Several years ago, I purchased a book of quotes and writings by Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA and discovered a meditation she had written for a Holy Week series for the Jackson, Mississippi diocese in March 1990. It was published April 6, 1990, about a week after Thea’s death on March 30, 1990. For those who may not know, Sr. Thea Bowman was an African-American Franciscan nun who died much too early after battling cancer for several years. Her cause for sainthood opened in November 2018 and she has the Church title, Servant of God. Thea was a gifted speaker and advocate for racial equality both within and outside of the Catholic Church. However, that is a story for another blog and I invite you to learn more about the incredible life and times of Sr. Thea Bowman. Today, I simply want to share with you her Holy Week meditation, entitled, “Let Us Resolve to Make This Week Holy.”
Over the years, I sometimes revisit Thea’s meditation during my own journey of Holy Week. During this Holy Week, in the midst of a global pandemic—her words from 30 years ago are still rich with meaning and truth. These are unprecedented times and we are in the midst of an unprecedented Holy Week. The global community is traveling the Lenten journey together in the midst of a pandemic that brings “social distancing” and isolation. This distancing also comes at a time when we would normally draw closer together to remember and celebrate the central truth of our Christian faith—our salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I meditate with Thea’s reflection during this exceptional Holy Week, I find her words still ring with relevance and hope—especially in times such as these.
In her reflection, Thea wrote, “Let us unite our sufferings, inconveniences and annoyances with the sufferings of Jesus… and stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones to unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work. Let us be practical reaching out across the boundaries of race, class and status to help somebody.” As I read these words, I thought of the countless suffering we hear in the news or from our friends, family or co-workers. However, we also hear stories of the selfless giving of healthcare providers, workers from all stations in life, friends and even strangers. If we look, we see countless selfless acts that people are doing all around us to help another.
An important and consistent message that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that we are connected—globally connected. We can no longer truthfully deny that fact. Included in this fact is the truth that we all need each other if we are to be successful in controlling this virus. The Coronavirus has shown us that our survival really is connected to how we love and care for one another.
As we continue our prayerful journey through this extraordinary Holy Week, I invite you to read Sr. Thea Bowman’s Holy Week reflection. How might it inform your own journey through this Holy Week on your path toward Easter joy? For Holy Week 2020, Sr. Thea Bowman’s ending words continue to be relevant—“During this Holy Week, when Jesus gave his life for love, let us truly love one another.”