Dear Friends,

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read and reread the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: the Sermon on the Mount. I’m sure that parts of that important text are very familiar to you as well. But in the last two weeks, it feels like I’m reading the Sermon on the Mount with new eyes, as passages that I once brushed by suddenly take on a new meaning. For example:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink. … Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? … Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:25-34).

These days of pandemic and quarantine, social distancing and disconnection from the sacramental life of the Church, certainly test us in many ways. Perhaps most difficult is the way that this situation tests our hope in God and His Providence. For the first time in my life, I honestly don’t know what to expect to happen tomorrow, and feeling like this can easily lead to worry, anxiety, stress, and a host of questions, doubts and fears. I think you understand what I’m talking about. But these worries, though real, are by no means the last word. As Catholic Christians, as members and friends of Courage and EnCourage, we have an answer.

Courage and EnCourage members know from experience what it feels like to be disconnected, marginalized, alone; how easy it can be to doubt God’s plan and even His goodness. We know from experience, though, where to find our hope and our peace, by entrusting ourselves completely to the Lord, who has given Himself completely to us. We commit ourselves in every chapter meeting “to dedicate our entire lives to Christ” (Goal 2 of Courage, and Goal 1 of EnCourage), and although we are not able to receive Him sacramentally in these days, the life of prayer and dedication we have been striving to build will sustain us. We will continue to find our consolation in the Lord and not in the pleasures of the world. We will continue to foster chaste friendships and close ties with our family members and loved ones. And we will continue to live in such a way that we give witness and testimony to others of the fulfillment and strength we have found in our union with Almighty God and His plan for us.

In the last few weeks, I have heard from many of you how you are looking out for one another. You have been very creative in using social media, videoconferencing, telephone and other ways to stay connected and even hold regular Courage and EnCourage meetings. I see the posts that you share online asking for prayer intentions, watching live-streamed Masses and devotions, and joining in prayer with the Holy Father and the Church throughout the world. I am so very proud of the way that you are responding to this unprecedented situation, and so deeply grateful for the bonds of affection, support and charity that we share as members of one Courage and EnCourage family.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). These words of the Lord Jesus, which St. Luke recalls in his telling of the Sermon on the Mount, ought to be always in our minds and hearts, and often on our lips, in these trying times. Our heavenly Father knows our needs before we ask Him, and He will never abandon us. Continue to support and pray for one another, and know that I remember you and your loved ones in my prayers and when I offer Holy Mass. I look forward to the day that we can be connected to one another in person again, and give thanks to God for seeing us through this crisis.
May Our Lady, Health of the Sick, be with you and your loved ones, and place all of your needs in the Sacred Heart of her beloved Son.

Father Philip Bochanski