Hope in the Lord — Saturday morning and the pandemic

Archbishop Kurtz and his brother, George

Back in 1989 right after our mother died, my brother George, who was five years older and born with Down syndrome, came to join me in rectory life at Saint Mary Church in Catasauqua, Pa. I could write books about the delightful experiences that God provided me through my dear brother.

During this slower pace that the pandemic has brought about and somewhat forced upon us, I remembered an episode with my brother. This experience happened more than once and always on Saturday mornings in the rectory. Saturday was the day in which no rectory staff was present, but in my mind at least, lots of little things needed to be done to get ready for Sunday Mass.

I can recall waking my brother up. Without him even having the benefit of a sip of coffee, I would begin reciting the laundry list of things that he and I needed to get done this morning if we were to use Saturday well. After I paused in the long litany of things that George had to do, he simply and disarmingly turned to me and said, “Good morning!” His rather humanizing greeting caught me up short. The list vanished from my mind, and I had the occasion to be able to receive and return a greeting that acknowledged the person I loved and the dignity and privilege of the relationship that I was enjoying.

The slowdown of the pandemic has given us the grace to pause and to appreciate. Recently I read an essay by Father Matt Malone, editor of America Magazine, interestingly entitled “It’s morning!” He describes having a chance to watch a 1952 musical “Singin’ in the Rain,” which was deeply loved by his now-deceased mother. His calm viewing flooded his mind and heart with great memories. He wrote of the joy that filled him and related it to the Easter joy that surely should be a yearlong occupation for followers of the risen Lord Jesus, who told us that His joy will be ours.

My brother George died in January 2002, but his memory lives on and perhaps most especially during this slow-down imposed on us by a global virus. It may be too early to count the silver linings of the hardship that we are enduring. However, as we have returned to the central action of our Catholic faith, the Holy Eucharist — albeit with social distancing and renewed hygiene — we can begin to look for this silver lining. It is not too early to thank God for every Saturday morning — for the reminder that comes to me through the familiar voice of my dear brother, who never failed to disarm me and call me back to my senses with his calm and sincere greeting: “Good morning!”

Thank God for another day to give thanks to the Lord. Alleluia!

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