We don’t hear much from the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, perhaps most of us were unaware that such a body even exists! But this week they organised a prayer chain of Masses across Europe from North to South, East to West in one huge collective expression in prayer of our need for God in the midst of the pandemic.
Many times we have heard that the virus doesn’t know which country it is in, or which borders it crosses, that is doesn’t have any desire to accommodate Christmas or any other celebrations where we so want to gather and be with our loved ones. The virus exists to spread and thrives in any and every time and place where we gather and has an especially high level of transmission at times that we are happy! The bishops reminded us of the moment a year or so ago when Pope Francis prayed alone, in St Peters Square for the suffering in the whole world. He said then that
the whole of humanity found itself in the one and same boat, battling together against the storm of the effects of the pandemic. In their invitation for us all to join in this prayer chain one bishop said, “We know that many of these deaths have taken place in enforced isolation, adding a stark depth to the pain of dying and the grief of the bereaved.”
This terrible sense of isolation was also highlighted on a Prime Time segment on Tuesday evening when a number of Funeral Directors were asked about their experience during these recent months. All of them touched on the broken-hearted families who at the end of their journey accompanying their sick, had to arrange a funeral and burial with only a handful of the family present. It is so hard not being able to hug, hold and whisper words of comfort into the ear of the bereaved.
In our parish that same struggle is experienced by all families preparing for a funeral and celebrating to part from a dearly loved one.
So our prayers are vitally important at this time, whether said alone and in private, or alongside family members at a TV, screen or phone. Lent asks us to create extra space for our God time and into that precious moment do try and remember the sick and dying, those who care for them, those who are on the road to recovery and those who have been restored to health. We all continue to hope for better times ahead and the current signs of improvement are encouraging.