, which in this case they did not have the opportunity to visit their loved ones. And so they found in you, health workers, almost another family, capable of combining professional competence with those attentions that are concrete expressions of love. Patients often felt they had “angels” at their side, who helped them recover their health and, at the same time, consoled them, supported them, and sometimes accompanied them to the threshold of the final meeting with the Lord. These health workers, supported by the concern of the hospital chaplains, testified to God’s closeness to those who suffer; they were silent artisans of the culture of closeness and tenderness. Culture of closeness and tenderness. And you have witnessed it, even in small things: in caresses, even with the mobile phone, to connect the elderly person who was about to die with his son, with his daughter to dismiss them, to see them for the last time; small gestures of love creativity. This has done us all good. Testimony of closeness and tenderness.
Dear doctors and nurses, the world has been able to see how well you have done in a great test situation. Even if exhausted, you have continued to commit yourself with professionalism and self-sacrifice. How many, doctors and paramedics, nurses, could not go home and sleep there, where they could because there were no beds, in the hospital! And this generates hope. She [turns to the President of the Region] spoke of hope. And this generates hope. You have been one of the pillars of the whole country. My esteem and my sincere thanks go to you here and to your colleagues from all over Italy, and I am well aware of interpreting everyone’s feelings.
Now, it’s time to treasure all this positive energy that has been invested. Do not forget! It is a wealth that, in part, of course, has gone “without reserve”, in the drama of the emergency; but to a large extent it can and must bear fruit for the present and future of Lombard and Italian society. The pandemic has deeply affected people’s lives and the history of communities. To honor the suffering of the sick and the many deceased, especially the elderly, whose life experience must not be forgotten, tomorrow must be built: it requires the commitment, strength and dedication of everyone. It is a matter of starting again from the countless testimonies of generous and gratuitous love, which have left an indelible mark on the consciences and fabric of society, teaching how much there is need of closeness, care, sacrifice to nourish the fraternity and civil coexistence. And, looking to the future, I am reminded of that speech, in the lazar, by Fra Felice, in Manzoni [Promessi sposi, cap. 36 °]: how realistically he looks at tragedy, looks at death, but looks to the future and carries on.
In this way, we will be able to get out of this crisis spiritually and morally stronger; and this depends on the conscience and responsibility of each of us. Not alone, however, but together and with the grace of God. As believers it is up to us to testify that God does not abandon us, but gives meaning in Christ also to this reality and to our limit; that with his help the toughest tests can be faced. God created us for communion, for fraternity, and now more than ever the claim to focus everything on ourselves – it is illusory – to make individualism the guiding principle of society has proved to be illusory. But be careful because, as soon as the emergency is over, it is easy to slip, it is easy to fall back into this illusion. It’s easy to quickly forget that we need others, someone to take care of us, to give us courage. Forgetting that we all need a Father who holds out his hand. Praying to him, invoking him, is not an illusion; illusion is to think of doing without it! Prayer is the soul of hope.
In recent months, people have not been able to participate in the liturgical celebrations, but have not stopped feeling like a community. They prayed individually or in the family, also through the means of social communication, spiritually united and perceiving that the embrace of the Lord went beyond the limits of space. The pastoral zeal and creative concern of the priests helped people to continue the path of faith and not to remain alone in the face of pain and fear. This priestly creativity that has won some, few, “adolescent” expressions against the measures of authority, which has the obligation to protect the health of the people. Most of them were obedient and creative. I admired the apostolic spirit of many priests, who came with the telephone, knocking on doors, ringing houses: “Do you need anything? I do the shopping …”. A thousand things. Proximity, creativity, without shame. These priests who remained with their people in caring and daily sharing: they were a sign of the consoling presence of God. They were fathers, not teenagers. Unfortunately, not a few of them have died, as well as doctors and paramedical staff. And also among you there are some priests who have been sick and thank God they are healed. In you I thank all the Italian clergy, who have shown courage and love to the people.
Dear brothers and sisters, I renew to each of you and to all those who represent my heartfelt appreciation for what you have done in this difficult and complex situation. May the Virgin Mary, venerated in your lands in numerous shrines and churches, accompany you and always support you with his maternal protection. And don’t forget that with your work, all of you, doctors, paramedics, volunteers, priests, religious, lay people, who have done this, have started a miracle. Have faith and, as that tailor said, a missed theologian: “I never found that God began a miracle without finishing it well” [Manzoni, Promessi sposi, chap. 24 °]. May this miracle that you have begun end well! For my part, I continue to pray for you and your communities, and with affection I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you. And you, please, don’t forget to pray for me, I need it. Thank you.Pope Francis 6/20/20
So, how are we going to follow Pope Francis’ call to develop a more loving, just, and caring society here at Saint John? Here are a few ways you can help us in living out our “New Normal”:
- Support our Essential Workers with Continued Gratitude and Prayers: Saint John has partnered with the Blue Zones Project Southwest Florida for our Bellagram Program. Our church bells ring at 2:20 PM each day in celebration of the dedicated essential workers of our community. Please pray with us for their health and safety. If you have a specific worker you would like named in those prayers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with their first name and occupation so we can add them to our website.
- Participate in our Prayer Chain for Equality: If you are not at-risk, please join us in person this Sunday, June 28, from 2 PM to 4 PM, for our Prayer Chain for Equality, as a witness to the reality of racism in our society and the dignity of every person. The Chain will start at the corner of 41 and Pine Ridge. Please wear a mask and maintain appropriate social distancing. If you cannot attend in person, please pray the rosary with us at home during this time.
- Join Our Mass Streaming A/V Ministry: Our online Masses have been considered exemplary, with individuals, families, and even whole convents joining with us daily to celebrate Mass together. This capability was always envisioned when we renewed our church building, especially for funerals and other Liturgical events where including people remotely was a need. Our Mass streaming function has become a permanent fixture for our Parish Family. We will continue to broadcast our Masses daily even when we have fully recovered from the COVID-19 Pandemic Response as we are serving those who cannot come to Mass due to being homebound, or have moved North for the season. In order to continue this service, a new Ministry is being formed, the A/V Ministry. If you would like to assist us with this function, and learn how to work our cameras and sound system, please contact JP Boucher for the next training session.
- Become a Catechist: With the desire to keep everyone safe and healthy, there will be a significant shift of activities and events on our campus for the near future. Priority must be given to core and essential programs of the Parish Family, and Faith Formation (CCD or Sunday School) is a core area we will be focusing on. Imagine trying to fit over 500 children on our campus 2 times a week? That is what we did prior to this Pandemic. That will have to change. With more days and times, spreading the youth out for appropriate social distancing, there is no doubt that we will need more adults to assist us. Please contact Natalie Campbell, our Director of Religious Education, at email@example.com to find out more on how you can become a catechist and pass our faith on to the next generations.
Thank you all for your continuing dedication and devotion to our Parish Family of Saint John the Evangelist!