Column by Jonathan Nagy
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16
Finding oneself in darkness can be very unsettling. Feelings of fear, loneliness, despair, doubt, and uncertainty enter the mind quickly and can be overwhelming. Those feelings can consume anyone who allows them to enter their thoughts. However, even the smallest glimmer of light in the darkness brings us comfort, hope, peace, and assuredness.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that over the past month, feelings of darkness have been, at times, overwhelming, especially in the early days of the situation that we have endured. All of the feelings I described above consumed many people and were greatly affecting even the way that I, an eternal optimist, viewed the world. Life had been turned upside down. I was no longer physically teaching in my classroom, I could not go to the stores and restaurants that I liked, and, most importantly, I could not be present at a Mass and provide music for the Liturgy.
I will never forget the devastation that I felt when I received a phone call from Father John Byrnes saying that public Masses were being suspended for the time being. Mass is a central part of not only my life but most of the people that I associate with in my life. This was extremely hard news to take, but less than ten minutes later, I received another phone call that provided some light in the darkness. Tony DeGol, Director of Communications for the Diocese, called and said that Bishop Mark wanted to record Masses to air on television and the internet. Tony asked if I would be willing to play and if my friend, Monica Hogue, would be willing to sing. We both immediately were willing and able. God provided us with talents, and we were grateful to still be able to use those talents to help others. I also considered it quite a privilege to be able to celebrate Mass during this time.
I must admit that during the first filming, I was a little unnerved. For anyone who has read the book ”1984”, the scene felt ripped right out of the pages. Here we were, in a studio, very few people around, broadcasting a message to thousands. I was nervous and sad at the same time, but then another thought entered my mind. What we were doing was sending out a message of hope, a little bit of light in the darkness. Our work was helping people stay close to God and in many cases, actually drawing closer to Him. Feelings of joy and pride began to overtake my feelings of nervousness and sadness. Not only were we celebrating Mass with our own congregation, but thousands more. The Mass is the Universal Prayer of the Church, and I began to feel that!
That Mass was only the first light from a growing brightness. I began to see all over the internet, priests, deacons, and other Church officials innovating ways to reach the people in their own homes. I celebrated Mass and watched reflections from many different priests from around our diocese who provided great messages. In one week, I participated in Masses, Adorations, and other services from my living room via the internet with great priests such as Father Brian Warchola, Father Jeremiah Lange, Father Matthew Baum, Father John Byrnes, and Bishop Mark Bartchak. Many more priests were sending out positive messages to everyone with a willing ear. I began to see more light coming in from several different directions, bringing with it the promise from God that we will be okay, and that our faith and hope will carry us through the darkness! Thank you to all who have been continuing to minister to the flock!
I also began seeing more light in the new and temporary way of teaching that all of our Catholic schools are doing. My colleagues and I have been sharing ideas and resources. The students, not surprisingly at all, have stepped up to take on this new challenge and have been completing their work and doing a phenomenal job with it. I could not be prouder of what they have been able to do and how they have adjusted. Communication through email and other technology has been a Godsend in all of this. Everyone is sharing their positivity and helping each other in any way that they can. There are many lessons to be learned from all of this, and even though there is sadness in loss, there will be blessings and good to come.
I have mentioned this in a previous article, but the refrain to the song “Blessings” by Laura Story is particularly poignant at this time. She sings, “ ‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through
tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?” People are being drawn closer to their families. Families are realizing what is most important. People all around the world are seeing that we need each other, and we should work together to build up the Kingdom on Earth.
One of the most powerful images to emerge from all of this was that of Pope Francis raising the Monstrance high above an empty Saint Peter’s Square on a rainy night, asking for God’s blessing upon the earth and all people. Here was an 83-year-old man with one lung and sciatica, walking through the rain and taking our prayers and concerns straight to the Father. This inspirational message from the Pope has been echoed by many around the globe, and our own diocese is no different.
I am proud of the hard work that so many have put in to making sure that our faith not only is maintained but grown during this time period. One more moment of personal growth for me was the Easter Sunday Mass that we recorded at the Prince Gallitzin Chapel House. Father John Byrnes wanted a Mass to send a message out to not only our parish, but everyone. Hearing his message, the music being shared by Monica Hogue and myself, the readings by seminarian Justin Treon and Deacon Rick Golden, and the knowledge that we are united in prayer as a community with Servant of God Demetrius Gallitzin, moved me to tears. Father Gallitzin, and everyone in Heaven, is with us, bringing more light into the darkness than we could have ever imagined.
We continue to celebrate Easter and the Resurrection of our Lord. We rise with Him, ready to meet the new challenges of life with greater zeal and love for our Savior and each other. We are that town built on a hill that Jesus spoke of in the Gospel of Matthew. We are the light that shines before others. We are the ones performing deeds on Earth that glorify our Father in Heaven. We all have a part to play in helping the world endure through change, heal in harmony, and grow in unity. As Jesus said to the women at the tomb, “Do not be afraid.” Let us not be afraid of what lies before us. With the strength of God and the Easter promise of Jesus Christ, we will create so much light in this world that it becomes blinding!
Happy Easter, and blessings to you and your family!
Jonathan Nagy, M.Ed., is the Director of Admissions and Social Studies teacher at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg. He is also the Music Director at the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.