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The answers God sent us in 2020, and what to await in 2021


Robert Harding

Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP - published on 01/01/21

If we think and pray over the past year, we will surely see extraordinary abundance.

I sympathize deeply with the New York Post cover depicting Baby New Year 2021 giving Old 2020 the heave ho. Like many others, I’m happy to put this year to bed. I’m eagerly looking forward to an end to the Coronavirus pandemic. I have many other hopes, which I dare not even confess here, feeling that to do so may jinx or betray them…

But 2020 was not all loss. I look back at my own life this past year and I see many places where I glimpsed God and his saving love at work. With a moment of prayer and honest reflection, the graces and goodnesses quickly add up.

Dear friends gave birth and I joined them for the baptism of their children. I witnessed several pandemic weddingswhat an especial joy they were! The Godsplaining podcast I host with a few of my Dominican confreres has really started to flourish. The day to day of my priestly ministry has carried on. Even during this spring’s strict lockdown the parish where I served continued its confessional and educational ministries. 

When I actually start thinking and praying over the past year, I can see an extraordinary abundance of generosities from the Lord. 

What blinds us from seeing those graces, those gifts of God? I think the darkest temptations come when we try to find things other than God to save us. The triumphs of science, the possibilities of peaceful and humane politics…these willplease Godease our present suffering. They will not, however, satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.


Read more:
How to do a Yearly Examen for spiritual clarity in the New Year

Some years back Pope John Paul II wrote, “No one can escape from the fundamental questions: What must I do? How do I distinguish good from evil?” The point of the pope’s teaching is to show us that there’s no stopping facing the deepest things. Part of the reason the pandemic has been so difficult for so many is that the salves, the distractions which we use to ease and bear life’s sufferings, were taken away. Left at home, to our own devices, we had to confront the most difficult, most urgent questions.

In one way or another, in 2020 we had to redefine ourselves. 

We asked: Will I be a person of charity? How much do I think I can give? Who is in need? 

We asked: What are my goals at work? How can I accomplish and advance my career? Or even the much simpler: Can I figure out how to do my job with all these restrictions and health concerns?

We asked: How can I pray? If I can’t go to Mass where do I seek the Lord? Where is God in all this?

We asked: How do I talk about this? Can my friendships bear disagreements on politics? Can I stomach if someone makes a different decision for their health and wellbeing than I do?

We asked: How do I bear the pain? How do I mourn?

And all the while, the Lord sent us many answers. 

And all the while, the Lord sent us many answers. 

He sent us priests who bravely figured out ways to nourish and sustain their people.

He sent us physicians, and nurses, and countless others, who worked to serve their communities.

He sent the Holy Father, who, iconically stood alone in St. Peter’s Square, extending to the world his apostolic blessing, telling us to look for Christ in the storm.

He sent us passionate evangelists, opening again his Sacred Word, helping us to know and love Him.

He sent renewal in many Catholic schools, as instruction was re-imagined and doors were re-opened.

He sent us the recognition of new saints and blesseds, including America’s own Fr. Michael J. McGivney.

He sent us, through Pope Francis, the graces of a year dedicated to St. Joseph.

For his own reasons, he did not end our suffering in 2020. The question why he did not plagued me for quite some time. And yet darkness has not covered the earth. His light has shone through. He offered so many graces and blessings.

My prayer is not that 2021 be different. To be honest, in some ways I expect it to be even more difficult. I pray that the Lord will continue to pour forth his mercy and his love. And I pray that I may not miss a single instance of it.

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