When suddenly you seem to lose all you thought you had gained, do not despair. You must expect setbacks and regressions. Don't say to yourself ‘All is lost. I have to start all over again.’ This is not true. What you have gained you have gained...When you return to the road, you return to the place where you left it, not to where you started.”  - The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen

The pandemic stopped us all in our tracks, made us re-evaluate our priorities, and urged us to confront what we took for granted in our daily lives. Yet, as the Henri Nouwen quote above showcases, as our lives begin to pick up again, we are not to despair in the time lost, but instead, we are to take comfort in recognizing what we’ve already accomplished through God’s grace during the past months as a parish family and where the Lord is leading us now.

All of us know instinctively that nothing compares to in person engagement. Whether it’s being at a friend’s wedding, sitting down to have a heart-to-heart conversation, comforting family members while they are grieving, or watching as your baby takes their first steps, we all know that being physically present makes all the difference. The same logic applies to our life as Catholics. Especially when it comes to the Mass, truly, nothing compares to being there.

In a recent letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Nelson Pérez puts it this way, “The words spoken at the Consecration of the Mass resonate deeply in our souls. ‘This is my Body which will be given up for you. This is the chalice of my Blood…which will be poured out for you.’  At every Mass, we bear witness to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Through the gift of the Eucharist, which the Lord instituted at the Last Supper, we receive His pure and boundless love over and over again. As Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. Such a precious gift deserves our reflection and appreciation. It’s not something we can experience virtually. Christ’s presence in the Eucharist is real and our personal presence is required to receive it.”

Live-streamed Masses, committee and faith formation Zoom sessions and conference calls have allowed us to retain some sense of connection in isolating times, but it is time to “return to the road.”  Our participation in the Sacraments, together with the faith community at Saint Elizabeth Church, acts as a compass; the Holy Eucharist, being in a deeply personal communion with Jesus Christ, is our true North. Active participation in the liturgy is such a privilege. To be able to raise our voices in answering Fr. Kevin’s greeting that “God is good all the time…and all the time, God is good,” takes on an enlivened spirit when done as one voice with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  

Fr. Chamber’s reflections on the scripture readings at the beginning of Mass become a personal invitation to receive the Word of God more deeply. Fr. Mullin’s reaching the people at eye-level as he shares his homily resonates more deeply, more intimately, when done in the light streaming through the stain glass windows as opposed to the pixelated reflections on our computer screens. And our collective recitation of the Parish Stewardship Prayer acts as an encouraging reminder and renewed commitment that our works of stewardship service accomplish great things in Jesus’s name. 

As we get back on the road, we take courage in knowing the progress that’s been made, our abilities to pick up where we left off, and how we can do so much more when we are together in person and in communion with Christ through the Sacraments we celebrate together.

 - Lindsey Ranstrom