By Ella Marie Kalache
Covid played havoc with everything, including our faith. But we were not overcome
Empty churches. Echoed sounds of silence. The lingering smell of incense. Where are all the people? It wasn’t meant to be like this.
In times of crisis and uncertainty, many people lean on their faith for guidance and consolation, but the COVID-19 pandemic, which over the past two years resulted in physical distancing across the country and the world, made even the most common displays of faith more complicated, challenging so many of us on so many levels.
As an active member of a Maronite Youth Group, the pandemic dramatically changed my life: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. From the beginning of the pandemic, it felt inconceivable to go weeks without attending Mass. Just as bad, interruptions to school attendance truly tested my sense of identity and connection with others.
“Christmas and Easter masses were celebrated at home with the lighting of candles and intricately adorned home altars burning incense.”
My weeks felt incomplete without physically attending Mass. Being an active singer within my church and school choir, it felt like my voice was silenced. By singing I was expressing my faith through my voice – this was how I connected with my God. Having that taken away was distressing.
However, with faith, all things are possible. The church opened its doors through our living rooms with streamed online masses. Christmas and Easter masses were celebrated at home with the lighting of candles and intricately adorned home altars burning incense.
Church pews were decorated with colour printouts of socially distanced parishioners. We forged ahead with the ‘new normal’
How did I proceed when everything seemed so overwhelming? By remembering that Jesus is here in my struggles, as we sing during our Maronite Divine Liturgy, ‘You are alive O Son of God, you are alive O Crucified One.’
By remembering that God is aware of our worries and encourages us to share them with Him because He is concerned about our well-being (1 Peter 5:7).
By remembering to bring our burdens to Him, and He will provide rest (Matthew 11:28-30).
By remembering that by keeping hope alive, He has given us perfect serenity (Philippians 4:6-7) even though. God’s serenity defies logic. My God is concerned about the small things in my life. God knows me by my name, cares profoundly about all of us, and provides the grace needed to overcome life’s obstacles.
God isn’t satisfied with us continuing to exist in a flawed world. That may be the case now, but it is not the case in the future. God promises us that something better awaits us in eternity. A world without disease. A safe and secure environment. We will no longer be overcome by loss and grief. Death will no longer have the upper hand. And the God who created us, for us to know Him, will wipe away our tears.
“He took the punishment for our sins by dying a humiliating death on a cross. Jesus’ resurrection has made it possible for us to establish a relationship with God.”
Suffering, devastation, and heavy burdens are nothing new to God. God intervened in our suffering world to save us. He walked among us through His Son, Jesus, and experienced everything we have gone through.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus declares in John’s Gospel. “There is no other way to the Father than through Me”. He took the punishment for our sins by dying a humiliating death on a cross. Jesus’ resurrection has made it possible for us to establish a relationship with God. Because of Jesus, we have a hope that lasts longer than our brief lives.
My faith in God returned me to a tranquillity that defies explanation. My anxiety and fear were well present during the pandemic. Morning news reports of sickness, death, sadness and instability truly shook us all and forced us to appreciate the most important things in life: faith, family, and health.
However, I found peace amid all the uncertainty, and I have hope for the future because I follow and trust Jesus, and my Maronite Priests and Sisters kept my faith connection alive and strong, both at my school and church. I learnt that the pandemic was merely a test that we would all eventually overcome, and trusting in Jesus gives me hope and peace.
I learnt I can live fearlessly because I have a connection with the Prince of Peace, amid a world characterised by vaccine mandates, lockdowns, remote learning, alienation, masks, and whatever may come next.
I learnt that building on my relationship with God was critical and that needed to be through prayer conversation. I willingly allowed the Holy Spirit to bring God’s answers to my heart.
“My Maronite community and youth group leaders enabled a sustained connection to faith during uncertainty and chaos, patiently and unwaveringly shepherding their flock back home.”
This became my ‘tool kit’ for challenging times; a connection that gives me deeper understanding of God’s plan, and helps me find greater happiness and purpose in my daily activities.
My Maronite community and youth group leaders enabled a sustained connection to faith during uncertainty and chaos, patiently and unwaveringly shepherding their flock back home.
For this, I am grateful.
Ella Marie Kalache is a Year 10 student at Maronite College of the Holy Family, Parramatta, and a member of the Maronite Flames youth group and church choir at Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral.