I wish to begin by extending a sincere word of support for any readers of Sacred Space Astronomy that have been impacted by Coronavirus or has a loved one who is suffering with or has died from this virus. I know that Sacred Space Astronomy is read by people that are Catholic, Non-Catholic, and those whose life journey has led them to question God. As a Catholic Priest, I feel inclined to focus this post with a prayer.
The Redemporist Order, the Order that runs the center where I am on sabbatical, has a unique devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The Catholic tradition of asking the Saints for prayers evokes the intuitive act many of us have of asking good friends and family to pray for us in our need. We don't pray to Mary as a deity, but ask that her motherly love wrap us with her prayers as any loving mother would. In that spirit:
You were called to protect Jesus during the most vulnerable years of his life.
You loved him, nurtured him,
taught him to walk, speak, and pray.
You laughed with him in times of joy,
cried with him in times of distress,
ministered to him when he was sick,
and consoled him when rejected.
You were mother to him and needed to be his mother,
assisting Jesus to grow and embrace his earthly mission.
Mary, we call upon your loving presence in this time of crisis.
Under the title of "Our Lady of Perpetual Help,"
we are reminded of a gentle embrace between a mother and her child,
the embrace you shared with Jesus.
May this image of maternal care become reality for those who are in isolation,
whether they are ill or experience fear of illness.
For those who will see the veil fall between time and eternity through death,
may your prayers comfort and encourage them,
discovering new life with your Son, Jesus Christ,
just as an infant finds its family for the first time through birth.
Mary, though many will parish today
without the loving touch of family or friends to comfort them,
fill the hospital rooms, nursing homes, and beds that hold the sick and dying
with the warmth of your maternal embrace.
Where hands are reaching for someone to love them in their suffering,
grasp that hand and wrap them in your mantle of love and protection.
Be with them in their solitude now and at the hour of their death,
placing their hand in the hand of Jesus.
Give them courage to walk with him from time to eternity.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help - Pray for Us... Pray for all who suffer and will die today.
I am struggling with guilt, guilt that while many suffer and are in isolation, I am able to be on sabbatical to address my prayer life, physical health, emotional health, and have space to embrace my hobbies of astronomy and photography. There have been times I have wanted to avoid sharing the beauty of the Redemptorist Renewal Center through pictures out of fear of seeming unfeeling and distant from the problems the world faces. What I am finding instead is profound gratitude every time I post a story or a picture I have taken. I never thought that social media would become such a powerful ministerial tool, but many of my friends and family say that what I post gives them a "sabbatical moment" to be able to experience relief from what our world is enduring.
In that spirit, below is a summary of my sabbatical through images I have captured these past weeks. May they give you a moment of diversion from the difficulties we face. And may we experience true solidarity as members of the human family. Let us not let a virus define who we are. Let us be defined as we should as expressions of love in this world - both expressions to give love and receive love in return. We are expressions of love who are living through a pandemic that science is racing to understand and faith is praying for those scientists to find the remedy that is, from a Christian perspective, a participation in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.
Pray for those who suffer, pray for their care givers, pray for scientists who are working for a vaccine, and pray for our world. Let us not live in fear. Let us live in attentive love. The attentive love that is modeled in the relationship between a mother and her child. The attentive love between Mary and Jesus.