By Renae Kranz
Many of us feel fear and uncertainty in our hearts.
It’s hard to tamp it down much of the time, and ignoring it isn’t a long-term solution. When we let fear fester and gain a foothold, it can drown out the voice of the Lord in our lives. And a life full of fear, anxiety and worry is no way to live.
God offers us a different way, a better way—the life of hope.
If we embrace this gift, we can use this time to appreciate the slowness, the family time, the time for prayer. We can find Him in the silence and let Him comfort our racing thoughts.
We can let Him transform our fear into His hope.
Our hope is in the Lord
The evil one can use fear to lead us into despair. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially during times of great trial. So how do we overcome fear and find our way to hope? We find hope through the free gift of faith.
Faith has a connotation of trust and loyalty. If we trust God, we can have faith that he has our best interest at heart because he loves us. As we get to know him and know he loves us, we learn to trust him.
God doesn’t want us to fear. Instead, he calls us out of our fear and to himself. This is where we find peace.
During confirmation, we received the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. One of those gifts, fortitude or courage, can be particularly helpful during times when we face the unknown and perhaps even feel afraid. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) describes fortitude this way:
“Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions.”
Since we know we have been saved by the cross of Christ, we can use our faith and our courage to fight against fear and anxiety. We know we belong to him and believe in life with him after death. That is where our hope lives—in the promise of his presence with us now and the promise of eternal life.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical “On Christian Hope” that “the one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.” He goes on to describe why Christians have hope.
“Here too we see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness.”
He says our faith is the substance of our hope. We put our trust in God’s will for our lives and know that all things are for our good in His time. If we then continue to learn about our Lord by spending time learning about our faith and trusting Him, fear fades away and is replaced by hope.
Everyone has different ways of learning about our faith and sharing it with others. Over the past weeks, I’ve received many stories from around the diocese of individuals, families, schools and parishes finding new ways to come together and grow their faith. You’ll find some of those stories here and more in later pages of this issue.
They’re leaving their fears and anxieties at the foot of the cross and embracing the hope we have in the salvation given to us by Christ. I hope their stories can inspire you to seek his hope and love in every difficulty you face in life.
Father Mark Lichter
Father Mark Lichter, pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Aberdeen, says Jesus teaches us repeatedly in the Gospels to not be afraid, that love casts out all fear. In Philippians 4:4-7 we read, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and supplication in a spirit of gratitude place your needs before God and the God of all consolation will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
He reminds us to call on the Holy Spirit in our prayer to increase the gifts He gave us at baptism and confirmation (the virtues of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord) so we can combat fear and anxiety when they creep into our minds and hearts.
“Place all of your trust in God and make sure you spend time in prayer each day building your relationship with Christ,” Father Lichter says.
He also says a great way to combat fear is to share your thoughts and concerns with someone else, whether that is a trusted friend, family member or even a parish priest. He has noticed how resilient his parishioners have been through the challenges of the pandemic. They’ve made the best of things and trust that God will get them through this.
For his part, Father Lichter has left his church open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day to offer the opportunity for a now steady stream of people to visit the Blessed Sacrament. He is doing what many priests are doing and jumping into live streaming daily and weekend Masses on Facebook and radio, creating YouTube videos to encourage parishioners, and hosting a live streamed Wednesday night rosary to keep everyone connected.
“They have been very creative in using technology to keep in touch with one another,” Father Lichter said. “I see a great spirit of our families coming together and working this out. I think the quiet and silence has actually strengthened the faith of our people.”
The best advice from Father Lichter is to bring normalcy to your day by keeping a regular schedule as much as you can. Doing things like going to bed at the same time, eating at regular hours, exercising and making prayer a part of your day can go a long way in helping to keep fear at bay.
“I encourage people to take advantage of the time. Count your blessings and enjoy your family. Pray with your family every day,” he says.
The Dingman family
A Sioux Falls family who are members of St. Michael Parish, the Dingman’s have taken advantage of the fact they have a built-in choir in their family with a bass, tenor, alto and soprano all under one roof. And rather than keep their talents all to themselves, they’re sharing their talents on Facebook by creating funny music videos to help brighten the day of anyone who stumbles upon them.
After a friend sent Joanna Dingman a video of a family singing a song about the pandemic and sheltering at home, she was inspired to put something together that the whole family could be part of. Making these videos and singing together has been a great gift for the family during this time.
“Music therapy is a thing,” says Tim Dingman. “It helps anyone, but when you get four family members who love to sing and play together, it creates a huge family therapy session.”
The social distancing hasn’t been a problem for the family, but they miss church and school. The first week was a struggle, but by the second week, they had found a rhythm. Tim is teaching from home while Joanna still has to leave the house for her work as a sign language interpreter.
Their two older children, Ethan (freshman at SDSU) and Abby (junior at O’Gorman), are mostly self-sufficient. Their youngest, David, who has autism and developmental delays, poses a bigger challenge to the new realities of life. Tim and Joanna juggle his education at home now along with their own jobs. It’s a reality many families face.
The Dingman family has actively decided not to give in to fear and anxiety. They take everything one day at a time, remember who is in charge, and find little blessings specifically in raising a child with autism.
“He forces us to step away from the world while ‘letting go and letting God’ in so many of life’s situations,” says Tim.
The kids have enjoyed the extra time with their parents and each other. But it’s been the Dingman family’s faith that has really made the difference. Even without public Mass, they enjoy attending TV Mass as a family and know God is the reason they will be okay.
“A nice thing about being quarantined is that your faith can still stay alive, since we can all have a personal relationship with our Lord anytime, anywhere and anyplace,” says Tim.
The Mengwasser family
Cammie Mengwasser, husband Jason, and son Leo, parishioners at Immaculate Conception Parish in Watertown, have found juggling school and work at home challenging, especially since Jason works the night shift most often. They’ve given themselves lots of room for grace when it comes to their schedules. That allowance for grace has helped them cope and find unconventional ways to make things work.
“Having a schedule is important, but when Jason is working nights, and I still have to work through the day, it is almost impossible for us to teach Leo on a set schedule each day,” Cammie says. “Being in first grade, he requires help on most things in order to stay on task. Sometimes we resort to [doing school] in between my conference calls, in the evenings, and even catching up on weekends.”
Cammie says it seems easy enough to set your child up with the computer and let them go, but that just isn’t the case with a 7-year-old boy. The first week he was playing with the dog, getting a snack, and even dancing in the living room instead of school work. She said he spun the dancing as both PE and music class even though he was supposed to be working on math at the time.
Since one parent teaches him one week and the other the next depending on their work schedules, they got organized fast so they would both be able to catch up on where things were each Monday. Getting organized, flexible scheduling and even some creative learning have worked pretty well so far.
“Some days, especially when I’m anxious or frustrated, Leo can feel it. The last thing I want is for him to be anxious, too,” Cammie says. “Those days we learn in our own way. Maybe he can’t sit down and focus on his handwriting worksheets that have been assigned, but maybe he will sit down to write a letter to his grandparents who live in Missouri. Maybe he isn’t focusing on math, but he is happy to help me measure the dry ingredients for dinner or cookies. We’ve had to be adaptable and creative.”
It’s important for Cammie and Jason that Leo knows he is loved and safe. They try to stay active so there is less anxiety and more happiness in their home. They spend more time playing games, reading, watching movies and playing outside than they have in a year. Leo also gets to FaceTime with his friends from Immaculate Conception School, which Cammie says is particularly comical to watch.
“We’re doing our best to give it to God and turn off the news. Some days that is easier than others,” she says. “Although things are uncertain and scary, we have a lot to be thankful for as well. We have a home we love that is safe, enough food to eat, and family to share this time with. Not everyone can say that.”
With that in mind, the Mengwassers have done what they can to help their community by helping to deliver food boxes and sewing masks for medical staff. They see it as a teaching opportunity to show their son it takes an entire community to get through something like this.
“We should always be in the service of others when we are blessed to have all we need,” Cammie says. “We are all in this together, as a family, as a school, as a community. We have faith it will all work out.”
John and Susan Gard, parishioners at Holy Family Parish in Mitchell, have been attending Mass by watching TV Mass on Keloland each Sunday morning. It’s definitely not the same, but John says they appreciate the time and effort that goes into making that Mass available to so many during a time when options are limited.
Over the weeks of the pandemic, John realized they needed to get their weekly financial contribution to the church. He and Susan knew the parish’s expenses didn’t stop just because Mass wasn’t currently available, and they needed to make sure they did their part to keep the parish they loved going.
John and Susan mailed their normal monthly contributions for the weeks they had missed and included their committed contribution to the capital campaign.
“We believe that when we don’t attend Sunday Mass we still need to be willing to honor our ongoing financial commitments to our local parish, to the best of our ability,” John says. “And what better time to be reminded of this than during Lent when we are encouraged to commit to prayer, fasting and almsgiving?”
The couple has also focused on keeping their prayer life strong. They use tools like “The Word Among Us” and devote time each day to prayer and meditation. They also spend time outside doing things they love. These important pieces to their daily puzzle help them fight off fear and increase hope.
The Kramer family
Rachael Kramer feels thankful and blessed in many of the same ways as the Mengwasser family. Both she and her husband, parishioners at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, are now working at home and balancing that with caring for a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. The blessings of getting to be home with her husband and children will only expand when their family expands in June when their new baby is expected to arrive.
Rachael is purposely using her faith to get through the pandemic and all its disruptions on life. She began a new routine for Lent of spending time every morning reading the daily Mass readings, the meditation of the day and the saint sections of “Magnificat.”
“With our current circumstances, I have now found this element of my day the most crucial part to starting my day with a peaceful mindset. If I miss that component, my whole day seems off and full of anxiety,” Rachael says.
For her, the fear and anxiety have been real and prevalent. Finances, job security and bringing a new baby into the world in a couple months weigh heavily on her mind. She says she finds herself drawing closer to God and her husband for support.
“Trials do two things: they either push you away or draw you close. I can tell that not only is my relationship with my husband stronger, but also I’ve had to lean on my trust in God more and more,” Rachael says. “I find myself praying ‘Jesus, I Trust in you’ about every day. And by God’s grace, I have been filled with a great sense of calm.”
The rosary has been an additional source of strength for Rachael, allowing her to “rest in the arms of Our Lady and offer up my petitions.”
“The phrase I’ve adopted this year has been the fiat ‘God’s holy will be done.’ Above all things, if we continually strive to say yes to God, what can go wrong?”
Can we trust in God?
Our faith is held in our hearts as is our trust in the Lord. Faith and trust lead to hope. If you aren’t sure if you fully trust him yet, try this prayer from Mark 9:23-25: “I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.”
That is sometimes the best we can do. And then turn it all over to Jesus.
“The big thing for us to do is to pray the name of Jesus to save us from the ravages of this virus,” Father Lichter says. “The name Jesus means ‘God saves’ and God will prevail, and God does have his hands on each of us. Pray for an end to this pandemic, and we also ask the Mother of God, Mary the patroness of the Americas, to intercede for us.”