Dear Graduates of Kellenberg, Chaminade, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,
In the past few months, we all have added a few new words to our vocabulary. Phrases like in these uncertain days, in these unnerving weeks, or during these unprecedented times seem to be commonplace now on television commercials or podcasts. One Brother even jokingly refers to the pre-pandemic time as before all hell broke loose! We are all Zooming and setting up Google Hangouts to see our friends and families, albeit virtually on the screen in front of us. None of us had even heard of contact tracing or social distancing before the pandemic came upon us in early March. Honestly, social distancing seemed like an oxymoron to me, until I found myself sitting at a table alone in my grandparents’ backyard while my mom, dad, and sister sat at one table and my grandparents at another.
We all seem to have adjusted to the new normal, yet I think all of us wish we could just go back to the way things were. Many of us have gotten used to sharing a home office space with family members. We have learned to log into Zoom classes with our mics muted and to make sure our cameras are pointed at a flattering angle. I don’t know about you, but I have been in one too many Zoom meetings where the speaker had the camera pointed right up his nose! One perk for me, though, was that I was able to attend my graduate classes in jacket and tie but with pajama pants and slippers on too. Still, I have missed teaching my freshman classes in person — a recorded Youtube lesson just doesn’t do it for me.
Of course all of the things that I just mentioned are minor inconveniences, but life goes on, and we adjust to the new normal. For so many of us, however, life can never just go back to the way it was. Perhaps some of you, like me, were unable to attend your graduation ceremony last month. Not being able to celebrate your outstanding accomplishment with your college friends and families is a real sadness, so please don’t minimize the sorrow you feel. Many of you now face an uncertain job market and worry about what the future holds. On a deeper level, I am sure that all of us now know at least someone who suffered as a result of the virus. As the death toll in our country reaches 100,000 people, we all probably know someone who has died. Even if a death was not COVID-19 related, we have been unable to gather together to console one another at wakes and funerals. Many of you have reached out to the Marianists with prayer requests for yourselves or for loved ones who were sick and in need of prayers. Know that we pray for you and your families each and every day at Mass.
As I am sure that many of you have heard by now, the Brothers lost one of our own last month. Fr. Ernest Lorfanfant, S.M. passed away on May 19, and while the Marianists were blessed to be able to celebrate a small, private funeral Mass for him, we were sad that we were not able to celebrate his life with all of the many people whom Fr. Ernie impacted during his lifetime. The Brothers have received more than one thousand messages of condolences and remembrances of a man who could only be called a one-of-a-kind person. I ask that you keep Fr. Ernest in your prayers, and join the Brothers in thanking God for his 62 years of religious consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. May he rest in peace!
All of these thoughts were in my mind when Fr. Peter sent me an article written by Sr. Gabrielle Bibeau, FMI called Living in a Time of Crisis: It is in our Marianist DNA. Sr. Gabby is a Marianist Sister living and ministering in Dayton, Ohio. Like me, she is also in the period of Marianist formation called temporary profession. During this time, we live our lives according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and we minister alongside our Marianist Brothers and Sisters in preparation for our perpetual profession of vows. We spend time learning about our Marianist history and charism, and we often think about how the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin are asking us to serve God’s people in today’s world. In the midst of a global pandemic, that means that we have to be creative in coming up with new ways of being faithful to the mission Fr. Chaminade envisioned for us. Speaking of Blessed Chaminade and Blessed Adele (the foundress of the Marianist Sisters with Fr. Chaminade), who lived during the terror of French Revolution, Sr. Gabby writes:
As I study their lives, I am constantly struck by the parallels between our circumstances facing the coronavirus pandemic and their circumstances of violence, death, and exile. Of course, there are some obvious differences: the reason we cannot have public liturgies is to mitigate the spread of a deadly contagion, not because our faith is being persecuted. The violence we are facing is the violence of disease, not a violence inflicted by other human beings. When we set aside some of those differences, there are so many lessons we can learn from our Marianist ancestors and their context about how to respond to the pandemic.
Father Chaminade and Mother Adele were able to seek out the will of God even in the midst of unprecedented hardship. Their one desire was to remain faithful to God and to their service in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Despite the threat of exile and death, they knew that they had to place their trust totally in God and to live in hope for a more peaceful future.
So while the Brothers have not been dealing with imprisonment or guillotine — thank God! — we have had to find new and creative ways to remain faithful to our mission. I have been tremendously edified by some of my older Brothers in Community who have totally embraced Zoom as a means of continuing their classes and Sodality meetings. More importantly, however, this pandemic has given us Brothers the opportunity to live our life together with a little bit more prayer, kindness, and fraternity. We have spent a lot of time together, and while that can be trying for us at times, as it is for any family, it also has been a great blessing to be together in prayer and mission.
So what can we learn from Blessed Chaminade, who lived during a crisis in his own day? Cling to your prayer life and devotion to God. I am sure that for many of you, not being able to go to Mass on Sunday has been a real sadness and a source of great anxiety. So, pray that we will be able to gather together in our churches soon, but also pray to Blessed Chaminade for the grace to keep the faith during these unnerving weeks. Fr. Chaminade’s mission, and our Marianist mission, is to form communities of faith in which you can grow in your knowledge, love, and service of Christ and His Mother. Think about your family members and friends who draw you closer to God and spend time with them. Be kind and patient with them too. Then, you will begin to see God at work in your life and experience the great peace that comes from loving Him.
On the first of this month, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Pope Francis established this feast day in 2018 as a reminder of Mary’s constant maternal care for us. Think back to the Marianist 3 o’clock prayer that you prayed at the end of every school day: Lord, we thank you for giving us Mary as our Mother. St. John, obtain for us the grace of taking Mary into our life, as you did, and of assisting her in her mission. Amen! May Our Blessed Mother always watch over you and your families and see you through these unprecedented times. The Brothers look forward to seeing you all again soon!
In Christ and His Blessed Mother, and on behalf of all my Brothers,
Bro. Patrick Cahill, S.M.
P.S. Be on the lookout for an invitation to our virtual mini-retreat, called Water in the Desert, on Sunday, June 7. The room opens at 2:30 p.m., and the retreat begins at 3:00. We will also celebrate Mass for Holy Trinity Sunday and conclude by about 4:30. Email Bro. Steve at SBalletta@ chaminade-hs.org for more information!
“What is a faithful man to do in the chaos of events which seem to swallow it up? Sustain himself calmly by that faith which . . . assures us that all things work together unto good for those who love God.”
~ Blessed William Joseph Chaminade