Hard Times

June 07 2020 | by

DEAR DR. POPCAK: I have been struggling in my faith lately. This past Holy Week and Easter were especially hard. In this holiest time of the year all of the churches in our diocese were closed. People are anxious, depressed, and lonely. We need God more than ever. I understand that it’s important to stop the spread of this virus, and I don’t want to put our priests at risk, but I feel like the very time I need God the most, my Church has taken him away. I feel spiritually abandoned.


We are living through an especially challenging time and you are correct that we need God more than ever. I do understand your pain at being separated from the sacraments. As Catholics, we understand that the sacraments, the Eucharist in particular, are the physical ways Christ continues his ministry in the world today. It is painful to feel separated from the ones we love, especially when we are experiencing hardship.

But remeber that there is “no creature” – including COVID-19 – that can separate us from the love of God. I saw a cartoon recently. It had God and Satan sitting at a table together. Satan said, “Ha! At the holiest time of year, I have closed all your churches.”

God answered, “On the contrary. I have simply opened a new church in every home.”

Although, historically, we haven’t talked about it as much as we should, as Catholics we believe in something called the “Domestic Church.” That phrase refers to the constant invitation we are all given to bring Christ home and make the faith the source of the warmth in our homes. Too often, I have found that we Catholics think of faith as something we do outside of our home. We “go TO church.” We don’t bring Church home – which is exactly what we are called to do.

Neither God nor the Church has abandoned us in this time. Instead, I believe God is asking you to do what we all should have been doing long before the pandemic; namely, to open wide the doors of our homes to Christ.

We can start not just by watching Mass online or on the television, but by actually participating. Saying the prayers, standing, kneeling – all of it – as if we were there. If you haven’t been praying daily with your spouse or children, now is the time to start. And if you have been praying with your family, now is the time to take your family prayer life to the next level, challenging yourselves to make it deeper and more meaningful.

But the spirituality of the domestic church doesn’t stop there. In The Gospel of Life, St John Paul II wrote, The celebration which gives meaning to every other form of prayer and worship is found in the family’s actual daily life together, if it is a life of love and self-giving” (#93). Whatever else might be said about this time, I believe God is giving us the opportunity to be more thoughtful and intentional about loving the people in our household – not with the love that comes naturally to us – but with the love that comes from Christ’s own heart. More than just a nice thing to do, tending to the quality of the relationships in your home is the heart of an authentic domestic church based spirituality. It is the best opportunity most of us have to become more like Christ and grow in his love.

A friend of mine recently emailed to see how my family was dealing with sheltering-in-place. He joked, “I hope you and your wife aren’t fighting too much!” Although he was kidding, as a counselor, I have been talking with a lot of people during this crisis (N.B.: I have a tele-counseling practice) who are fighting more with their spouse and kids. In difficult times, it can be extra-challenging to try to love others with Christ’s love, but now, more than ever, I would suggest that is exactly what we are being called to do. Having received Christ in the Eucharist (even if it has been several weeks since you have been able to do so) it is time to invite the Lord to renew our homes.

Updated on June 07 2020