Browsing Daily News

Betsy Kneepkens: Pay attention to the graces poured out during the pandemic

The world is now different, and hopefully, someday soon, we will return to normal. But for now, we must realize our lives will be challenging. For example, I briefly parked my car in a church parking lot, and incidentally left my car doors unlocked. There were several somewhat valuable items in plain view and a little bit of cash between the seats. When I returned to the car, I found the money, the moderately valuable items, and a backpack untouched. However, on the front seat, I left a partial container of disinfecting wipes, and when I returned, I discovered the tube was taken.

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every person in this country and nearly every individual in the world. The newspapers are filled with stories of devastation and hardship. Almost every aspect of our lives has been impacted. Although this sort of situation feels awful and horrendous, we need to discover the hope and blessings richly available within our more substantial experience.

This public health crisis pales in comparison to nearly every other major pandemic in history. For those that have lost love ones, or who have experienced what seem to be horrific symptoms associated with this disease, history means nothing. I know. If we focus on the numbers, we will remain overwhelmed. If we digest every story that is pushed out by media sites, we will feel defeated. The truth is, our society and the world are much more prepared and equipped to deal with this kind of emergency. So we need to feel empowered to live boldly and squeeze every unique opportunity that this granted us throughout this experience.

I am not trying to understate the hardship others are experiencing. And I would be disingenuous if I said my family has enjoyed the government restrictions, financial difficulties, and constant uncertainty brought about by this ongoing health emergency. What I am saying is that there is an abundance of grace being poured out, and if we ignore it, we will have missed one of the holiest moments of our generation.

If we are attentive, we will see that scientists and pharmaceuticals from around the globe are working collaboratively and not competing to find therapies and cures. If we carefully observe, we can be inspired by corporations that have turned their work away from their business model and onto developing items to help the ill, needy, and those providing care. If you listen, you will hear the story of restaurants offering food for the hungry or youth clubs raising money to provide for those most in need. The list of kindnesses to each other goes on and on, and this is holiness in action.

I am encouraged by our church’s attempts to reach out differently. Young priests and staff are using their social media skills to bring the Good News to the faithful. Even more reassuring is when I see older priests, religious, and staff willing to be led by these recently ordained and young professionals. How impressed I am to see our seasoned clerics adapting to these new ways of doing things. When we get back to normal, the church will have even more extensive skills to reach out and impact the lives of the faithful! We are going to be a better, healthier church, and that is the Holy Spirit at work.

This crisis has affirmed my belief that there is nothing better than going to Mass in person. However, there has been much learned from my experience of watching Mass virtually. I can now appreciate how very unified and diverse this church of ours is. I don’t think I am alone when I get moved to see that 157 people viewed a daily Mass or 151,000 participated in an online eucharistic celebration. It is impressive reading in the comments section that I just celebrated Mass alongside someone residing in Kenya. We are one Holy Apostolic Church, and the Internet connection helps us Catholics realize part of God’s plan in all of this.

We have spent generations explaining to our Protestant brothers and sisters the benefit of all the devotionals we enjoy to grow closer to Christ. Whether it is saying the Rosary, lighting candles, praying our holy cards, venerate religious statues, reflecting on the Stations of the Cross, or engaging in lectio divina, the church has given us multiple tools to help us connect with our Creator. This point is particularly true when we can’t rely on the tangible experience of gathering as a community. There is a deep richness to our tradition of devotionals. During this time of separation, we realize how masterful the Holy Spirit was when he inspired the church to give us other tangible means to vary the ways we connect with the Holy Trinity. During this challenging time, we don’t have to rely solely on a Sunday service.

Personally, when give myself time to look at all the goodness God has shown during this pandemic, I am humbled. I have connected with family members whom I have not spoken to in years. Mealtime has become an actual family time with conversations and laughter that goes beyond cleaning the table. I have quickly figured out the difference between wants and needs, and there are not nearly as many needs as I thought. I have enjoyed brief stops at church when I can sit in silence, and noontime Angelus prayed daily with a dear friend over the phone. Although stress has come in different ways, this unexpected time with my husband and children has been unparalleled in goodness. And although three of my children remain a distance away, we are connecting daily in ways that are thoughtful, funny, and loving. If the fruits are signs of holiness, this pandemic has provided an orchard full.

I think we are at the point in this crisis where we all know someone or know of someone that has been affected by COVID-19, and that can be worrisome. We have little control over this disease and its process. We do have control over our willingness to see how God’s graces have been poured out on us as a response to the suffering our world is enduring. The answer in love back to him is the way we respond to those graces. And when those containers of disinfectant wipes become available again, perhaps we can all purposely leave them on our front car seat with the doors open wide.

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.