Spiritual June Report
Throughout my youth I never really developed an interest in History. Everything about the past was information from my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. I was still too young to be concerned with the past.
At home I did learn to speak bilingually, the language of my maternal grandparents, my mother, her siblings, the priests who served our parishes, as well as the sisters who staffed the school. I also regularly travelled to a neighboring town to visit my paternal grandparents who spoke a different language, Italian, mixed with enough English to understand what was being said, and gathered with cousins who went to other catholic schools and other catholic churches. Through my school, I learned that I belonged to a church that was different than the other churches in the neighborhood. We memorized our prayers in classes that were made up of children who were taken from our neighborhoods to travel by busses across town to a building that was located away from our five Byzantine Churches where we prayed mostly in Church Slavonic, and where many of the boys in our classes served as altar servers. However, after eight years of elementary school I did not fully know the history of my ancestors. After my ninth grade graduation from BCC School, I completed my high school education in the local public school where the students were all from the same neighborhood, from families who spoke different languages, had different customs & beliefs and went to many different churches. There I did learn about the history of our country and a bit about the world.
After high school I was accepted into our Byzantine Catholic Seminary where I now lived with a group of young men who had gone to the same kind of church, had grandparents who spoke like mine, who came from homes which were located all over the United States. From the Seminary we attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh—allow me to share one early incident that occurred there. One morning in September after morning prayers and breakfast, my freshman class along with the sophomores, got on the seminary bus that would take us for our first day of classes at Duquesne University. For some reason, we arrived late for our very first class, Western Civilization 101, which was held in the auditorium of University Hall. Eight freshmen entered the room, the professor stopped his lecture, and over a hundred students turned around to see each of us dressed in black suits, white shirts, and black ties carrying our books as well as our black hats! That was a small tidbit of the history of my first History Class at college! Fortunately, none of us turned around and ran out.
In the over 50 years since that occurred, history to me became much more than what has happened to me. We all have our own history and now we are living at a time when these past weeks will become an integral part of that history. What started as a strange virus in China, has now completely changed our lives. Now the concept of a “Pandemic” is no longer strange, and if we have heard once that the Covid-19 virus was “unprecedented,” we have heard it many times. From being social beings, or sometimes even anti-social, we are now learning how to practice “social distancing.” From being free to go wherever we please, we have learned to “shelter-in-place.” From looking forward to visiting our family and friends, we have had to stay away from those we don’t live with. As a priest, from visiting the sick and shut-ins of the parish, I have not been permitted to visit hospitals and nursing facilities. Almost every newscast has listed the number of those who contracted the virus or who died as a result. Every commercial included how that business was impacted by Coronavirus.
From the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross at the mid-point of Great Lent, I have not been able to celebrate the Divine Liturgy or any services with the faithful of my parishes. In my last article I wrote that this Pandemic would be our cross. Many have suffered in different ways; some have lost their lives, some have had to care for the many who lost their health, many have lost their jobs. Each of us has a chapter to write in what has become our history these past months. As I am writing these words, what has been a bleak time for our world has also given us a time to see the good of mankind; so many who have gone out of their way to comfort and give joy to those in need or in hunger through “random acts of kindness.” We were not able to join together to share the joy of the Resurrection of Our Lord, but we have found ways to “virtually” join in celebration. There is a light at the end of the darkness… here in Ohio as well as in many other states and countries, priests will be able to join together with the faithful to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles marking the birth of the Church. Hopefully all will in time be able to celebrate this indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.