Above: Karen Musacchio helps Christopher Musacchio, a fourth grader at Christ the King School in Nashville, Tenn., with his classroom assignments from home March 24, 2020. (CNS photo/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register)
In his Ash Wednesday homily, Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama asked if that day would hold such a special place for us as Catholics if the ashes were placed where no one could see them. He said that on Ash Wednesday it is easy to show we are Catholic; it is right there on our forehead.
He then challenged people to find ways to show their faith from within, by their actions, by their joy and by their love.
That challenge could not have come during a more poignant Lent. How can we show our faith and our love for others when we are told to stay home and not even attend Mass?
Catholics around the world are stepping up to answer that question. Here are 19 ideas from around the diocese to be active in your faith and a light for others.
1. Watch Mass as a family at home. The Diocese of Raleigh website has added an online spiritual resource page to help you find Masses that are being streamed online.
2. Read Scripture. In addition to your Bible, a number of Catholic resources have granted free access to their online catalogs during this time. These include Liturgical Press, Magnificat and The Word Among Us. Visit their websites to see readings, reflections and more. The USCCB is also a great resource.
3. Utilize technology to keep close to loved ones. FaceTime grandparents so they can see their grandkids smiling! Send video messages to teachers who are doing a great job keeping students learning. Send photo texts to aunts and uncles and let them know you’re thinking about them. Social media is great, but using technology to check in one-on-one is important too!
4. Speaking of social media, now is a great time to see how social media has been feeding your mind and soul. What do you see on your feed? Is it filled with anger and judgment, or is it filled with love and teaching? Many of your favorite priests: Father Mike Schmitz, Bishop Robert Barron and more have active social media profiles that will help keep your faith front and center!
5. Reflect on what you miss. Did you notice how much more you wanted to go to Mass when you were told you can’t? This is a time for strength but also to cultivate our gratitude for the freedoms we have enjoyed our entire lives.
6. Reflect on what you don’t miss. On the other hand, did you almost feel a little relief when some activities and get-togethers were suspended or canceled? How much do we fill up our lives with things that just keep us busy? When this time ends, can we be more mindful of how we spend our time?
7. Listen. Turn off the screens and turn on the radio. There are many Catholic radio stations throughout the diocese with programs, information and prayer broadcasting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
8. Create with others in mind! Retirement communities and nursing homes have been hit tremendously hard. Visitors aren’t allowed and group activities have shut down. In light of this, many are asking for volunteers to send cards and pictures to brighten the day of some of our most vulnerable. Create a card of love and joy and send it to someone who may need a smile.
9. Practice gratitude daily. If you are reading this, you have access to technology. What an incredible advantage we have over every other period of history! Instead of focusing on what we’ve lost, be thankful for what we have.
10. Smile, wave and say hello when you’re out for a walk or getting the mail. You never know who may be in desperate need of a smile, and the CDC has not banned that yet!
11. Contact Catholic Charities, Catholic Parish Outreach and your parish office to determine if there are any needs you can fill. Many of our volunteers are those in more vulnerable categories. Are there shifts that you can fill, deliveries that you can make, or money you can give to ensure that the most vulnerable are still cared for in this time?
12. Donate your goods. No time like now to realize how many things you don’t need. If you’re stuck in your home for weeks, and you still don’t touch those board games or DVDs, you never will.
13. Continue to pay your bills and pledges as you are able to do so. If you are not facing financial hardship, consider continuing to support the services you normally use. Look into online giving for your parish. Offer to pay, partially pay, or give gift cards to piano teachers, hair stylists, tutors, etc., who didn’t have much time to plan for their services and income being canceled.
14. Be responsible. If Masses and school are canceled, now is not the time to let your children have a sleepover or to organize a block party. As tempting as it may be, and as much as our children may beg, we all need to do our part to flatten the curve.
15. Go outside! How blessed are we that the weather (though filled with pollen) is beautiful? There is nothing prohibiting us from walks or having picnics on our lawn!
16. But stay home! If you exhibit symptoms, please don’t assume that it’s allergies or ‘nothing.’ If you need something from the store, many people have volunteered to go to the store so that those with symptoms can stay home. It may seem like an odd thing to say that the best way you can practice your faith is sitting home, but that is how you protect those most at risk.
17. If your parish has an adoration chapel, consider contacting the hourly coordinator to offer being a sub. Not only will it prove to be incredible balm for your soul, but many regular adorers may be in a higher risk category.
18. Check on your elderly neighbors. If you have their phone numbers, give them a call, see if they need groceries or medicine and offer to leave it on their porch for them. If you don’t have their numbers, leave a note in their mailbox with your phone number.
19. As Mr. Rogers’ mom told him, “Look for the helpers.” If you are active on social media or watch the news, it could be easy to get distracted and upset by the actions or the words of some. But if you ‘look for the helpers,’ there is so much good that is happening too. Teachers are learning new ways to create meaningful experiences for their students. Priests, musicians, writers and more are opening their homes to offer prayers, singalongs and stories to people around the globe through the internet. Most of all, healthcare workers and first responders still answer the call, nonstop, to put their own lives on the line to help others. It may take a shift in focus, but when you look, there truly is a breathtaking amount of good in the world right now.