ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER
It is ironic that many priests are introverts. Priesthood is a vocation that requires constant contact with people, and very often people who are experiencing intense and emotional moments in their lives. We accompany parishioners in their experience of births, deaths, marriages, divorces, moments of suffering illness or injury, as well as moments of celebrating recovery. For a person like me, shy and with uncertain social skills, the role does not always seem to be a good fit. Perhaps we introverts are drawn to the priesthood through our interior lives, our spirituality, rather than through our social interactions.
Nevertheless, even for this loner, the pandemic has made me more aware of how I need people. I have been at St. William parish for 12 ½ years, longer than any other assignment, and as a result I have grown closer to many of you than I have ever done in previous parishes. Throughout the pandemic, I have missed the handshakes, the hugs, the meals together, the inside jokes. I miss seeing people whose frail health have kept them from church for almost a year now. I miss the sea of familiar faces, almost always sitting in the same pews every week so that I even know where to look to find them. The Covid pandemic has taught me greater appreciation for the people in my life, and that even for a loner like me, it is not good for the spirit to be alone too, too much.
And yet, at the same time, social distancing is a sign of care, not of unconcern. We make the sacrifice of distance, if not outright separation, to honor and protect one another. Even during these lonely days, may we savor the gift of love in our lives, the capacity to give love as well as to receive it. May we hold our loved ones close in our hearts, even if we cannot hold them close in our arms. May we learn not to take each other for granted. As Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of his apostles, may the goodness, loveliness and holiness of family and friends shine all the more brightly before our eyes. May absence make our hearts grow fonder, and may a growth in our mutual appreciation be the grace that glows triumphantly even in the darkness of these uncertain times. God bless you all.