• Sarah Raad


“God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.” (Saint John Vianney).

Fall of Adam (Michaelangelo)

I have been reflecting on my own weakness over the last few days and weeks.

Last year when we were first locked down, I was angry about the whole situation. I disagreed with so much erosion of civilian freedom and I was angry about the injustice of punishing the whole world – keeping families apart, closing the Church, isolating the lonely – and I felt powerless…

I hated that feeling of powerlessness. It ate at me and consumed me.

Over the last year a lot has happened. Now we are well into an even more protracted lockdown with even more restrictions and greater disruption of family, Church, and life in general. My heart is broken and bereft of being denied the sacraments – and I am surely less deserving than others who are longing for them as I write.

I value the benefits of social distancing – slowing the spread of a virus over which we have little control – but I rebel against the dangers of this governmental power over us and the growth of a police state. I sometimes look around me and wonder how we can live in a world where it is acceptable to publicly vilify protestors (something I never thought to see outside the Communist Soviet Union, North Korea or China)…

This conflict of feeling caught my attention, as it reminded me of the conflict of sin.

For I am more than happy to sin at the time of the sin – often I enjoy it. But later – when I am remorseful – I ask, “Why do I love the vice and hate it simultaneously?”

And the answer – I have discovered – is that sin is both material and formal.

The material element of sin is its content and that is GOOD. For God created all material things and He saw that they were good… That is what we are told in the creation story in Genesis (Chapter 1). That is why things like wealth, sex and alcohol are good and desirable. It is not the material that is evil, but it is the formal element of the sin that is evil. It is the ABUSE of the good thing that makes it evil. And that is why, greed, lust and addiction are evil…

“Because man, through an original abuse of his freedom, is now on a lower level than that for which he was created, he has a tendency to pervert all things, as he once perverted and disordered himself.” (Venerable Fulton Sheen).

And it is because of this perversion that such a lockdown – for the common good – has become isolating…

Scott Hahn in his book, “The Lamb’s Supper”, reiterates this idea when he says, “We want the blessing of the covenant, and not the curse. The more we are prepared for Mass, the more grace we will take away from the Mass. And remember: the grace available in the Mass is infinite—it’s all the grace of heaven. The only limit is our capacity to receive it.”

And we are only limited by ourselves. For if we chose to make an offering of all our experiences for love of the Father, then we can LIVE in God and He in us…

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux reminds us that Our Blessed Mother can help us too because “Mary is the happy ark, in which those who take refuge will never suffer the shipwreck of eternal perdition.”

During the Second World War, a German seminarian, named Gereon Goldmann, was forced to become a member of the SS. While under Nazi domination, Gereon was secretly ordained as a priest. Eventually he was caught, captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp. There, he continued to offer Mass despite additional punishment by his Nazi captors. Most of the Christians in the camp were initially too afraid to celebrate Mass because of the additional punishments inflicted for doing so. But eventually, hundreds of prisoners (and some repentant Nazis) came to celebrate the Mass in the camp as celebrated by Father Gereon each day.

For this young priest knew to follow the advice of Saint John Vianney, who said, “God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”

And so, it is with great remorse for all my failings, that I dare to pray…

For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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