I want to start by acknowledging the extraordinary work of all the doctors, nurses, carers, all those in the medical profession, all those who are working on the frontline, who have kept us going over the last months, writes Fr Ger Fitzgerald.
They have been an inspiration and a source of constant encouragement to us in these very difficult times.
I would also like to pray for the people who have died. Each and every one of them leaves a memory and a trail of broken hearts. I pray that God grants them eternal rest. We pray also for their families and relations, friends and all affected by their death. I hope that you will find support in this dark hour.
When I was asked to write about what life is like in lockdown, I suppose I wondered what I would write about, because in some ways, nothing much has changed. I am still writing an essay for my Masters in Theology, still saying Mass, still praying. However, upon reflection, I realised that these things are happening in a very different way. Mass is now online, every night we pray the Angelus and Rosary at 6pm and some nights we have a short night prayer of music and quiet reflection.
All these things happen in an empty church, but I am always aware that even though the building is empty, we are not alone. There are many people watching and pray with us on the Facebook pages. It is a humbling experience to see people tuning in and to see people requesting prayers and commenting on the videos. It is lovely because although the church may be empty, the Church, that being the Universal Church, which in reality is all of us as Catholics, is still united in prayer in hope and in love.
Outside the church, things are happening too. We have organised a meals on wheels service to older people who are cocooning in their homes at the moment. This was put in place by a local restaurant owner and a local shopkeeper here in Ennis. This is an extraordinary example of the community spirit that exists here. The local shop has been doing deliveries and this has been very much appreciated.
I have also discovered that a great place to meet people is sitting on the window sill of my house, where I live in Shallee Drive. I live right on the corner of the estate and sitting on that window sill in the fine weather I get to see everyone passing up and down to go to the shop and to go for their walks and to go for their daily exercise. I have heard some great stories from sitting there, heard a lot of peoples worries, tribulations and their hopes and fears.
I feel so bad for people who have had to cancel their weddings and baptisms. I sense their disappointment but can assure them that their big day will come and it’ll be even better than we had ever imagined. I also feel so sorry for the people who have had to cancel their holy communion and confirmations. That is very disheartening for young people and for families and I hope they will also receive the support that they need.
I also feel so bad for people who have lost their job at this difficult time. I can’t even imagine what people who have lost their jobs are going through at this time. It is a heartbreaker to hear the stories in my own area even of people who have lost their jobs. I hope too that they will receive support and when this is over and things get back to normal, I pray for a brighter tomorrow.
I also feel terrible for people who have suffered bereavement at this time and because of restrictions cannot attend the funeral of their loved ones. That is the most difficult loss of all. I have had three funerals during this time and each one of them have been surrounded by these difficulties.
I think a special word of praise is due to the bishops and priests who have been making huge efforts online and embracing the world of technology. I would also like to send greetings to the priests who are cocooning at the moment. You are in our prayers very much at this moment and you continue to be an inspiration to us younger lads.
The hardest part of it all is not being able to get home. I haven’t been home now for several weeks since the lockdown began. I haven’t seen my dad or my family in a long time now and I miss them and I miss home and I miss the dog!
But, I know that it is best for me to stay away, I know that the tough decision taken now will be worth it in the long run. So, even though the pain of separation is difficult, the hope of seeing them and home again soon keeps me going. I would like to end with a note of hope. This will end, and things will return to how they were, but things must never go back to normal, or at least what we conceived normal to be. The meeting of loved ones must never be normal again, hugs and going for the walk which was once just a routine must never be just the norm again. These are blessed things and it is truly only when you cannot do something or when something you love is taken away from you, you realize how much you loved it.
In these times, while we wait for the ‘normal’ to return, let’s make a pledge that the new day dawning will bring what the resurrection of Jesus brought, a new day, a healing of creation from the inside out, and a life of new opportunity and hope.