The Flame: January-February 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons, but
as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days
are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
By the reports available as I write this article, vaccines for the
coronavirus should be available in the early part of this year.
The hope is that a vaccine will bring a greater sense of normalcy
to the world. And that will be none too soon.
The surge in
coronavirus cases has forced us to again be very mindful of
wearing masks, keeping socially distant and washing our hands.
The surge changed the way many people celebrated
Thanksgiving and Christmas. People long for the freer
interaction with family and friends again.
The human tendency during this pandemic is to become
anxious, impatient and complain.
St. Paul wrote to those in
Ephesus during days he said were “evil” and exhorted them to
wisely make “the most of the opportunity.” Opportunity?
Where did St. Paul see opportunity? We know that there was a
persecution of Christians in Ephesus (see Acts 19). Perhaps the
opportunity was simply boldly living the faith amid those kinds
of trials. I do believe we need to see the opportunities during
our own evil days. What are the opportunities that we can
seize upon during these final months (we pray) of this
Two things happened to me when the pandemic hit in late
winter of 2020.
First, I became a bit more anxious. I found myself
sifting through a variety of financial advisements, human
resource regulations and safety protocols issued by the Diocese
of Cleveland. On the flip side, I also found that I had some
additional time to pray. And so I did pray and even added some
study time to the schedule. Though this was not a perfect cure
for anxiety, connecting more deeply with the Lord certainly
helped me grow in peace. I also found myself getting to bed
earlier. This too was a healthy thing. I have been able to maintain
some of these practices even as some parts of our society
moved toward a sense of normalcy.
I also found new opportunities to appreciate nature.
a twenty minute Rosary walk after my morning prayer time.
On most days I would walk through my parish cemetery for 20
minutes praying the Rosary. I was able to see the budding forth
of spring, the maturation of summer and the slow dormancy
of fall in the trees and flowers of our parish property. I listened
to the birds chirping and the rooster crowing across the street
announcing the rising day. I watched the shifting of sunrise and
sunset through the seasons. As Louis Armstrong so beautifully
sang, What a Wonderful World.
I have also tried to grow in my appreciation of other people.
There were many of my employees at the parish who worked
through the pandemic. Teachers had to learn to run a virtual
classroom in a matter of days and now (as of the time of this
writing) face the threat of coronavirus on a daily basis by
teaching in a live format. (Thank God no one on our school
staff has yet to catch covid-19.) My parish secretary and
maintenance team have soldiered on, serving God’s people with
I have also explored new ways to proclaim the gospel.
run a number of livestream bible studies. Our parish mission
was both live and livestreamed. (Deacon Poyo was a great
blessing to St. Peter Parish!) Many parish meetings have been
conducted through the Zoom online meeting platform.
Which brings me to this final point.
The General Service
Committee and I have longed to find ways to minister amid
this pandemic. Though our conference was cancelled, we were
able to host six outdoor Festival of Praise events this summer
and early fall. However, with the weather as it is in northern
Ohio during winter months, outdoor ministry events are pretty
much out of the picture.
Beginning in January of 2021 I will be hosting a program
through the Zoom format called The Faithful Discipleship
This will be a 75 minute online meeting twice a month
with the goal of deepen our walk with Jesus Christ in the power
of the Holy Spirit. I have broken down the topics into four
meeting modules. The first of these modules, entitled Discipleship: The Mandate and Models
, will focus on the basics
of discipleship. Future modules will include: Internal Liberty,
The Fruit of the Holy Spirit, Spiritual Gifts, and Movements and
Each session will begin with a time of praise and worship.
I have been a part of these Zoom worship sessions and they
can “work” if everyone follows the same rules. After the praise
time, there will be a teaching on the topic of the evening. This
will be followed by a time of discussion in small groups. (Zoom
allows “breakout rooms” within a larger meeting.) Each session
will then conclude with some announcements to the large group
and a time of closing prayer.
We will meet twice a month (the second and fourth
Wednesday) at 7:00 PM beginning January 13th. You will need
a computer with video and audio capabilities.
Some of the
logistics will be worked out at our first meeting. If you are
interested in being part of Faithful Discipleship series, please
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will send you login
instructions and the link, and we will begin this adventure.
In the Book of Esther we hear the often quoted words of
Mordecai to Queen Esther, Who knows but that it was for a
time like this…?
(Esther 4:14b) Perhaps it is only through a
pandemic that we could learn certain things: about ourselves,
God, others, our world and how to minister to others in new
ways. Please join me in The Faithful Discipleship Series. We want
to be more “for the Lord” at the end of this pandemic than
when we began it.
Fr. Bob Franco