Published on March 28, 2020

Pastoral Letter

Bishop Dermot Farrell
Diocese of Ossory

Apart But Not Alone: Hope and Strength in a Time of Crisis and Fear

“How will people know that you are my disciples? By your love for one another.” (John 13:35)
and weakest in our communities, their plight has not lessened in these troubling days. We remember our neighbours for whomsimple gestures might now matter, remember those who live alone and who might at this time rejoice in a phone call, rememberthose afraid who might need reassurance, and remember those around us who might need reminding.Prayer is Hope in ActionLove is the life of the Church. The Church lives to the extent that we love. Love is the life of the Church, and prayer is thelifeblood of that life. As we pray, we express not only our need, but also our care. To pray for someone is to love someone. To prayfor our child, a parent, a neighbour, a friend is to express our love for that person. To pray is to love. When we pray together—ascouples, as families, as communities—our individual voices come together, and unite us as one, to call on God. But our prayer isnot only our prayer; our prayer is also our response to God’s promptings, to our trust in his hope, our faith in the Lord’s abidingpresence. Life teaches us how we depend on each other; our faith shows us how we depend on God. Pope Francis reminds usof the true power of our prayer: “prayer always changes reality…: it either changes things or changes our hearts, but it alwayschanges” (Papal Audience, 9th Jan 2019).My sisters and brothers, let us all pray anew in these difficult and frightening times. Real prayer comes from the heart; realprayer comes from real life. So let us pray as we can. Pray in your own words, pray in the words of others, pray in the wordsof the Mass, pray in silence. As our country and our world is convulsed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that our livesspill over into others, for better or for worse, and we remain, in these times, united by prayer. So often when we gather to praytogether we do so for a specific purpose, intention, occasion or anniversary. In these extraordinary times, when we cannotgather as a faith community to celebrate the Eucharist, our Diocesan Adult Faith Development Group have arranged that we cancontinue this basic togetherness of our Christian prayer life. I invite you, then, to email or text 085-8313100any prayer intention that you may have in these days. These, then, will be remembered when we come together to celebrateMass on the radio each Sunday morning. A real coming together of our prayer. We pray because we place our deepest hope ina goodness and in a power that transcends our own capabilities. Prayer is hope in action.Faith the Wellspring of HopeThe Bible is filled with stories of how women and men found in God a wellspring of hope. Their trust in God and theirconfidence in him—in other words their faith—became their wellspring of hope. Out of this hope they were able to transformthe present. “Faith draws the future into the present” (Spe salvi, 7) so that our future is not just something down the line. As
the light before the dawn permits us to see, so our faith and its hope permit us to live in new ways. The news about this fast-moving virus is frightening and depressing. In this hour of great need, the real hope our faith gives us, calls us to a new sense
of ourselves—to see ourselves as a community sharing hope out of which we live. This may seem farfetched, but that is exactlywhat we are called to be: people of hope. “We need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these arenot enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompassesthe whole of reality and who can bestow on us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain” (Spe salvi, 31). Our God is a God of hope(see Rom 15:13). Trusting in God calls us to action. Hope gives us the strength to overcome selfishness and indifference. Indeedhope that does not matter to one personally is not true hope. True hope always calls attention not only to life after death, butalso to what is essential to life on earth.The Lights and Light of HopeIn these dark days, I have been helped by an image used by Pope Benedict XVI: he writes that that life is a journey “a voyage onthe sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route.” (Spe salvi, 49). In thenight, it was the stars that guided the seafarer. “Certainly,” the Pope continues, “Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that hasrisen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and soguide us along our way.” (Spe salvi, 49). Let each of us, then, live for the other now, let us be a star, let Christ’s gentle light shinethrough each of us; let us open the door of our world to God: volunteer, reach out, pray for each other and care. Let us showeach other, that though we may be apart, we are not alone: “your love for one another will show to the world that you are mydisciples” (John 13:35).We are stronger when we are together, and though apart in these days, we are with each other now in a new way. May Christ,the one who lived most for the other, support us in that task. Let us pray with St Augustine,Watch, O Lord, with those who wake this night
or watch, or weep;give your angels and saintscharge over those who sleep.Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ,rest your weary ones,bless your dying ones,soothe your suffering ones,pity your afflicted onesshield your joyous ones.And all for your love’s sake. Amen