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Moving Past Despair and Towards Hope

“Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.”

-Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

One could easily agree that 2020, and even the beginning of 2021, has been “Good Friday” for many Catholics. As the sun begins to shine once more, we look hopefully to the future for our Easter Sunday.

You may not feel hopeful right now. In fact you may look towards the future and see a continued Good Friday and feel overcome by despair. I personally find it impossible to look at the news or scroll through social media anymore without feeling angry and lost.

Catholics, more than ever, need joy. We need news that uplifts our hearts and fills our soul with hope. Of course, we also need truth; we cannot afford to put our heads in the sand and ignore the problems of the world around us. The challenge for Catholics living in a secular world is to find the middle ground between becoming “ignorant” and “obsessed,” and to resist succumbing to negativity and doom.

The pandemic may have brought out the Good Friday in many of our lives, but the only way we can move forward to Easter Sunday again is through embracing joy. Was this past year hard?

Absolutely. But saints are made in these sufferings, and we are all called to be saints.

I recently had a conversation with a Sister of Life who, when the conversation turned towards COVID, said “I have to stop being so negative about COVID.” It’s a simple statement, but it stuck with me. It’s time for us to move forward and look back on this past year with hearts filled with gratitude, not bitterness.

When I look at Easter Sunday of 2020, compared to the Easter Sunday I experienced in 2021, I can already feel this attitude change. Last Easter, I was at home making sugar cookie bars and tea for my mom, who was traveling to visit her father after a family emergency. This year, I spent the Triduum attending the Mass in the Extraordinary Form in person at a local parish. The difference in circumstances and festivity between these two years has been stark.

This Easter, when the vigil mass had ended, I walked out of the church with my friends at 3 in the morning as we all yelled “Happy Easter” and celebrated walking back to our dorms. It was truly a joyous occasion, and one drastically different from the one many of us experienced last year. After the Triduum, the parish held a weekly Sunday Mass in the Extraordinary Form, attended by many college students. These are small examples of the ways Catholic youth are rising up to the challenge and working hard for their Easter Sunday.

This semester, I was able to attend classes in person after almost 9 months on Zoom. During the pandemic, I started a podcast with my best friend. Back home, my mother inspires me by attending a daily Rosary at our local parish with a group of women that started as a way to pray for the opening of the churches and now continues before daily mass as a form of prayer and community.

Catholics everywhere are rising up and reclaiming the Church, ready to fight for what they know to be true. There is a reason to have hope even when the media, Twitter, and all of society screams at you to lose it. You may still be fighting through your Good Friday. Perhaps this is simply the beginning of this fight for us all. But as I look back on this past year and forward towards the next, I know in my soul that we will have our Easter Sunday and our Church will triumph.

Finding joy in a secular world is not an easy task. The things society tells us will make us happy never do, and although we may know that such momentary pleasures are fleeting, it is hard to fight the world everyday. Still, true happiness can only be found through suffering and the carrying of the cross. But the good news is we never have to carry our cross alone. Our Lord is behind us, constantly helping us pick up our crosses and move forward towards true joy.

When I struggle to find joy during dark times, I look towards Our Lady, a woman who suffered immense pain through the death of her Son, and yet she exhibited such joy. She is our loving mother who smiles down upon us from Heaven. When joy is hard to find, look up towards her smiling face. I promise you will find hope in her motherly embrace.

Through Jesus and Mary, we will have our Easter Sunday.

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