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Facing Our Current Challenges: A Spiritual Reflection

05/11/2020 

In this Chaplains’ Essay, Fr. Joseph Johnson, Minnesota Area, provides us with an insightful way to face our current challenges during COVID-19.

Transitions and Trust

Change is always difficult. Right now, we are individually feeling pain from the disruption of our home and work lives by the current health crisis. As members of the Church, we are feeling the pain of not being able to celebrate public Masses, as well as a certain level of isolation from our family of faith. As an Order, we have yet another painful transition to face–on top of everything else–with the death of our Grand Master, Frà Giacomo. 

I enjoyed meeting Frà Giacomo several years ago in Lourdes. He spoke to a meeting of Chaplains and seemed to have a great spiritual perspective amidst what was a very painful transition in leadership at that moment. Not enough time has yet passed for those wounds to heal, and we are already facing the challenge of finding new leadership. It could easily become discouraging.

How does the Order even start the selection process of a new Grand Master when we can’t travel or gather? It is frustrating to be “in limbo” with the universal pause that this pandemic has brought about. Perhaps we can escape the temptation to discouragement as individuals and as an Order if we consider that a pause is often a very healthy spiritual exercise!

Our society is usually such a whirlwind of activity that we are continually exhausted and disoriented—living hand to mouth from one event to the next, often on auto-pilot. We need to discover the calm in the midst of the storm. We don’t know what will happen in terms of health, economy, parish life, or the future leadership of the Order. What we do know is that we are in God’s loving care!

It is always an exercise in hubris to think that we are in control. We get overwhelmed and anxious as things are so obviously not under our control. Instead, all we need to do is seek the Lord. For our personal situations, our parishes and nation, and for our Order, we need to have confidence in God’s Providence. We don’t face a single one of life’s challenges alone!

This Easter season leading to Pentecost is the perfect moment for us to pause and be open to how the Lord wants to work through the painful transitions we face at every level of society. Be open to the Holy Spirit! God’s plan is far better than anything you or I could ever design for ourselves. And God never lets evil have the last word—where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more! Even in the most painful situations, the grace of God is not lacking and there are often beautiful and unsuspected fruits.

As for the Order, in 900 years we have seen a lot of ups and downs. If we remain faithful to the charism given by God to Blessed Gerard, then we have nothing to fear. Let’s stay focused on serving the sick and poor and defending our Faith! If we commit to doing His work, the Lord guides our stumbling efforts and blesses them. The Holy Spirit is more than capable of handling everything going on around us. This isn’t the first plague or crisis that the Order has seen, nor is it likely to be the last.  Our predecessors were like us in terms of human frailty, but they accomplished great works because they relied more on God’s power than on themselves. We are still here because we still have a mission. Let’s especially pray for the sick and for our healthcare workers and first responders during this crisis. We can be the much-needed spiritual light in the darkness of this crisis if we don’t let our own flame of faith waver.

Order of Malta, American Association, U.S.A.

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